Strength of Schedule: Notre Dame vs. the SEC

We goin’ to the  shipppppp!

Whew, that felt good. After Oregon and Kansas State lost a week and a half ago we no longer needed to argue that the Irish had a stronger resume than one of those two teams – it was a simply a win and you’re in scenario for ND and the Irish took care of business against USC.

Regardless of whether it is Alabama or Georgia that wins the 1-game playoff (aka SEC Championship) to face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, SEC homers will undoubtedly spend the following 38 days anticipating a football clinic and an easy ‘W’ for either the Crimson Tide or Bulldogs. With 6 national titles in a row, the conference has generally earned the respect it has today. But to say that based on play this year that Alabama and Georgia are both significantly better than ND? Well, that’s just plain stupid. 

Let’s take a look at the Sagarin ratings of each of the 12 teams Notre Dame, Alabama and Georgia have played this year:

Opponent Notre Dame Alabama Georgia
Strongest Opponent 8 7 4
- 9 11 10
- 16 20 29
- 20 33 33
- 37 46 43
- 39 43 54
-  52 54 63
-  62 65 84
-  66 82 92
-  73 84 99
-  113 127 127
Weakest Opponent  121 204 135

From the above numbers it is quite clear that on a week-to-week basis the three teams were playing similarly strong opponents though Notre Dame had a notably tougher slate from top to bottom. So what’s biggest difference when looking at these schedules? Only Notre Dame won every single game.

At the same time, it is hard to quantify what playing teams like Western Carolina, Buffalo, Western Kentucky, Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic does for a team over the long course of a 12-game season. Facing these teams can allow your starters to play what is essentially half a game, which pays tremendous dividends in terms of ongoing health and energy. Most people that watched the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game felt that Alabama was suffering the physical and emotional aftershocks of the game against LSU the week before — games against teams like Georgia Southern have the exact opposite effect.

I am not going to argue that based on these numbers Notre Dame should be expected to win heading into Miami. That would be as uneducated and asinine as claiming SEC dominance simply because the SEC has dominated in the past. The fact is that two great teams are going to face-off at Sun Life Stadium on January 7th, and both will have faced similar challenges in reaching the game. One thing I do know for certain: I’m going to spend the next 42 days dreaming about 13-0.


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  • tlndma

    You are correct Twib. Best thing to do is, ignore the noise. Watching the talking heads discuss this, will only frustrate you.
    Louginbill on ESPN last night, was so SEC biased. At one point he said the 4th down play vs. Stanford was the wrong call(nope) and that if it had gone the other way ND would have lost the game(absolutely nope).
    We tune in because our team is being discussed. The people talking are only making noise. They must have to swallow their pride a lot to say the things they do. Either that, or they are just fools.

    • JohnND66

      Ughhh I can’t stand how people can claim that Stanford should have been a loss. I guarantee they only watched highlights and didn’t watch the actual game. Last I checked, when you’re down 7 in OT, scoring a TD doesn’t give you a win, in fact it gives you the opportunity to tie with an extra point, which isn’t a guarantee since it was in an extreme downpour, I wish some “expert” would mention that. Fact is, Stanford had 4 opportunities to punch it in within the 5 yard line and couldn’t get it. By the time Taylor reached the ball over the end-zone two things happened, his elbow probably hit the ground and the refs already where running on the field before he reached over, the play was dead. Anyway, there actually is no point in bringing up the Purdue, BYU, Stanford games at this point, those games are over with and whether they were close or not is irrelevant, they were ND wins. ND is a different team right now, good teams improve as the season goes on and ND is playing its best ball at the right time.

    • trey
  • BlackIrishJax

    Im so over trying to prove we belong in the championship! Bottom line we are 12-0 and it doesnt matter who play in January! I have faith in ND will be in the building to play some inspired football! BTW, has anybody talked to Montana, lately?

    • NDtex

      At this point, it isn’t so much trying to prove the Irish belong, but rather show that the SEC isn’t simply going to roll over the Irish. So many folks are blinding by the SEC being strong that they simply don’t care to consider that ND could indeed have a tough schedule. The thought is basically “you didn’t play a SEC team, so your schedule is weak”.

      That line of thinking is asinine and needs to die.

  • canuck75

    I think the other good point to be made about Bama-A&M was that Bama was not used to playing 60 min games (same with Oregon) ND and Stanford both prove that what came a bit easy in the first half doesn’t come so easy in the second.
    Bama would have lost to LSU if Miles had coached just a bit better in the last 3 min.

    I am not worried in the least, while at the same time acknowledge that almost any good team can beat another good team on any given day.

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  • Brian

    Add in the rankings of GA/AL against each other, since they play in the conference champ then shift your numbers down…. then you will see the numbers are more comparable.

    • NDtex

      The whole point of the post was that the schedules were comparable. So if they are even more comparable with that…point still made.

  • http://CBS Varmint

    When was the last BCS bowl game ND won? Oh Darn! they have never played in a BCS bowl.
    Damn, they are 32-31 last 5 years and have been to “THREE” bowl games during that period. WOW! real power house. I can see why they are a 10 point underdog. Of course the SEC has only won the last six NC’s and have 6 teams in the BCS top ten. And rosary rattlers want to talk shit. Get Real!