|Notre Dame and Brian Kelly would be underdogs to five of six top SEC schools. Does it matter? (US Presswire)|
It's all just idle message-board fodder, of course, since Notre Dame is going to play only one SEC team this season -- the winner of Saturday's SEC Championship Game, Alabama or Georgia -- and no amount of "how would they do if they had been an SEC member?" speculation is going to change that.
But this being college football, there has been plenty of speculation on that particular topic all the same. And, if you buy the odds issued from online bookmaker Bovada on hypothetical matchups between the Irish and the six members of the SEC's BCS top-10 club, that speculation is leaning towards "well, they wouldn't be undefeated."
Here are the lines issued by Bovada for each of the top-10 SEC teams, with the assumed "vs. Notre Dame on a neutral field" after each:
Texas A&M -3.5
South Carolina +3.5
So technically, yes, the Gamecocks would be the only one of the six SEC teams to be catching points against the Irish -- a less-than-subtle suggestion on the bookmaker's part that, no, the Irish would not be expected to be undefeated if they played a full SEC schedule.
But we wouldn't advise interpreting this to mean "Notre Dame would be the sixth-best team in the SEC," either. Some points that need making:
1. If the Irish would be underdogs to five of the above teams, they'd only be meaningful underdogs to Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Texas A&M. Once a spread drops to three points or less, predicting a winner based on the spread becomes a substantially trickier proposition.
2. The Irish were just fine as underdogs this season, thank you, winning both games in which they came in as the Vegas 'dog -- at Michigan State and at Oklahoma -- by decisive margins. The two games in which they were less than a touchdown favorite (vs. Michigan and USC) resulted in Irish covers, too.
3. The spread hasn't meant that much when it comes to picking a winner in games involving two of the six SEC teams listed above. Of the nine such games, the underdog has won three, and Florida defeated Texas A&M as a "pick 'em" after spending most of that week as a slim underdog.
Put it all together -- the short lines, the Irish's success, the SEC favorites' occasional struggles -- and there's an argument to be made that if the Irish had Georgia's or Alabama's schedule, in which they played just two games against the remainder of the SEC top six, they'd have finished with just one SEC loss ... and would be right in the BCS championship mix all the same.
After all, those odds suggest that Texas A&M is the second-best team in the league, and the Aggies have that win over Alabama under their belt -- and they're still not the ones playing in the Georgia Dome this Saturday.