Notre Dame Football: The Pros and Cons of Battling Alabama or Georgia
Notre Dame has punched its ticket to the BCS National Championship and is waiting on the winner of the SEC Championship to join in a trip to Miami. The winner of the game between Alabama and Georgia will battle the Irish for all of the marbles in the first week of January.
And with no games left to be played for head coach Brian Kelly and company, the team can sit and enjoy the game like the rest of us.
But who should Notre Dame be rooting for on Saturday afternoon?
Notre Dame would likely tell you that it doesn't matter who is the opponent, but there should always be a preference. One team presents many advantages and disadvantages that the other may not.
Would you rather play the 1985 Chicago Bears or go up against the 2008 Detroit Lions?
I think that is an easy question for any logical football fan.
Here are the pros and cons to playing either Alabama or Georgia, and who the Irish should be pulling for.
Pros to Playing Alabama
Considering the love fest for the Crimson Tide, playing Alabama would give the Irish probably the most talented team in the country to play. This may not be a pro in a way, but it does give SEC fans no excuse if the Irish are able to pull off a victory. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best, and that is what a matchup with Nick Saban would provide.
Alabama plays a similar style to many of the teams that Notre Dame has already beaten. The Irish have faced more than their fair share of power running teams playing squads in the Big Ten and Pac-12. Facing running backs such as Stepfan Taylor and Le'Veon Bell has given this Irish defense much needed practice to face a team such as Alabama.
Even though Alabama may display more talent in its offensive line than other teams, stopping the run is the strength of this Notre Dame defense. The team is currently ranked fifth in the country in run defense, allowing only 92 yards on the ground per game on average. A combination of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon has broken down defenses in the SEC all season, but you would have to feel good as an Irish fan knowing your team can at least slow down this style of play.
The Tide has also been a fumbling machine all season long, coughing the ball up at least once per game in the last nine games. There has been a total of five fumbles in the last four games, which isn't what you would expect from a team coached by Saban. Notre Dame has forced 23 turnovers on the year and could use the turnover margin to its advantage.
Cons to Playing Alabama
I don't think you can come up with possibly a bigger con than having to play against a team coached by Nick Saban. He is almost unbeatable during the regular season, but having to play against him in a bowl game is almost certain death.
If Alabama is the team that Notre Dame gets to play, Saban and his staff would then have a little over a month to breakdown this entire Irish team. By the time the game actually takes place, the mastermind head coach knows what you have eaten for breakfast, what your favorite color is and what you prefer to do on the weekends.
Despite breaking down film and tendencies, here are some of the other things that Saban prepares for. The guy actually prepares for how the opposing team will handle a coin toss and what side of the field the opponent wants to defend.
Some people love football and others take things to a completely different level.
As for the actual game itself, Alabama has the top defense in the country, which is only allowing 233 yards a game. Notre Dame has an offense that is ranked 76th in scoring and it has yet to face a defense anywhere close to the unit Alabama has.
Scoring hasn't come easy for the Irish and it certainly won't come against the Crimson Tide.
Pros to Playing Georgia
With Georgia, you are never quite sure which team is going to show up.
Sure, the team is sitting nicely with an 11-1 record, but it isn't a team that has impressed much throughout the year.
For one, the Bulldogs have only played two ranked teams all year (Saturday's game against Alabama will make three). Even in those games, they didn't exactly look terrific, getting blown out by South Carolina and barely beating Florida, despite forcing six turnovers. They also had a hard time with Kentucky and needed all four quarters to put away Tennessee.
Georgia is a combined 3-9 against ranked opponents under quarterback Aaron Murray and head coach Mark Richt has also built a reputation of not being able to win the big game.
When playing the Bulldogs, it really is a matter of which team decides to come off the bus. And with that inconsistency, you would have to like your chances against this team if this matchup takes place.
Cons to Playing Georgia
Georgia is about the most balanced offense this Notre Dame defense will face all season long.
Quarterback Aaron Murray is a pro prospect that is capable of lighting it up when he actually is in the mood to do so. There are playmakers at the receiver position in Malcolm Mitchell and Tavarres King, who could give a young secondary some issues.
A running back tandem of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley are also speedsters that will stretch this defense and show the Irish something they haven't quite seen this season. The speed of the Bulldogs players could give Notre Dame fits on the defensive side of the ball.
There is also that issue of Notre Dame's offense that hasn't shown the ability to consistently score points. Georgia has a defense that is quickly beginning to click with all of its starters on the field. It is also a unit that can pressure the passer with linebacker Jarvis Jones and company.
Much like the game against Alabama, the speed of the Bulldogs defense could cause problems for an Irish offense that has already struggled throughout the year.
Who Should Irish Fans Be Rooting For?
This question really comes down to a couple of things.
Do Irish fans want to beat the team with the most talent and better coaching? Doing this would remove all doubt that Notre Dame was in fact legit and would prove that Brian Kelly is a top-notch coach. It would also shut up the SEC fans that continue to bash the Irish every chance they get.
Or does Notre Dame want the inconsistent team that would likely give it a better chance to win a national championship?
To me, I wouldn't care what other fan bases where saying and would like to see my team win a national championship. It could come against Kent State, Rutgers or arguably the third or fourth best team in the SEC.
A national championship is a national championship, and there is nothing anybody can say when it goes down in the history books.
Because of that, the Irish should be rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs. Alabama has the better athletes, is deep in the right areas and has the better coaching by far. If the Crimson Tide were to take a trip to Miami, they would be the overwhelming favorites to win the game.
And while that hasn’t stopped the Irish from winning in the past, Georgia gives Notre Dame a much better chance to come out with a victory.
The answer is simple; Irish become Bulldog fans on Saturday.