College Football Insider

Notre Dame aims to stop SEC's historic title run

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Not even the quiet, tucked-away campus in South Bend, Ind., is shielded from the Southeastern Conference's championship reality.

Six, working on seven. Many are assuming it will be seven after Monday night. Because it's the SEC, you know. Sky is blue. Planets in orbit. Rinse, repeat. The world never changes.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is not buying that. Kelly respects the SEC's run and knows it's "really good," but he's not ready for college football to grant the league a yearly hall pass.

"The SEC's not going to run this thing for 20 years," Kelly said. "Now they are on a heckuva run and deserve everything they get, but I don't know, Clemson beat LSU. I think they are an SEC team. Louisville beat Florida. It's still college football, and it's still one game.”

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The last time the SEC had at least four straight national championships was 1957-61.

Notre Dame is a 9 1/2-point underdog despite an impressive 12-0 season that rescued the Irish from nearly 20 years of mediocre football by its own standards.

The juxtaposition is Notre Dame has a chance to knock off the SEC by essentially building an SEC-style team that wins up front and flourishes in the running game. Kelly and his staff knew it had to toughen up after consecutive 8-5 seasons, so it pushed its offensive/defensive lines to master the ways of physical football. Alabama's offensive line can make an argument as the country's best, but Notre Dame's is solid -- experienced, cohesive, not much dropoff at any spot. The defensive line of Stephon Tuitt, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Louis Nix weighs an average of 312 pounds.

Notre Dame will need a few things to go right to steal a win. It's on Everett Golson to play well. But mostly, the Irish will need to impose their will.

"It's going to be two teams going out there and hitting each other in the mouth," offensive tackle Zack Martin said.

Martin follows the SEC from a distance but isn't too concerned with what the league is doing. The SEC dominance narrative isn't a pertinent locker-room topic among Irish players.

"They've earned everything they've got," Martin siad. "Obviously, there are great football teams down there. We're going to do our best to try to break that. They've been great the last six or seven years."

Coming from Myrtle Beach, S.C., Golson understands the sound waves the Irish could send through the South with a win Monday night.

"It would mean a lot," Golson said. "Obviously, because of the history of the SEC, but me being a competitor, too."

What makes this game so fascinating is it's hard to forecast because of the contrasting schedules. The SEC schedule is often viewed as a benchmark for college football excellence, but Alabama didn't play Florida or South Carolina. The Tide essentially played three tough games (LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia) and lost one of them.

Notre Dame didn't play a single SEC team but stayed away from the cupcakes -- 10 BCS opponents and BYU will do -- and impressed with the Stanford win at home and road wins over USC and Oklahoma.

If Notre Dame gets rocked Monday, then perhaps the SEC schedule thing is warranted. It doesn't sound like Notre Dame's worried about all of that.

“I don't spend much time thinking about, 'ooh, my God, it's the SEC,'" Kelly said.

Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is as curious as anyone about how the matchup will play out.

"All we can do is just play on Monday and see what happens," Daniels said. "They pretty much established themselves."

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