After struggling to find success under Tyrone Willingham, Bob Davie and Charlie Weis, Brian Kelly has led Notre Dame back to promience. The Fighting Irish are playing in their first BCS bowl since the 2006 season and have not won a national title since 1988. Notre Dame faces a tall task trying to win the BCS title on Jan. 7, as it has to knock off Alabama and end the SEC's recent run of dominance in national championships.
5 Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Win the National Title
1. It’s time for the SEC’s run to end
All good things must come to an end. Even though the SEC has claimed six consecutive national championships, a team from one of the other power conferences or Notre Dame will end its run in the next few seasons. So why not 2012? The Fighting Irish defeated nine bowl teams this year and beat another squad (Miami) that finished 7-5. Notre Dame proved its mettle on the road, beating Oklahoma 30-13 and at USC 22-13 in its regular season finale. There’s no question the SEC is the nation’s best conference and plays at the highest level of college football. However, at some point, the SEC’s success in the national championship will end, even if it’s just for one season.
2. The defense might be the best in the nation
Picking the nation’s best defense is no easy task. Florida, Florida State, LSU and Alabama all have a legitimate case for the No. 1 honor, but let’s not overlook Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rank first nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 10.3 points a game. Notre Dame is fourth nationally in rush defense, sixth in total defense and is allowing only 194.4 passing yards per game. Led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o, the Fighting Irish have allowed just 10 touchdowns this season, which is the fewest allowed in college football.
3. Experience on the offensive line
Alabama’s 3-4 defense has been consistently one of the best in college football since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide lost a bevy of key players to the NFL Draft, yet finished 2012 ranked No. 1 in total defense and averaged 2.5 sacks a game. Although it’s not a glamorous matchup, the battle between the Notre Dame offensive line and Alabama’s front seven will have a huge impact on who hoists the national title. The Crimson Tide has an athletic front seven, but the Fighting Irish can counter with an experienced offensive line. Zack Martin is a standout performer at left tackle, starting 38 consecutive games. Center Braxston Cave has 34 career starts, while left guard Chris Watt, right tackle Christian Lombard and right guard Mike Golic Jr. have a combined 53 career starts. Winning starts in the trenches, and Notre Dame’s front five is more than capable of holding its own against Alabama’s defense.
4. Quarterback Everett Golson was playing his best ball at the end of the season
Even though Notre Dame led with its defense this year, the offense started to come alive at the end of the year. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson threw for at least 200 yards in each of his final four games, including a 346-yard effort against Wake Forest. Golson has tossed only five picks this season and turned in a key performance in a road win over Oklahoma (13 of 25, 177 yards). Although the redshirt freshman is making strides as a passer, his ability to make plays outside of the pocket is what makes him dangerous. Golson rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns this year and considering Alabama struggled to stop Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, another dual-threat quarterback is not what Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart wanted to see.
5. Don’t underestimate Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
Alabama’s Nick Saban is widely regarded as the best coach in the nation, but Kelly has to rank in the top five of any best coaching list. The Massachusetts native has been a winner at each stop in his career, recording a 118-35-2 mark and two national championships in 13 years at Grand Valley State. Kelly went 19-16 with a MAC Championship in three seasons at Central Michigan, followed by a 34-6 mark in three full years with Cincinnati. While it took Kelly two years to surpass the eight-win mark at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are on the right track and are poised to emerge once again as an annual top-10 team. While Kelly isn’t as proven as Saban on a national championship stage, his background and playcalling on offense shows Notre Dame will have an excellent chance to end the SEC’s national title streak.
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