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Notre Dame's Strong Defense Makes Them a Live Dog in Any BCS Title Game Scenario

Notre Dame fans would like to remind you that exactly one decade ago, many of the same things that are being said about the 2012 Irish were being written about the Ohio State Buckeyes. That Ohio State team went undefeated to reach the BCS Championship Game, where it entered as sizable 13-point underdogs to defending champion Miami.

If Notre Dame wins on Saturday at USC, it will likely play the SEC Champion, and if it is defending champion Alabama, the point spread will be around 9 points to open according to one linesmaker. Linesmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said he would open it at 10.5 or 11, and expect it to get to 13. That would provide perfect symmetry for the Notre Dame fans wanting to draw parallels to Ohio State in 2002.

If Notre Dame gets to that game, though, recent history would suggest that they have a much better shot than those odds would suggest. Sports-Reference.com/college football has historical ratings for previous years. Not only are the teams rated, though. You can look at breakdowns by offense and defense in terms of points and points allowed, schedule adjusted. Notre Dame is a +2.2 on offense but a +16.5 on defense. That offensive rating is barely above average for FCS, which for a championship caliber team is poor. The defense, on the other hand, ranks very highly compared to past contenders.

I went back and pulled all other teams that were worse than a +5.0 on offense, but better than a +12.0 on defense in the BCS era. (Alabama and Florida also apply this year). Fifteen prior teams meet those criteria.

Nine of them entered the bowl game as an underdog. The six favorites went 5-1 straight up, but only 2-4 against the spread. The underdogs, though? They still went 6-3 straight up, and were an amazing 8-1 against the spread. The only loss was Ohio State in the 2007 BCS title game to LSU, when they lost as a 4 point underdog.

Here are the nine other defensively skewed bowl teams that entered bowl games as underdogs since 1998 (All coincidentally in BCS Bowls except one Cotton Bowl):

  • Ohio State 2009 (+4) vs. Oregon in Rose Bowl, Won 26-17
  • Ohio State 2008 (+9) vs. Texas in Fiesta Bowl, Lost 24-21
  • Ohio State 2007 (+4) vs. LSU in BCS Title Game, Lost 38-24
  • Alabama 2005 (+3.5) vs. Texas Tech in Cotton Bowl, Won 13-10
  • Virginia Tech 2004 (+7) vs. Auburn in Sugar Bowl, Lost 16-13
  • Miami 2003 (+1.5) vs. Florida St. in Orange Bowl, Won 16-14
  • Ohio State 2002 (+13) vs. Miami in Fiesta Bowl/BCS Championship, Won 31-24 (OT)
  • Wisconsin 1998 (+9) vs. UCLA in Rose Bowl, Won 38-31
  • Texas A&M 1998 (+12) vs. Ohio State in Sugar Bowl, Lost 24-14

[photo via US Presswire]

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