It’s not disputed by many that the SEC is the strongest conference in the nation. However, for the first time since 2008, a non-SEC team sits atop the BCS rankings going into the bowl season.
That team, Notre Dame, ran the table this season feasting on teams from the ACC, Big East, Pac 12, and one Big 12 team (Oklahoma). Their opponent for the National Title game is Alabama, a team that looked invincible until Johnny Manziel came into Tuscaloosa and did the unthinkable; knocked off the number No. 1 team in the country.
So it begs the question: How would Notre Dame do with Alabama’s schedule?
Week 1: Notre Dame vs. Michigan
This is the one commonality between the two teams, as Notre Dame defeated Michigan at home by a score of 13-6. When considering that it’s the first game of the season, I think Notre Dame would have won handily. Keep in mind that Michigan was slaughtered 41-14 by the Crimson Tide, while the Fighting Irish hung 50 on Navy in a game played in Dublin, Ireland.
Final score: 35-14
Record: (1-0, 0-0)
Week 2: Notre Dame vs. Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky (7-5) is a mediocre team in the Sun Belt, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Notre Dame could handle with Hill Toppers without much trouble
Final score: 42-0
Record: (2-0, 0-0)
Week 3: Notre Dame @ Arkansas
This would have likely been a great match up if Bobby Petrino was still the head coach. But alas, that is not the case and the Razorbacks had an abysmal season. Despite this being Notre Dame’s first road test, I think they rise to the occasion and get a big win.
Final score: 49-10
Record: (3-0, 1-0)
Week 4: Notre Dame vs. Florida International
Another non-conference cupcake for Notre Dame to crush, but a long run of conference games beings next week. Still, the Irish take this one without much effort.
Final score: 34-3
Record: (4-0, 1-0)
Week 5: Notre Dame vs. Ole Miss
This season’s edition of the Ole Miss Rebels was one to forget. They were not eligible for the bowl season until a week 14 victory over in-state-rival Mississippi State moved them to 6-6. With a bye week upcoming, Notre Dame’s sole focus was on the rebels, which allowed them to win in a rout.
Final score: 31-13
Record: (5-0, 2-0)
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: Notre Dame @ Missouri
I’ll just go ahead and say it: Missouri was awful this year. I think we all knew they had no business playing in the SEC after struggling to stay afloat in the Big 12, but I don’t think anyone anticipated what actually happened. The Tigers did win five games this season, but only two in the SEC: Tennessee and Kentucky. Those two teams combined to win just one conference game, when the Volunteers defeated the Wildcats last weekend. Even with this game being another SEC road test, the Fighting Irish still move forward undefeated.
Final score: 28-17
Record: (6-0, 3-0)
Week 8: Notre Dame @ Tennessee
As I said previously, Tennessee won just one conference game this season, a 37-17 victory over a 2-10 Kentucky squad. Back to back SEC road games do not faze the Irish, who have yet to be tested yet this season.
Final score: 34-10
Record: (7-0, 4-0)
Week 9: Notre Dame V.s Mississippi State
This is where it gets interesting. The Bulldogs put together a very strong team this season, and were the #11 ranked team when this game was played. I think Everett Golson and the Irish get a late touchdown to steal the victory from Mississippi State.
Final score: 24-20
Record: (8-0, 5-0)
Week 10: Notre Dame @ LSU
Les Miles had his team ready to play on this night. The Tigers were one ill-advised blitz away from containing a screen pass and upsetting Alabama a week before Texas A&M did the job. Notre Dame has been playing great, but I think LSU blows out Notre Dame and, potentially, puts their national title hopes on hold.
Final score: 17-38
Record: (8-1, 5-1)
Week 11: Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M
Yes I know that Johnny Manziel is incredible and will likely become the first freshman to ever win the Heisman trophy. But just as Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o will have something to say about that, I think he makes a huge impact on this game. He leads a Notre Dame defense that has experience with defending dynamic offenses like the one that Texas A&M employs. Notre Dame breathes a sigh of relief as they keep the Aggies at arms-length. Manti Te’o adds two interceptions in the victory.
Final score: 27-14
Record: (9-1, 6-1)
Week 12: Notre Dame vs. Western Carolina
Most SEC teams sneak in a cupcake right before rivalry week, which is just what Alabama did here. In a normal year, Notre Dame may have had a few first half issues with Auburn looming next week, but not this season.
Final score: 38-0
Record: (10-1, 6-1)
Week 13: Notre Dame vs. Auburn
A rivalry game for Alabama is just another match up for Notre Dame. Everett Golson throws for four touchdowns and runs for another as Notre Dame easily takes care of the Tigers.
Final score: 35-13
Record: (11-1, 7-1)
SEC Championship: Notre Dame V.s Georgia (Played at neutral location)
If not for some bad clock management in the games’ final seconds, this would have been our National Championship matchup. In this mock SEC championship game, we see the first OT game of the year for the Fighting Irish. After an Everett Golson interception in the end zone, Georgia runs the ball three times before kicking a game winning field goal.
Final score: 28-31
Record: (11-2, 7-2)
As I stated in the introduction, the SEC is undoubtedly the toughest conference in America. With that in mind, it could have been much worse for Alabama. They avoided having to face South Carolina and Florida, while also playing just one true road game against a ranked opponent. Realizing that they still played four ranked opponents in the regular season can be a sobering thought, but that’s just as many as Notre Dame and several Big 12 squads.
Notre Dame is still an exceptional football team who would perform very well with Alabama’s schedule; just not as well as Alabama.