- Associated Press - Monday, December 3, 2012

Offense is in, but defense is still what it takes to win big.

That’s the lesson of college football’s 2012 season.

For the fourth straight year, scoring rose during the regular season _ with FBS schools averaging 29.6 points per game. That’s up from 28.3 per game last season, from 27 in 2009.

Despite all of the pass-happy, fast-paced fun, those atop the BCS standings paint a far different picture of what it takes to be successful. Notre Dame, Alabama and Florida are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the BCS standings, and they also fall into that same order in another category _ points allowed.

The No. 1 Fighting Irish (10.3 points allowed per game), No. 2 Crimson Tide (10.7) and No. 3 Gators (12.9) led all BCS schools in scoring defense this season.

It’s no surprise that the top two in that category will meet in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami, while Florida is headed to the Sugar Bowl against Louisville on Jan. 2.

It’s hard to lose if the other team doesn’t score.

IRISH FIGHTING: While Alabama had to rally in the closing minutes against Georgia this weekend to reach the championship game, Notre Dame was able to sit back with its ticket already punched.

The Fighting Irish and third-year coach Brian Kelly also managed to assume the mantle of top defensive team in the country, thanks to the Crimson Tide’s 28 points allowed in the 32-28 win over the Bulldogs. Notre Dame, which secured its spot in the championship game with last week’s win over USC, has allowed a grand total of 10 touchdowns in 12 games this season.

Alabama led the country in scoring defense entering this weekend’s action, allowing just 9.25 points per game. Despite falling to No. 2 behind the Fighting Irish, the Crimson Tide still lead the country in total defense _ allowing just 246 yards per game.

It’s doubtful Alabama minds falling behind Notre Dame in any given statistic all that much, not when it has the opportunity face the Fighting Irish in person _ bringing the full might of six straight Southeastern Conference national championships with it.

ALL-FUN LEAGUE: The Big 12 continued to carry the mantle of the country’s top offensive conference this season.

For the fourth time in five seasons, the conference’s teams at least tied for the most points scored per game. This season, Big 12 teams averaged 35.8 points per game.

Oklahoma State (44.7) led the way, with Baylor (44.1) a close second. Five of the conference’s 10 teams averaged at least 40.2 points per game, while Texas Tech (37.8) and Texas (36.1) were hardly slouches.

Lowly Kansas pulled up the rear, averaging a paltry 18.2 points per game.

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