Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Why Smart Money Is on Fighting Irish in BCS Title Game

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly looks on during the game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The BCS title matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre Dame Fighting Irish is sure to draw heavy action in Vegas.

Considering the six straight national championships that the Southeastern Conference has won and Alabama's two titles in the last three seasons, many will be saying "Roll Tide Roll" on January 7. However, those who roll with the Irish will be making the wise decision when it comes to picking a side in this game.

According to Bovada, oddsmakers see the Crimson Tide as a considerable favorite at -10.

It's hard to deny that Alabama should be the favorite. If recent memory is any indication, the SEC tends to do well in these games. Take into consideration that Notre Dame has looked less than dominant at times this season, and it's clear to see why the Tide figure to win the game.

But 10 points? That's simply too many to expect Alabama to cover. Here's why.

Alabama's Resume

The Crimson Tide aren't necessarily built to blow teams out.

Sure, Alabama gets its fair share of blowout victories. The Tide have crushed teams like Tennessee, Auburn, Missouri and even Mississippi State. Notre Dame is not one of those teams.

Looking at what Notre Dame has accomplished this season and the talent that exists on the roster—especially in the trenches—this is a team that more closely resembles the likes of LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia.

Alabama went 2-1 against those three teams this season, but they were certainly challenged in all three of those games. LSU had the lead into the fourth quarter, Texas A&M beat them and Georgia had a chance as the game ended to throw a game-winning touchdown.

The Crimson Tide are a great team and belong in the championship game, but it isn't a foregone conclusion that they win this one going away. They've been challenged this season, and they will be challenged again.

Bowl Performance of other SEC Teams

Bowl games can be tricky to evaluate, but the aura of SEC dominance has to be questioned this season.

At the time of this writing, the nation's premier conference stood at an even 3-3 in bowl games this postseason, with Texas A&M set to take on Oklahoma Friday night.

While you can't hold the performance of other SEC teams against the Crimson Tide, it is a trend worth noting. Especially when favorites such as LSU and Florida—who are similar to Alabama in terms of defensive talent and offensive philosophies—both suffered upset losses.

With the SEC proving to be mortal, one has to think that Notre Dame is going to keep this one close after seeing Clemson and Louisville put away two SEC titans.

Notre Dame's Defense

Notre Dame has a shot at winning this game and will keep it close for the same reason they got here in the first place—a bone-crushing defense that can hang with anyone in the country.

The Irish lead the nation in scoring defense, are fourth against the run and rank No. 20 against the pass.

That stout rush defense will come in handy. Alabama is the kind of team that will look to bludgeon the defense with a steady diet of physical, interior running. Notre Dame is built to handle that.

As with any defense that subscribes to the "bend but don't break" philosophy, the Irish are going to give up more yards than usual—but Alabama will have to earn them. Forcing teams to drive the length of the field is what the defense has done all season and that makes it hard for them to be blown out. 

Manti Te'o is the anchor that grabs the headlines, but this is a unit that features playmakers all over the field.

Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are NFL-caliber talents along the defensive line and will make life difficult for Barrett Jones and the Alabama offensive line all night.

As advertised, this game should be a physical game between two great defenses. Giving the Irish 10 points to start the game certainly makes them the favorite for bettors.


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