When: Monday, Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Sun Life Stadium (BCS Championship)
The national championship is only hours away, and all of the preparation is done, minus a few minor adjustments. Alabama have been two of the top five teams for most of the season, yet each team has shown flaws. Although it occurred rarely, Notre Dame’s defense was susceptible to the run against power running teams. Alabama’s defense has given up big plays throughout the season, so they will be vulnerable against Notre Dame.
Each offense has its similarities as well. Notre Dame throws for more yards per game, but Alabama scores two touchdowns more than the Fighting Irish per game. Both teams have versatile running backs with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Alabama offense averages 38 points per game, and they use a very balanced attack. Starting quarterback, A.J. McCarron has thrown 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. McCarron completed 66 percent of his passes this season. Alabama uses the play action passing game as well as any team.
The Crimson Tide running game can be dominant at times. They only average 224 yards rushing per game, but they display a physical style. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both rushed for over 1000 yards. They each averaged over six yards per carry and combined for 27 rushing touchdowns. These running backs will test Notre Dame’s linebackers and defensive backs. Both backs are very capable pass receivers, and Notre Dame must be aware of this all game long.
The receivers are led by Amari Cooper’s big play ability. Cooper has great hands, and leaping ability. Alabama will spread the ball around to the other receivers as well. If Alabama wins the outside match up, that means they are probably winning at the line of scrimmage. There will be times that the receivers will have a one on one opportunity to make plays.
Alabama has the number one ranked defense in the nation. They give up 10.6 points per game, but they’ve sandwiched their two worst games around two shutouts.
The defense garnered 17 interceptions this season. They must get pressure up front to slow down the running game from Notre Dame. As long as they can fill gaps, and tackle well, Alabama should be able to handle the Irish. Alabama’s defensive front has to dominate, but more importantly, they can’t give away big plays.
Although Notre Dame’s offense has been better as of late, they still struggle to put together long scoring drives.
Alabama must be wary of spread formations and plays. Brian Kelly is used to coaching an up tempo offense, so Notre Dame may shake things up for the game.
Alabama’s defensive front must contain Everett Golson like they were playing Denard Robinson. They must also sack him when they get the chance. If they can’t make the plays that are available, Notre Dame will win the time of possession battle.
Their offense leaves a lot to be desired. The Fighting Irish average 26 points per game. They struggled in games that they shouldn’t have, but Notre Dame has always done enough to get the win. Everett Golson has gotten better with each game, and his legs help him escape the rush. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Golson has also rushed for five touchdowns. The quarterbacks have combined to throw seven interceptions.
The Irish have a viable running game with multiple looks. Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood have combined for 1620 yards rushing, and 10 total total touchdowns. Riddick is especially tough as a receiving threat in Notre Dame’s offense. Their third back, George Atkinson is a game breaker, and he will be a factor on Monday night’s game.
Tyler Eifert is the go to receiver for Everett Golson. Eifert is big and he can line up wide against smaller corners. Notre Dame needs to win the one on one match up with Eifert. T.J. Jones must make plays at the wide receiver position, but their most important match up could be with Theo Riddick against the linebackers.
Notre Dame’s defense
In reality, Notre Dame’s defense begins with the defensive line. That’s where they’ve been dominating games. They must keep the linebackers free to roam, and provide pressure on A.J. McCarron. The Irish will be playing their best offensive line of the season.
Manti Te’O and the rest of the Irish are tremendous tacklers. They must fill the holes with force, and not get blown off the ball. The better Notre Dame can stop the run, the easier it will be for the defensive backs to control the play action passing game.
The game comes down to speed and strength. If Notre Dame has those two elements defensively, then they will be in this game for the long haul. Once they are in position, Notre Dame should be able to take on the skill position players from Alabama. Opponents averaged 10.3 points per game against Notre Dame.
All year long, Notre Dame has caught the errant passes. They’ll need to capitalize on Alabama’s mistakes.
If the game is close, the BCS championship has a feeling that Notre Dame will win. They’ve pulled out one possession wins all season. However, Alabama could make this game a blowout with their stout offensive line. There will be an unsung hero in the game on Monday night. We are going with a high score to end the game.