Predicting Notre Dame's Record If They Played In The SEC West
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are one of the most polarizing teams in all of college football and the world of sports as a whole. The Irish are coming off their first loss of the 2014 season in a classic battle with number two Florida State.
The Seminoles defeated Notre Dame 31-27 in a game that went down to the last play. The loss hurt Notre Dame, but didn’t eliminate them from playoff contention because of how competitive they appeared against the defending national champions.
The Irish sit at 6-1 with five games remaining in their 2014 campaign. Notre Dame still has two PAC 12 powers to battle with this season when they face Arizona State and Southern California. The Irish are legit contenders this season and if they find a way to finish the regular season 11-1 they will likely be in the first annual College Football Playoff.
The Irish are a good team this year now that starting quarterback Everett Golson has returned from his year off due to academic issues. The Irish play a respectful schedule every year, but let’s play a hypothetical game and ask what if Notre Dame played in the SEC and more specifically the SEC West?
I have been on record as calling this year’s SEC West division the greatest division in college football history. I feel the depth of this division from top to bottom in terms of competiveness, parity and talent is unmatched. The SEC West has already begun to beat up on each other, but how would Notre Dame stack up in this 2014 SEC West?
If Notre Dame played in the SEC West this season what team would they honestly be better than?
We will start with the Mississippi schools. The Ole Miss Rebels and Mississippi State Bulldogs are having arguably the greatest years in their program’s history as a football program. I believe both Mississippi State and Ole Miss would defeat Notre Dame.
These games would be tight depending on whether the game was played in Notre Dame or in the home stadiums of Mississippi State and Ole Miss. For argument sake, we will imagine all of these games are played at a neutral site.
If Notre Dame played in the SEC West they would also have to compete against Auburn and Alabama in a year where both are national title worthy. Alabama is coming off a beat down of Texas A&M 59-0 this past weekend. If Alabama played to that level against Notre Dame this season the outcome could be much the same.
Notre Dame against Auburn would also be a challenge because of the speed at which the Tigers play offense. They have athletes all over the field and run Gus Malzahn’s offense at a tempo that is unrivaled by any other team in college football. The Irish would have a tough time keeping up with the speed of Auburn and would likely fall apart in the second half.
So, the top four teams in the SEC west of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn all would have the upper hand against Notre Dame this season. The SEC West is a brutal road this season and for teams like Notre Dame, Florida State and Oregon that are top level teams elsewhere the journey to making the playoff this season would be much more difficult if they played in the SEC West.
The bottom three teams in the SEC West this season appear to be LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M. I feel Notre Dame could win two out of three against these teams, but even that would be tough in my mind.
The Aggies appear to be falling part, but it’s easy to forget their three losses have all come to three teams currently in the top five of the AP Poll. Think about that for a minute, the Aggies have three losses and they are to the number one, three and four team in the country.
I believe the Aggies are better than what they showed this past Saturday against Alabama and would give Notre Dame all they wanted and more. The Aggies pass offense would challenge an Irish secondary that doesn’t get tested often in their schedule this season.
The other two teams in the SEC West, being LSU and Arkansas, would give the Irish problems as well. The LSU Tigers are currently 6-2 and appear to be improving by the week. The Tigers of LSU lost to the Auburn Tigers 41-7 earlier this month, but have vastly improved since then.
I believe LSU would play Notre Dame in a classic battle much like Florida State did this past weekend. If the LSU defense was at their typical top notch level they would defeat Notre Dame easily this season.
Last but not least we have the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks haven’t won an SEC game since the 2012 season. They have struggled against SEC competition, but are still a potentially top 25 team in the nation this year because of their running game.
The Razorbacks went on the road to Lubbock, Texas to face Texas Tech and won handily earlier this season thanks to that running game. They physically manhandled Texas Tech on both sides of the ball and proved to be a mismatch for the Red Raiders.
So, I feel Notre Dame would go 4-4 or 5-3 at best if they played in the SEC West this season. I feel this is a combination of an over ranked team in Notre Dame, but more importantly how dominant the SEC West is this season.
I believe other top teams across the country such as Florida State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and Michigan State would also have the same difficulties in the SEC West this season.
The Irish, I feel, would finish a 12 game schedule of four nonconference games and eight SEC games with a record of 7-5 or 8-4 at best. Notre Dame and all other teams throughout the country this season should be thankful they are not a part of the SEC West this season because of the extreme depth and talent.
Notre Dame is a legit contender in 2014, but if they happen to make the first annual College Football Playoff this year and have to face an SEC West team, the Irish will endure their share of problems.
The SEC West has four of the top five teams in the country and it’s well deserved. They are dominant, strong, aggressive and the best of the best. The SEC is king of college football and the SEC West alone would be the best set of teams in the land. 2014 is the year of the SEC West and it’s not even close.