Notre Dame survived a difficult slate of regular season games to reach the national championship with an undefeated record. Every step of this tough schedule will do its part to help the Fighting Irish win their final game.
Few teams in the country have the ability to match up with an SEC team on schedule alone. The conference provides a gauntlet of elite teams that are all capable of competing at the highest level.
However, Notre Dame's ability to make its own schedule created the perfect mix of nationwide talent to give this team the challenges it needed.
Alabama had three wins against teams currently in the BCS rankings. The Crimson Tide dominated Michigan in the opening game, had a great comeback win over LSU and defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
These were all very impressive matchups, but the team was hardly challenged from the rest of the competition.
Despite questioning the schedule, the Irish also had three wins against the same list. They also defeated Michigan, but added wins against Stanford and Oklahoma.
Beyond that, the wide variety of competition helped the Irish prepare for anything that came at them this season.
Against Stanford, Notre Dame had to defeat one of the best defenses in the country. The Cardinal proved as much by holding Oregon to 14 points, even though the Ducks topped 40 in every other game this year.
With the Irish down 10-3 in the fourth quarter, the team had contributions from both Everett Golson and Tommy Rees at quarterback to tie the game and eventually win in overtime.
The same could be said about tough defensive battles against Michigan, Michigan State and even BYU. Every squad matched up incredibly well, but Notre Dame did what was necessary to pull out a victory.
On the other hand, the Irish also had to face solid offensive squads like USC, Miami and Oklahoma.
Even though Matt Barkley was injured for Notre Dame's matchup against the Trojans, USC still has an incredible amount of talent at wide receiver and running back. Few teams would be able to hold that squad to 13 points regardless of who is at quarterback.
Miami, who averaged 31.4 points per game this season, was only able to manage three points against the Irish.
Still, the win over Oklahoma might have been the best all year. The No. 12 scoring offense in the nation was only able to score 13 points against this tough defense. As a team, the Sooners only managed 15 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Notre Dame proved this year that it can beat great offensive teams and great defensive teams just as easily. The team also showed its resolve by winning games without playing particularly well.
This was the case in the three-overtime win over Pittsburgh.
The Panthers were by far the inferior team on paper, but they came as close as possible to pulling the huge upset without actually winning. Golson led a great scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and the rest of the team did enough to hold onto a win.
While this was not one of the Irish's best games, a bad win is better than a good loss. It showed that this team can overcome almost anything.
Alabama is the most complete team Notre Dame will have seen all year, but the Tide are not unbeatable. Texas A&M showed that a mobile quarterback and great defense can take them down.
Notre Dame has already put together an incredible year full of impressive wins. These games not only justify the Irish being a part of this game, but they will help this team win the school's first national title in over 20 years.
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