After this weekend’s debacle, Notre Dame was voted as the number 1 team in the nation. Is it deserved? Absolutely. That doesn’t change the fact that Notre Dame wouldn’t be favored over the Top 8 teams in the country.
This leads us to a question, which we all have been asking for years. Should the current system favor the team that makes the least missteps, or favor the BEST teams in the country? To many, this is one in the same. To Vegas bookmakers, the only true efficient sports market we have, these are vastly different.
After speaking with a few Sportsbook employees last night, they unequivocally claimed that Notre Dame wouldn’t be favored over any of the other Top 10 teams on a neutral field. This is somewhat disappointing.
According to my matrix, I arrived to a strength of schedule calculation, which measures the offense, defense and coach value. Out of the Top 5 teams, Notre Dame has played the second hardest schedule, only to Alabama (and it’s very close). This will change after next week, and after conference championship games have been played. Many argue that Notre Dame barely sneaking by mid-level opponents doesn’t warrent them for being #1. The teams they snuck by: Purdue, Stanford, BYU, and Pitt. I have those teams ranked 12th, 16th, 49th and 56th.
Notre Dame Rankings:
Combined Total: 8th
The Irish have played 3 defenses in the Top 25 (BYU, Stanford, Michigan St.) and they have played 1 offense ranked in the Top 25 (Oklahoma). Next week they will face the 8th ranked offense (albeit, most-likely without Matt Barkley).
There is one question about ND defense, and that is their secondary. ND probably has the best front 7 in the country. Their offense is the issue, and why they wouldn’t be favored over the Top 8 teams. You cannot take the Wake Forest game as an example. They still have serious issues on offense.
So here is how the numbers look for the Irish, compared to the other National Championship “options” (Bama, FSU, UGA, Florida), and what that game would look like. I ruled out KSU and Oregon because they will not be able to get back into BCS Top 2. I will do my best to avoid “if” situations, as every team could use this clause.
Alabama Crimson Tide
This team now has the highest odds of facing the Irish in the National Championship game, as well as the highest odds of winning the National Championship, according to Vegas.
Combined Total: 1st
ND being an underdog to Alabama is a no brainer here. Bama has a complete defense. Bama’s defense is barely better than the second ranked defense, Florida. Notre Dame is a close 3rd. Alabama’s offense, led by AJ McCarron and supported by TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy ranks 15th and operate as a well-oiled machine. Alabama has by far the best coach in the nation. Nick Saban has almost double the ranking of the next nearest coach, believe it or not, Dabo Sweeney.
Alabama has played 2 offenses in the Top 25 (A&M and Ole Miss) and 1 defense in the Top 25 (LSU).
Because of how good Alabama’s defense is, and Notre Dame’s skeptical offense (this will be repeated numerous times), Alabama is a 7 pt favorite on a neutral field vs. Notre Dame.
Georgia’s path to the National Championship will unfortunately have to go through the Tide. I think they match-up well against Bama on a neutral field. Aaron Murray and their spread offense will be able to attack the Bama secondary, and Gurley/Marshall will be able to help the play action open things up. Georgia has an extremely athletic defense that should be able to slow Bama’s run. They should probably be a 4 pt underdog in this game, depending on what happens next weekend.
This may come as a surprise to most of you, but they do not rank highly. If you look back, they played a cake schedule (why they were one of my national championship futures), and the defense hasn’t gotten it together as much as they should. They are overrated in the Top 5, but a 1 loss SEC team and playing in the SEC Championship will have a shot for the Title.
Combined Total: 9th
Georgia has played 1 offense in the Top 25 (Ole Miss) and 2 defenses in the Top 25 (Florida, Vanderbilt).
Regardless, because of the offense firepower and the sheer talent on defense, they are a favorite of 1-3 pts on a neutral field vs. ND.
The Gators have an outside shot to make it to the national championship game. They first have to win next weekend against Florida State. They will most likely then need help from Georgia Tech and USC. This Florida team is the most similar to Notre Dame. They have a stout defense and an offense that struggles to get things going, which we saw against UGA. Chances they make the National Championship are slim, and if they do, it most-likely won’t be against ND, but for intensive purposes, here is where they rank.
Combined Total: 19th
This team has surprisingly overcome their offensive struggles to be ranked in the Top 5. This is due to the fact that they are a 1 loss SEC team and have played 2 offenses in the Top 25 (Georgia, A&M) and 4 defenses in the Top 25 (Vandy, LSU, Georgia, SC).
On a neutral field, with Driskel Healthy, they open as a 1 pt favorite over the Irish (which won’t happen) due to their defense and their wins over some quality defenses.
Florida State Seminoles
Once again, this team needs tons of help to make it to the National Championship (mainly from USC) and they need to take care of business next week against the Gators. They had a terrible upset against the NC State Wolfpack, and are kicking themselves right now after watching the games last night.
Florida State Ranks:
Combined Total: 3rd
The Seminoles have played 1 offense ranked in the Top 25 (Clemson) and no defense in the Top 25. It is very unlikely they get a shot in the National Championship game, and if they do, it won’t be against the Irish.
On a neutral field though, because of how balanced their team is, they are a 3 point favorite over the Irish.
In conclusion, the Irish take care of business next weekend and they are in the National Championship game. Unfortunately, due to public perception and the efficient sports market, they are STILL not assumed to be the best team in the country (and probably not one of the Top 5). If this was 2014 and there was a playoff, I think the chances of ND winning if they had to play the Top 4 would be the worst of any of the top 4 teams.