We all know the old adage: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
Rarely has this phrase been shown to be quite as true as in the 2012 college football season.
In the Big 12, Baylor lost a game after scoring 63 points, because the Bears gave up 70 to West Virginia. The Mountaineers themselves then turned around and lost, 50-49, to Oklahoma.
Way out in the wild West of the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks broke some sort of offensive record practically every time they stepped foot on the field of play. Their rivals, Southern Cal, opened the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. However, the program’s defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, the father of head coach Lane, got schooled in coaching the college game in giving up 39, 62, 38 and 38 points in losing three of four games midseason.
With passing and rushing records being shattered across the nation, two teams have emerged from the barn-burners intact, tougher and rougher for their efforts.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish boast the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, giving up an average of only 10.3 points per game. Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o, the Golden Domers’ defense has been more stingy than Scrooge is around this time of year.
Of course, the Alabama Crimson Tide, led by a monstrous linebacker of their own in CJ Mosley, came in right behind the Irish in giving up 10.7 points per game.
Not bad, but the picture becomes more clear (or more befuddled, really) when the schedules of each team is perused.
Michigan State’s star running back, Le’Veon Bell, finished the season with 1,648 yards, but he only managed 77 and no touchdowns against the Irish. In fact, Notre Dame has only given up two rushing touchdowns all season long. Te’o and Co. kept Oklahoma, who finished the season averaging a more-than-robust 40.3 points per game, to only 13, in a game that was played in Norman, no less.
The list goes on: USC averaged 34.2 per contest on the year, but only put up 13 against the Irish. Michigan averaged 30.0 points, but only managed six against the Golden Domers. Miami? The Canes averaged 31.4 per contest, but against Notre Dame? Three.
Not to be outdone, Alabama’s defensive unit wreaked havoc upon its competition all season long. After lambasting Michigan, 41-14 (Notre Dame held Ann Arbor to the aforementioned six), the Tide ripped off two full games and another three quarters of shutout football against Western Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida Atlantic, respectively.
Not exactly world-beaters, but D-I programs nonetheless.
Tennessee stunk all season long, but not offensively, averaging 36.2 points per game. Against Bama? The Vols only managed to eke out 13.
That being said, Alabama gave up 29 to Texas A&M and 28 to Georgia. Notre Dame only gave up more than 20 once all season, a 29-26 win over Pitt in triple overtime.
The numbers are there, as is the obvious talent on both sides. The schedules have both been navigated and offenses from every corner of the nation have been dominated.
Now, with the teams on a crash course to the BCS National Championship, only one question remains.
Keep settlin’ it >> Who is going to win the game? Notre Dame or Alabama?