Notre Dame and Alabama NFL Draft Comparisons

Manti Te'o, Notre Dame Spring Game
Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish former linebacker Manti Te’o waves to the crowd at the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a Notre Dame fan, there are certain numbers you hope to never see again. Such as 42-14, the final score of ND’s BCS blowout against Alabama. You also wouldn’t likely be a fan of 1.7, which was Notre Dame’s average yard per carry mark against the Crimson Tide, or 265, which was the number of yards Alabama racked up on the ground against the Irish defense (and was one more yard than A.J. McCarron, Bama’s starting quarterback, managed to earn with his arm). January 7 th brought an end to a season Irish fans had been waiting for since before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And given the shellacking the Fighting Irish took from the Crimson Tide, surely the talent disparity would surface during the NFL Draft, right?

The first round talent disparity did surface, with three Alabama players going consecutively in the first round at the 9th, 10th, and 11th positions. Notre Dame only had one first round selection in tight end Tyler Eifert, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals. And while some may argue Manti Te’o had a first round grade despite ultimately sliding into the second round, the same argument could be made for Alabama halfback, Eddie Lacy. Beyond the first round, however, the overall number of players drafted by both programs wasn’t as far off the mark as expected, with Alabama having nine players selected to Notre Dame’s six.

The final results of the 2013 NFL Draft made me wonder: was the talent disparity as great as previously thought? Was the draft gap between Alabama and Notre Dame the norm, or is it usually narrower? To get a clearer look, I examined the past ten years of BCS Championship games and matched them with the following NFL Draft. This method isn’t without drawbacks. The graph below will only explore overall number of draft picks and not the round in which they were selected, which can distort the talent picture. In addition, not every NFL-caliber player leaves immediately after a national championship match, as evidenced by Alabama quarterback, A.J. McCarron, and Notre Dame standouts Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Still, this method offers a glimpse into the NFL talent of programs competing in the BCS National Championship.

Year BCS Championship Winner Drafted Players Differential
2013 Alabama/Notre Dame Alabama Alabama (9), Notre Dame (6) 3
2012 Alabama/LSU Alabama Alabama (8), LSU (5) 3
2011 Auburn/Oregon Auburn Auburn (4), Oregon (1) 3
2010 Alabama/Texas Alabama Alabama (7), Texas (6) 1
2009 Florida/Oklahoma Florida Florida (3), Oklahoma (5) -2
2008 LSU/Ohio State LSU LSU (7), Ohio State (3) 4
2007 Florida/Ohio State Florida Florida (9), Ohio State (8) 1
2006 Texas/USC Texas Texas (6), USC (11) -5
2005 Oklahoma/USC USC USC (5), Oklahoma (11) -6
2004 LSU/Oklahoma LSU LSU (7), Oklahoma (3) 4
2003 Miami/Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State (5), Miami (8) -3
*Bolded differential numbers represent winning teams having less drafted players

Examining the past decade of BCS National Championship games did offer a few interesting insights. If we define talent as which team had more players drafted, the more “talented” team won the national championship in 7 out of the past 11 contests, or roughly 64% of the time. Also interesting, the past three BCS title bouts have had a draft differential of 3, as well as a program hailing from the State of Alabama.

Some of the more intriguing and unexpected outcomes came courtesy of Oklahoma and Ohio State, and the numbers are not particularly flattering to Sooners head coach, Bob Stoops. Oklahoma made it to the national championship game on three occasions this past decade, losing all three times. In two of those contests, Oklahoma had more draftable talent. In 2005, Oklahoma had six more draft picks (the highest championship disparity in the findings) on its roster than their opponent, USC, yet lost in spectacular fashion, 55-19. Oddly enough, the following year USC found itself on the opposite end of the spectrum, possessing five more draft picks (the second highest championship disparity) on their roster than their opponent, Texas, yet fell to the Vince Young-led Longhorns, 41-38, in the waning seconds.

Ohio State also made three title appearances in the past decade, and in each occurrence had less draftable talent than their opponent. Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes won the 2003 BCS National Championship against the Miami Hurricanes in overtime despite having three less draft picks on their squad. It is a fairly revealing statistic that the former Ohio State head coach managed to win a national championship despite having less talent in all three appearances, while Bob Stoops posted an 0-3 mark while having better talent in two of his championship games.

While the results of this miniature study should in no way make Notre Dame fans feel better about the loss to Alabama (I know it doesn’t make me feel better, anyway), it does offer enough insight that, given recent history, the odds were not in Notre Dame’s favor to win. But with future top NFL draft picks dotting the defensive line in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, perhaps ND’s name can find its way back onto the list. And hopefully sooner rather than later.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24
hours a day. Scott can be reached at

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  1. Good article. But teams are made of three to four years of contributors, not just the recent draftable class.

    Although I agree with most of the comments and insights presented here,
    I’m with duranko in that the lines are/were the difference, and, add to that,
    with a great team having weeks to prepare
    for a weaker team who chose not to introduce any new wrinkles to its game plan, offensively or defensively.

    Also, from peewee football to the pros, and especially among the elite,
    each winning team has quality skilled players so as to compete, but games are won along the line of scrimmage.

    And as this year’s first round draft revealed, even the NFL has come to realize this, drafting more OL and future DL than all the other skilled positions combined.

    Which is why, with the quality OL ND is picking up from last year’s senior and junior high school athletes,
    hope springs forth, and my heart soars like a hawk.

    Go Irish.

  2. This is a bad analysis because it does not include players who will be drafted in the future. Take the BCS game against Louisville and Florida. Florida had 8 players drafted, Louisville 0. Huge talent disparity right? Wrong. Louisville was literally the youngest team in FBS last season. Charlie Strong was only in his 3rd year on the job, the previous coach recruited terribly, and a lot of the previous regime’s players quit or transferred because they knew that they would never play. Louisville will have a ton of players drafted over the next 3 years that played as freshmen, sophomores and juniors last year.

    That’s probably an extreme example, but there are lots more, like that Oklahoma-USC game where Oklahoma had a lot of juniors and seniors who were good but USC had a lot of even better underclassmen who went on to play that classic game against Texas the next season.

  3. Throw away the numbers and stats. Bama had better, stronger, fasater players that are coached by one of the best college coaches of all time. Hence the whipping in the title game.

  4. A important revealing look into the mechaniKs of team building and the coaches who recruit & develop high quality high school athletes.

  5. The most glaring difference between the two teams was on the Offensive Line. Despite how comfortable we all were with our offensive line, the reality appears to be this. And early mock drafts for 2014 list the great Arie Kouandjio as a first rounder, with Anthony Steen as a second rounder. IF that holds, here is what the Bama Ol in the BCS game will have had
    3 First round choices: Kouandjio, Fluker, Warmack
    1 2d round choice: Steen
    1 4th round choice: Barrett Jones.

    While one mock draft lists Zach Martin as a potential first round draft
    choice, that is a minority opinion.

    If only he gets drafted, and Watt doesn’t,

    Then the dominance of the Bama OL, with 3 first choices, 1 2d and 1 4th
    against just Zach Martin (most probably 2d-4th) the mismatch reveals itself.

    1. With all due respect sir I’m afraid I must take issue with your analogy in this way: Notre Dame answered, Tyler Eifert was denied a catch which puts N.D. in scoring position In my humble opinion the referees review was corrupt. “THAT WAS A CATCH”

      Hypothetically now were Eiferts catch awarded Notre Dame (the proper call clearly) the BCSNC is tied 7-7 and the fight is on. “I’d bet my soul ND wins under the pressure of a close contest. Alabama is “NO NOTRE-DAME

      1. Dude, love the Irish but no way we were winning that game. Love your optimism but Lacy is still running.

        Of course I could have just hurled some slur at you and then laughed.


      2. They said the same thing exactly before the 1973 Alabama Notre Dame game.

        #2 ND 24
        #1 ALA 23

      3. For whatever reason, Notre Dame simply was not prepared for the game. Despite the baloney being hurled by SEC fans, ND matches and competes with everyone else in the SEC. If the game is played in December when both teams are grooving, ND loses but plays much closer. Bama lost to Texas A&M and probably loses again to A&M if those teams were to meet in the bowl. Oregon might beat both, and certainly would have beaten ND. But ND beats Stnaford and Stanford beats Oregon. If not for a botched last 5 mins, Georgia shows up and ND most likely wins the NC.

        I point these out because I truly do not think ND is that far behind despite the score. Taking nothing from Bama, I would make the case that ND is in position to take command of its destiny. Get that offense clicking with a seasoned field general, and the defense running on all cylinders with a complete front and back, and finally keep a chip on the shoulder, then this team can go all the way.

  6. Scott,

    Excellent empirical evidence with good subjective analysis. I like this bright side of you vs baseball batting ND fans with a heavy hand. Please give us more of your best attributes, good job!

  7. Very interesting post….good research here. Puts the last week into perspective. Well done

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