Notre Dame is going to be a big underdog in the National Championship, but if the Irish play sound football and focus on the following keys, they can shock the nation and wind up as the kings of this college football season.
The Irish all but guaranteed their spot in the title with an impressive 22-13 win over the USC Trojans on Saturday to cap off a perfect regular season.
Unless something unforeseen happens, Notre Dame will be facing the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia. Both of those teams bring outstanding defenses and offenses that are in the top 20 in points scored.
The Irish entered this week ranked 74th in points scored, and therein lies the big reason why Notre Dame figures to be underdogs. Here is what it can do to buck the odds.
Get Everett Golson Rolling Early
It's no secret that Everett Golson is the key to Notre Dame's offense. The dual-threat sophomore quarterback is a huge talent, but he has been erratic to the point that he has been pulled from games in favor of Tommy Rees.
Golson has improved as the season has gone on. This has been most apparent in his decision making and confidence, and that confidence is the key.
That is why it will be vital to get him going early.
Brian Kelly and the Note Dame coaching staff have to draw up some high-percentage pass plays for Golson and get that confidence rolling.
This won't just help the passing attack for the whole game, but it will also help open things up for the Irish's rushing attack, which leads to our next topic...
Win Time of Possession
The best way to beat any dominant defense is to wear it out and take advantage of tired defenders. So, time of possession figures to be huge in this game.
Notre Dame can control the clock with its ground game. It is 32nd in the nation in rushing yards and has four players who have rushed for at least 258 yards on the season.
The Irish will be able to keep fresh bodies running the football, they just have to make sure those runners have some holes to hit.
They won't be able to do this if they can't get the passing game going.
Another huge key to time of possession will be success on third downs. They must convert them on offense and the defense has to get off the field on third downs.
Get a Big Play from Manti Te'o
Manti Te'o has had a huge season. He's come up so big for the Irish that he is likely to be the rare defensive player to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Te'o is an athletic and astute player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Those skills have helped him pull in seven interceptions on the season.
The Irish could use one of those picks in the title game, and just some impact plays.
Te'o is the heart and soul of this defense. He needs to play the game of his life and he'll raise his teammates' play in the process.