The BCS National Championship Game is upon us, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Alabama Crimson Tide are set to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN from Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
Both schools have been a part of an impressive 2012 season, with both teams securing a number of wins coming against bowl teams this year. Looking back at this year’s opponents, their respective bowl game performances could tell us something about the looming title game.
Past opponents will show tendencies that led to an undefeated run for the Irish and a one-loss SEC title season for Alabama. These games will also show ways that these teams could find success on Monday night in Miami.
Alabama squared off with seven bowl teams, while Notre Dame faced nine this year. Both had hiccups in a few games, but overall, the Tide and Irish had great seasons.
Alabama Bowl Opponents Breakdown
Alabama’s schedule featured seven teams that made bowl games this fall. The overall record for those teams in the postseason was 3-4.
The Tide faced a moderate schedule in the SEC this season, with a number of tough games coming at home. The Crimson Tide were able to avoid matchups against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina during the regular season.
A tough game against Georgia came in the SEC title game, but avoiding the big three from the Eastern Division during the regular season was a huge help for the Tide, but it did hurt their schedule strength.
The best bowl team that Alabama faced this season was Texas A&M. The Aggies were also the only team to defeat Alabama this season.
Texas A&M superstar freshman Johnny Manziel set records in the Cotton Bowl and confirmed himself as the deserving Heisman Trophy winner. Georgia and LSU were the only other schools to give Alabama a scare this year. These two combined to finish the bowl year with a 1-1 record.
Georgia quarterback Murray also set records in the Capital One Bowl, tossing over 400 yards through the air. The Bulldogs won big over Nebraska.
LSU lost a heartbreaker to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but if the Tigers would have received just a mediocre performance from Zach Mettenberger, they would have likely won the game.
Alabama had an impressive win over Ole Miss earlier this year, and the Rebels finished with a big win over Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. That is one of the few ties that Alabama and Notre Dame have to each other’s respective seasons.
The Irish struggled with Pitt and Alabama, but they beat Ole Miss by 20. Ole Miss then throttled Pitt. Take what you will from that, but it looks like the Crimson Tide have the scheduling edge.
Overall, the Alabama schedule was not that difficult once the season concluded, and the dust has since settled. The Tide did win the games they should have, and they did it convincingly. Former opponents have had mixed bowl success, but every team has been competitive.
Notre Dame Bowl Opponents Breakdown
The Irish faced nine teams this year that finished the season as bowl eligible. The overall record of their bowl opponents was 3-6.
Notre Dame entered year with what was expected to be the toughest schedule in the country, but as the season progressed, it was apparent that the lineup was not as tough as originally thought. Still, the Irish were able to navigate their way to an undefeated season.
The Irish started the season by blasting Navy 50-10, but then followed up that performance with a three point win over Purdue. Purdue lost its bowl game 58-14 against Oklahoma State.
By mid-season, the Irish were hitting their stride when they came away with a tough three-point win over BYU. At that point, it was apparent that this was a special team that could challenge for a national title.
The following week, a game against Oklahoma finished with a wide box score margin, but the game was very close until the final minutes. The Sooners were then destroyed by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
There was a season ending win over USC and an overtime scare against Pitt, but the Irish always found a way to win—it just rarely happened in convincing fashion.
Throughout the year, there were a number of scares for this team, but the Irish pulled out wins, week after week. Their schedule was not as impressive as originally thought, and the losing record for their bowl opponents shows that.
What did the Bowls Show us?
Looking back at the postseason, these two teams faced a number of bowl eligible teams. Alabama and Notre Dame combined to play 16 teams that played in the postseason. Unfortunately, of those 16 teams, only six of them earned victories.
It became obvious that the Notre Dame and Alabama schedules were not that strong this year. They both found ways to win, but when faced with elite talent, they struggled.
This bowl season taught us that it has been a down year for college football. Not one single team has stood out and been the best in the business from day one.
There has been a shift in college football, and the balance is becoming more evident with each passing season. If anything, that is what we learned from this bowl season.
The two teams playing for the national title could realistically be playing in another bowl game if a ball would have bounced differently or a pass would have sailed just one more inch past a receiver.
This game will be a closer contest than anyone expects, and these past opponents point to that. Alabama has won more convincingly, but Notre Dame faced the tougher test down the stretch.
Both teams will be ready to perform and provide us with one of the best title games in recent memory. This game will be full of tradition and defense—two of the best ingredients for great college football.