With how badly Alabama stomped Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS Championship, it's easy to forget Georgia was eight yards away from taking on the Irish in South Florida.
Had Aaron Murray found the end zone instead of throwing a four-yard completion, Georgia would've beat Alabama and moved on to play Notre Dame in the BCS Championship. But would things have been different for the Irish?
Earlier this week, Murray said on ESPN's "College Football Live" that the 2012 SEC Championship game was basically that season's title game, and:
Aaron Murray on CFB Live on '12 Bama loss hurting most: "We know what prob would've happened when we played #NotreDame in the championship."— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) April 30, 2014
It's not difficult to read into that: Georgia would've won, according to Murray. He's probably right, too, though the stats say it would've been a lot closer than the 42-14 drubbing Alabama put on the Irish.
Consider this: The final F/+ rankings (read more about them here) had Georgia at No. 6 and Notre Dame at No. 7. Instead of facing college football's best defense in Alabama, Notre Dame would've faced the 18th-best defense. Perhaps Notre Dame is able to establish the run against Georgia, instead of having to abandon its offensive strategy after about two drives against Alabama.
In running 10 simulations of Notre Dame-Georgia on WhatIfSports.com, Notre Dame won six and Georgia won four -- take it with a grain of salt, obviously, but it shows a much closer game than Notre Dame-Alabama. But there's something that site can't factor in, and probably played the biggest role in Notre Dame not only losing to Alabama, but losing big: Decimated offensive line depth.
"I didn't feel comfortable going live against our defense," coach Brian Kelly said about a month after the BCS Championship. "One time we had five offensive linemen from that period of the USC game until the Alabama game that could go out there and function with five offensive linemen. That impacts your program, I'm telling you. It impacts the way you practice. You don't get a chance to tackle quite as much."
We know what Alabama did against an underprepared Irish defense -- have Eddie Lacy and A.J. McCarron throw a few early haymakers for a first-round knockout. Swapping in Georgia for Alabama wouldn't have done anything to heal that banged-up Irish offensive line, and Georgia's offense (ranked fourth in F/+) probably would've had some early success against the Irish, too.
But Notre Dame probably wouldn't have been steamrolled, and with a good-luck bounce or two maybe would've won. That's more than can be said for what actually happened, at least.