Independent Notre Dame's success in the SEC would surprise many
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As Notre Dame is quickly discovering, when you're at the pinnacle of the gridiron world, haters gonna hate.
Despite vanquishing all that stood in their path, including impressive conquests against Oklahoma and Stanford, detractors of the Golden Domers are crying foul, asserting the Irish may not have been so lucky confronting a more arduous itinerary. By skeptics, of course, we're referring to those pigskin patrons below the Mason-Dixon Line. And their idea of a challenging enterprise? A schedule saturated by schools of the Southeastern Conference.
Though the hubris of the league's institutions can be unbearable at times, it's hard to dispute their dominance, as the SEC is home to the last six national champions. The foremost federation of amateur football will be looking to make it number seven, as the winner of this weekend's soiree between Alabama and Georgia receives a ticket to Miami to take on the Irish in the BCS Championship Game.
However, the aforementioned audacity of the conference's advocates has led to the proclamation that the rendezvous between the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs is the real national title game. After all, as the sentiment states, no matter who emerges triumphant from the battle, the victor will undoubtedly annihilate Brian Kelly's squad in South Beach, for Notre Dame could not withstand the rigors of the SEC slate.
Or could they? Thanks to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com college football simulation engine, we are able to put the debate to the test: how would Notre Dame fair against such a schedule? Using Alabama's 2012 matchups, we have "played out" the Blue and Gold's performance versus the SEC. The results are surely to make the South Bend faithful proud:
Please note: 2012 college football teams will be available in SimMatchup next week.
2012 Notre Dame Playing Alabama's SEC Schedule
|Opponent||Irish Win%||Avg. Score|
|vs. Ole Miss||71.5||27-19|
|vs. Mississippi State||70.3||26-19|
|vs. Texas A&M||55.1||25-23|
There's nothing contentious concerning Notre Dame's W's over Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Missouri, Ole Miss or Arkansas, so let's cut to the provocative outcomes.
Delivering Alabama's only loss on the season, it's tough to argue against the Aggies as the hottest team in the land. Johnny Manziel has taken the nation by storm with his duo dexterity on the soil and through the sky, transforming his offense into such a juggernaut that many believe Texas A&M would be a nightmare of an opponent if a playoff system existed.
So how would Manti Te'o and the Irish resistance keep Manziel at bay? With all the fervor surrounding "Johnny Football," it's sometimes forgotten that Texas A&M does have two losses on the season, both versus formidable defensive foes Florida (third in the nation in points against) and LSU (11th in this category). Keeping these struggles against stout units in mind, it seems equitable that the Aggies would succumb to the Fighting Irish's second-ranked defense, as Te'o and company are suffocating opponents to 10.3 points per game. That includes the Sooners, a top-10 offensive attack that averages 41.7 points per contest but managed a meager 13 on the scoreboard when Notre Dame visited Norman.
As for the LSU Tigers? The Bayou Bengals certainly have the resume, knocking off South Carolina and Texas A&M, with their only defeats coming at the hands of respectable foes in Alabama and Florida. Alas, while the Tigers possess a tenacious defense, the offense has been stuck in neutral. Subtract the shellackings LSU handed to their meager non-conference opponents (North Texas, Idaho, Towson and Washington), and the Tigers average a pedestrian 22.5 points per game. It's this lack of opulence on the offensive side that translates to the Tigers coming up short.
Indisputably, SEC backers will point to the close calls seen by Touchdown Jesus as evidence against Notre Dame's simulated success, as nail-biters versus middling teams like BYU, Purdue and Pittsburgh do not seem to forecast such fruition. Unfortunately, the same case could be made for LSU (close contests with Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas) and Texas A&M (Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss). Moreover, take a gander at Georgia's schedule. Aside from an upset of Florida, would anyone claim the Bulldogs have traveled down a daunting road?
Don't worry, SEC supporters, you'll at least have a dog (or an elephant) in the fight. Much to your dismay, however, there's a leprechaun on the other side of that ring ready to prove its worth.
Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.