Who has the best defense, quarterback, linebackers, or head coach?
The answers to these questions have been analyzed from hundreds of different perspectives in hopes of finding the edge in who will win the 2013 BCS national championship between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama.
But the answers to these popular questions may not be as important as you think. So what should we really be asking?
How about this: Which team has the best kicker?
History may not support such a focus on special teams -- of the fourteen BCS national championship games only two have finished with a margin of three points or less (2005 and 2010) -- but rarely have two squads faced off for the title game representing the top two defenses in all of college football.
The Fighting Irish gave up a stingy 10.3 PPG defensively while the Crimson Tide ranked just behind with 10.7 PPG allowed. Both teams also rush and pass for over 200 yards-per-game. With a lack of common opponents, few objective arguments can be made. So much for differences -- we may be in for a mirror-image matchup.
So with some precipitation in the near future (rain likely will be out of the area by the start of the game) and two teams so heavily reliant on running the ball and stopping opponents short of the endzone; that leaves us with one focus: The kickers.
So who has the edge?
Alabama's tandem of Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster bring guaranteed points each time the ball crosses the twenty-five yard line. Shelley is 11-11 on field goals (all inside of forty yards) and has hit all sixty-three of his extra points this year. Foster, who is the long-range boot for 'Bama, is 4-9 on his attempts -- all coming from 40-plus yards -- with a long of 52 yards.
Likewise, Notre Dame has had similar success from range with Kyle Brindza nailing 4-8 from over forty yards with a long of 52. But it's the lack of consistency from close range that could be the undoing of the Irish. Brindza missed three out of eleven on kicks of 30-39 yards and was true on only 74% of his field goals (including those from 40 and beyond).
Whether they rack up touchdowns or not, Notre Dame must find ways to tease the red zone in order to guarantee points from the leg of Brindza. Both squads have a bend-but-don't-break aspect to their defense, but the Crimson Tide's advantage in the kicking game means the Irish must get the Alabama defense to bend a little more for them. Don't count on it.
BCS Championship Game Prediction: Alabama 18 - Notre Dame 16
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Give him hell in the comments section or on Twitter: @long_snapper