From the moment Lane Kiffin inexplicably went for it and was stopped on fourth down, and Notre Dame capped off a dramatic goal line stand that essentially put the Fighting Irish into the BCS National Championship Game, the noise you've been hearing from SEC Country is not-so-quiet confidence.
"The SEC just won its seventh straight national title."
"Notre Dame doesn't deserve to be on the same field as Alabama or Georgia."
Even some folks in Las Vegas think that the winner of the SEC Championship Game will go on to hoist the crystal football, according to former Caesars Palace oddsmaker Todd Fuhrman.
Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) November 26, 2012
The actual line won't be released until Sunday. Whatever it is, let's pump the brakes on thinking that the winner on Saturday night under the big top at the Georgia Dome will win the national title with ease.
It won't be easy.
Notre Dame has been the recipient of a tremendous amount of luck this season. From the non-touchdown in overtime against Stanford to a bogus pass interference call versus Pitt to the USC's horrendous goal line play-calling, the luck of the Irish has been prevalent in South Bend in 2012.
But defense wins championships, and the Fighting Irish can certainly boast a championship-caliber defense.
Led by Heisman Trophy candidate linebacker Manti Te'o, Notre Dame is giving up 286.8 yards per game—the sixth-best mark in the country.
Sure, its offense isn't terribly explosive (421.3 YPG) and its schedule, while it looked daunting at the start of the season, isn't anything to write home about.
But that shouldn't be used as a criticism of Notre Dame. In fact, the same argument could and should be made for Georgia and Alabama.
The Bulldogs have played only two ranked opponents, losing 35-7 to South Carolina and beating Florida in Jacksonville.
Alabama has played four teams that were ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game, but one of those was a loss to Texas A&M, one was against overrated Mississippi State and one was its season-opening win over Michigan, which also lost to Notre Dame later in September.
Six straight national championships have fans in SEC circles sticking their chests out to a point where no team from outside the footprint stands a chance on the game's biggest stage. It's the same bravado that was coming out of Columbus, Ohio, shortly before Ohio State got stomped by Florida in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game following the 2006 season.
Is the SEC Championship Game the biggest hurdle standing in the way between Georgia or Alabama and the BCS title? I think so. But the hurdle at the end of the race is tall as well.
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