By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) The big question this week: Who would Notre Dame rather lose to in the BCS National Championship Game?
Well, at least that’s what SEC homers and Notre Dame haters are asking.
The fair question is: Who would the Irish rather play?
Counting Notre Dame out against either Alabama or Georgia is just foolish. Anyone who’s willing to do so so easily simply hasn’t been paying attention this season. No team has been more resilient than the Irish and their No. 2 ranked scoring defense has given them — and will continue to give them — a chance against any team.
That includes Alabama, which, admittedly, is a more talented team than Notre Dame.
When comparing Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame across the 17 most significant team ranking categories, the Crimson Tide have the nod in 13 of them. Two key ones they don’t lead in are passing offense and total offense, in which Georgia ranks the highest among the three teams.
Of course, statistics rarely tell the whole story and the level of competition has to be factored in. And that’s where Notre Dame has the edge.
While all three teams have faced three opponents currently ranked in the top 11, Notre Dame has by far played a more complete schedule. Overall, the Irish have faced nine bowl eligible teams (this includes Miami, which banned itself from the postseason) and that number could rise to 10 if Pittsburgh beats South Florida Saturday. Meanwhile, Alabama has only faced seven bowl eligible teams and Georgia has faced six.
While Notre Dame’s worst opponents were Boston College and Wake Forest, Alabama and Georgia both beat up on Florida Atlantic and played FCS opponents Western Carolina and Georgia Southern, respectively. The Bulldogs also opened the season against a bad Buffalo team, while the Tide played a bowl-eligible Western Kentucky squad in Week 2.
The point is, the stats need to be applied cautiously.
That said, Alabama isn’t just leading the country in total defense, scoring defense and passing efficiency by accident. The Crimson Tide are an outstanding football team whose only loss came against Texas A&M, currently ranked No. 9 and boasting the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel. That loss also came the week after a bruising win at LSU — an excuse, but a valid one at that.
But it’s that loss that proves the Tide is vulnerable. Especially when you consider Notre Dame’s defense is ranked just behind Alabama and has allowed four less touchdowns on the season.
Of course, giving Nick Saban over a month to prepare for anyone is a scary thought and it should be worrisome for Notre Dame fans. I’ve heard the arguments that Alabama is a better matchup for Notre Dame than Georgia, and I understand where they’re coming from. The problem is, Alabama also appears to be the better team both via the eye test and statistically.
Plus, would you rather face Nick Saban or Mark Richt?
If I were you, Irish faithful, I would cheer for Georgia Saturday.
Fans Not Flocking To Indy
For the second year in a row, low attendance is a big story as we get ready for Big Ten Championship Game. An Omaha.com report said nearly half of Nebraska’s 15,000 ticket allotment was returned to Ticketmaster and Wisconsin reportedly returned even more tickets.
Low attendance isn’t really surprising this year, considering Wisconsin ended up in the game by default with a 7-5 record. Badger fans are somewhat apathetic after a disappointing regular season and Wisconsin played in Indianapolis last year. Meanwhile, Nebraska fans expect to beat the Badgers and are saving their money for a trip to Pasadena.
We’re still talking about two of the better traveling schools in the Big Ten, however, and it’s not like Lucas Oil Stadium will be empty. The announced attendance last year was 64,152, despite similar attendance concerns.
For the record, that’s more than Solider Field can hold.
Below is my All-America ballot. For the record, I had to turn the defense ballot in nearly three weeks ago and the offense ballot in two weeks ago. I also had to nominate my Coach of the Year the day before Kansas State lost to Baylor. I nominated Bill Snyder, but my final vote will go to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Also, as much I think Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch deserves recognition, it would be hard for me not to go with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel now.
QB: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
RB: Kenjon Barner, Oregon
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
WR: Marqise Lee, USC
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
OL: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
OL: Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
OL: Chance Warmack, Alabama
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
OL: Barrett Jones, Alabama
DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
DL: Will Sutton, Arizona State
DL: Scott Crichton, Oregon State
LB: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
LB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
LB: Kevin Minter, LSU
DB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
DB: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
DB: Matt Elam, Florida
DB: Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
K: Cairo Santos, Tulane
P: Kyle Christy, Florida
KR/PR: Dri Archer, Kent State
Outland Trophy: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Bronko Nagurski Trophy: Manti Te’o
Eddie Robinson Award: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.