The Southeastern Conference has dominated the BCS National Championship Game in recent years, and it will be no different when No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide take on No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on January 7 in Miami.
Nick Saban's team is more experienced, having just been on this stage and succeeding as defending national champions. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have only recently risen back to national prominence. As impressive as it has been under head coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has had several dubious results along the way in 2012.
With wins by three points at home over unranked Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh—with the Panthers game dragging through three overtimes—it hasn't necessarily been pretty for the apparent best team in the nation.
The Irish do have a road victory at Oklahoma to their credit, and it is good for an elite, potential championship team to face its share of adversity. But the Tide's competition has been unquestionably superior with victories at LSU and against Georgia in a breathtaking conference title game.
Some may roll their eyes at the scheduling argument, since it's essentially not in Notre Dame's control. But there is a reason the past six title winners have hailed from the SEC. Thus, there is a reason that the Tide are currently favorites in this game despite being ranked lower than the Irish. The SEC competition is chief among them.
After years of perpetually falling short of expectations, the Irish have managed to meander their way through a relatively easy schedule and complete an undefeated season for the ages.
On the strength of a defense led by Maxwell Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame has somehow gotten it done.
Both teams have extremely physical running games featuring several talented backs. Junior Eddie Lacy and superb freshman T.J. Yeldon lead the way for the Tide, while the Irish have Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III, not to mention the dynamic abilities of fleet-footed QB Everett Golson.
While Alabama has faced defenses that rival its own all year in the SEC, Notre Dame has not faced a defense nearly as stout as the one it will encounter in Sun Life Stadium.
The current spread sits at 9.5 in favor of the Tide, which is an extremely wide margin for what is allegedly a matchup between the two best teams in the nation.
While the outcome won't likely be that lopsided due to the strong defenses and run-based offenses, the oddsmakers are placing their stock high in the team that won the country's best conference.
And for good reason.
After persevering through a loss at home to freshman phenom Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and taking care of business at the end of the year, Alabama has set up an unforeseen chance to defend its national title.
With the advantage athletically and competitively, a better coaching staff and a superior, more clutch and proven QB in A.J. McCarron, the Tide will capitalize on their strengths.