We start with the most important position where Alabama has veteran A.J. McCarron and Notre Dame goes with redshirt freshman Everett Golson. McCarron may be one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country. All he does is win. He helped the Tide win the championship last year and can do it again.. Overall, he's completed 67% of his passes for 2,669 yards with 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He's come through in big games and has proven he can handle pressure. Then there's Golson who's completing 59% of his passes for 2,135 yards with 11 touchdowns and five picks. Golson is more athletic and can run as well rushing for 305 yards compared to -5 for McCarron. Golson has really started to play well the second half of the season and I think can rival McCarron for production. Still, with the experience and the proven ability of McCarron, I think you have to give him the edge right now.
Another close call here. Alabama has two 1000-yards rushers in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. They've also combined for 300 yards receiving. That gives them around 2400 yards of total offense. The Irish counter with Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick who combined for 1600 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving for 2000 yards total. Lacy and Yeldon will be in the NFL. Riddick and Wood are borderline, but are both terrific college running backs. The Irish have the edge in terms of experience, but Bama may have the edge in overall talent. It's close, but again I think the Tide gets the slight edge.
Alabama has more yards receiving overall, but has one guy that is far and away the most prolific receiver in Amari Cooper who has 500 more yards and 27 more receptions than the next guy. The Irish are much more balanced amongst their receivers in TJ Jones, Davaris Daniels, Robby Toma and John Goodman, but lack the one true go-to-guy. Given that Alabama has the best option, I'll give them another slight edge.
This one is really no contest. Michael Williams is the fourth leading receiver on the team, and his numbers (21 receptions, 166 yards and 3 TDs) are no comparison to Tyler Eifert who leads the Irish with 44 catches for 624 yards and 4 scores. Eifert is a matchup problem for everyone and the one guy that I don't know if Alabama has an answer for.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Alabama has the bigger names with guys like Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker, and Cyrus Kouandjio, but the Fighting Irish are no slouches either with Braxston Cave, Zack Martin and Chris Watt. The Tide have rushed for more yards as a team, but have given up seven more sacks than the Irish line. Notre Dame's line has gotten much better over the season and the running game is really clicking. I don't now if one side has an advantage over the other.
This is another area where Notre Dame has a clear advantage. Bama boasts some really good players especially with a guy like Jesse Williams who's a beast, but the Irish's line of Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Kapron Lewis-Moore is the best in the country. If Notre Dame wins the game, I think it will be largely due to the success of the d-line.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Again, this area is close, but when one team has the best player on the field, they get the advantage. Bama is young and talented, but Notre Dame has Manti Te'o. Enough said.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Notre Dame's secondary was supposed to be a weakness, but have turned out to be pretty good. Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell, Zeke Motta, and Matthias Farley have all played good football this season. But, like with linebacker, when one side has the best player on the field, they get the advantage. Alabama has Dee Milliner who will be a top pick in the NFL draft. I don't believe Bama can totally shut down Notre Dame's passing attack, but I'll give the Tide another edge
Kyle Brindza has been clutch this year, but inconsistent at times as well. Jeremy Shelley has been perfect making all 11 of his field goals and all 63 of his PATs. If the game is on the line, I think I'd trust Shelley a little more than Brindza.
Both schools have one of the best coaches in the country. Nick Saban, however, has won three national championships and could win a fourth on Monday. Brian Kelly has won two national titles, but those came in a lower division. He's never had the opportunity to win on the big stage until now. Until Kelly proves he can do it, Saban gets the clear nod.
So, if you're scoring at home, Alabama wins 6-3-1. But that doesn't mean a whole lot. Everett Golson can clearly outplay McCarron.. The Irish secondary can play better than the Alabama back four. It'll be close either way and Bama can certainly be a model for what Notre Dame wants to become. The Irish will go a long way toward that goal if they can beat them on Monday.