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“I think it’s a little bit part of our kids’ DNA now,” he said. “We don’t have to use it as much as maybe early in the year when we went on the road to Michigan State and they were ranked eighth and nobody was thinking we were very good. I think we’ve kind of just built it into who we are. Everybody likes telling us what we’re not good at _ which is fine by us. One of our strengths is knowing what we’re not very good at. We try to play to our strengths and play away from our weaknesses.”

It’s a style that has led to more than a few close calls on the way to Miami.

Notre Dame beat Purdue and BYU by three points each. The Irish needed three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh by a field goal and went to overtime against Stanford, too. In both the Pitt and Stanford games, Notre Dame caught a few breaks. A missed field goal here, a questionable call by the officials there.

Meanwhile, except for its upset loss to Texas A&M, Alabama has rarely been challenged on its way to a third BCS title game appearance in the past four seasons.

The Tide is outscoring its opponents by an average of 28 points per game. Notre Dame’s average margin of victory is 16 points per game, as the Irish have leaned on Heisman Trophy finalists Manti Te’o and a stellar defense while they developed first-year starting quarterback Everett Golson.

“I understand why people say Alabama’s going to win,” said Nix, the 325-pound anchor of Notre Dame’s defensive front. “Great offensive line. Good quarterback. Great guys on the edge. They’ve been in the national championship twice in the last three years. I would probably pick Alabama, too.

“At the end of the day it’s all about what’s on the scoreboard.”

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap