Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Which Team Has the Advantage on Defense?

Jake Martin@JakeMartinSECCorrespondent IIIJanuary 6, 2013

Defense wins championships, but the 2013 BCS National Championship Game may not be won by the most dominant defense on the field.

If you're a football enthusiast, your world just came crashing down. "What? Defense is the name of the game. These teams didn't get here without playing great defense, and it's going to take that same effort to win the national championship, idiot."

Calm down for a second and hear this one out.

Though both Alabama and Notre Dame used their defenses to carry them throughout the college football season, both teams will rely on their offenses to win this game. The final score will come down to which quarterback can execute and make the big play with the game on the line.

Thus, the team with the defensive advantage won't necessarily win the national championship—though obviously the most dominant defense on the football field will put its team in a better position to win the game.

Which defense will be most dominant? Somewhat surprisingly, it will be Notre Dame.

Listen closely and you can hear the Alabama fans picking up their phones and dialing in to the Paul Finebaum radio show. Be my guest—everyone loves a good sound bite.

"Pawwwwwl, you won't believe this!" an Alabama diehard shouts. "Notre Dame better than Alabama on defense? Don't you know Manti Te'o wouldn't start on any SEC defense?"

Look, Alabama is an elite defense. You don't hold teams to 10.7 points and 246 yards per game without being one. But going into this national championship game, Notre Dame has the edge for a few reasons.


The Te'o Factor

The most obvious reason is the presence of Manti Te'o.

Te'o has the heart of a champion, and whether you think his Heisman campaign was deserved or not (some look at his lack of sacks, tackles and tackles for loss), you can't deny that Te'o makes the big play when he needs to.

This defense feeds off Te'o, and he's made big plays in big games. Te'o snagged two interceptions in a close victory against Michigan, made another big interception against Oklahoma and was involved in two incredible goal-line stands against Stanford and USC.

Notre Dame will rely on Te'o in this game, and with his track record, he should make a big play at a crucial moment.


Everett Golson vs. Alabama Pass Defense

Statistics will tell you that Alabama has a better pass defense than Notre Dame. Let's try to look deeper than that, shall we?

Alabama ranks second in the nation with 166.2 passing yards allowed per game, while Notre Dame is 21st with 194.4. But look at the big plays this Alabama defense gave up to Georgia in the SEC championship game. Aaron Murray hit four passes that went for more than 20 yards in the second half.

An even better example is the Crimson Tide's game against Texas A&M. Johnny Manziel not only rushed for 92 yards, but passed for 253 as well.

Now, Everett Golson is no Johnny Football, but he does bring a similar style to the table. With his mobility, Golson has made plays when it mattered, and he should be able to create a few in this game too.


The Kenny Bell Dilemma

On the other side, Alabama will likely be missing a key deep threat in Kenny Bell.

It's unclear whether Bell will play in the national championship game, and even if he does, it's hard to imagine he'll be 100 percent after breaking his leg six weeks ago.

The Crimson Tide still have Amari Cooper, along with plenty of talented playmakers. But not having a key deep threat like Bell will allow Notre Dame to tighten up just a bit more on this brutal Alabama rush offense.


In Conclusion

Though this is a showdown between college football's two premier defenses, Notre Dame will hold a slight advantage on the defensive side.

With Te'o leading the way, Notre Dame will play physical up front to keep this game close for the majority of the game.

Calm down, SEC fans; that doesn't mean Notre Dame will end the SEC's streak of winning national championships.

In reality, it just means all college football fans will be in for an exciting, hard-fought matchup.

Is it kickoff time yet?