On January 7th, 2013, if we we’re still here, Alabama will take on Notre Dame for the national title in the only post-season game that matters. It may be the most David/Goliath title game the BCS has ever cranked out: last year’s champion towering over a scrappy independent that wasn’t even ranked in most reasonable pre-season polls. Notre Dame also happens to be the most popular team among casual college football fans, which is probably 90% of why the rest of us can’t stand them.
It’s been a long time since Notre Dame won a national championship in football. So long that there wasn’t even a BCS the last time they were on top. In fact, there was no such thing as Sun Belt football, Big East football, Conference USA or the Mountain West. So if you know a Notre Dame fan, they are going to be incredibly insufferable should the Irish pull off the upset.
And it will be an upset, because as soon as the matchup was announced, Bama was installed as a 9 point favorite, despite being the #2 ranked team and owners of the only loss on either team’s record. You know why.
The primary difference between the two teams is on the offensive side of the ball. The Crimson Tide have scored like crazy pretty much all season, finishing 15th in scoring offense. Notre Dame is 75th. But that’s not the whole story.
Alabama has played 13 games, six of them against teams with winning records. In those six games, the Tide average 31.8 ppg, nearly 12 points less than their average against losing teams (43.3). Seven of Notre Dame’s 12 games were against winning teams. Their scoring average is slightly higher (27.6) in those games than in games against losing teams (25.6).
Notre Dame played two teams who won 10 or more games this year and went 2-0 in those games with an average margin of victory of 12 points. Alabama played three such teams, going 2-1 with an average MOV of a single lousy point.
The two teams are virtually dead even in scoring defense, each giving up fewer than 11 points per game. But can you guess who looks significantly better when we dig deeper? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.
In games against winning teams, Notre Dame maintained their overall average of 10.3 ppg. They gave up 10.4 to losing teams. On the other hand, Alabama allowed more than twice as many points to winning teams (15.8) as they did to losing teams (7.3). Against 10-win teams, the Irish gave up 13 points in both games, while Bama surrendered 17, 28 and 29.
This trend holds up in most of the other statistical categories (although it’s worth noting that it flips in Bama’s favor in passing offense), suggesting that Alabama could find themselves feeling like that stunned Miami team in 2002 if they take the Irish lightly.
There are some other, intangible factors surrounding this game as well. Brian Kelly has the opportunity to cement his legacy as Notre Dame’s coach, while Nick Saban is staving off rumors of his inevitable second shot at the NFL. For some reason, there is a tendency for teams with “storyline” players to win. Clarett, Tebow, Young… Te’o? Six title games have featured one of the teams from the previous year’s game, but no team has ever won consecutive titles.
And, of course, there’s the whole thing with the world ending tomorrow. Sorry, Bama.