Notre Dame Football: Why Irish Fans Should Be Rooting for Alabama
If you're a Notre Dame fan, I highly recommend that you reserve your Saturday afternoon to take in the SEC Championship Game that is a de facto playoff game for a shot to play the Irish in January's BCS National Championship Game.
The tough question is, which team should you be pulling for?
Both Alabama and Georgia are two of the best teams in America, and each will be an incredibly challenging matchup for Brian Kelly and Co.
It's no fun to pick either team, but I'm here to convince you to place your bets on Nick Saban's Alabama squad.
Yes, I know, Alabama is the trendy pick. Yes, I know, Georgia fans are likely to be incensed at another article making this selection, but remember, the 'Dawgs are the more dangerous matchup for the Fighting Irish. So, if anything, this is an indirect compliment to Georgia and its fans.
But what is it about the Crimson Tide that makes it a more enviable matchup for Notre Dame?
Let's begin with Alabama's offensive scheme.
The cornerstone of the Tide's offense is its ability to run the football behind college football's best offensive line led by All-American center Barrett Jones. Alabama has piled up 2,570 rushing yards this season, roughly 72 percent of which has come from the two-headed monster of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon at running back.
Because Alabama has had such tremendous success running the football, it has enjoyed the luxury of incredible offensive balance. Starting quarterback A.J. McCarron has accounted for 2,507 of the Tide's 2,626 passing yards on the season.
Sure, these statistics may seem like useless numbers, but when looked at carefully, they resemble an offense that plays right into the hands of the gritty, physical Notre Dame defense.
Is Alabama a better matchup for Notre Dame than Georgia?
For comparison's sake, consider Alabama's 21-17 victory over LSU on Nov. 3—the Tigers were one of only two top-25 rushing defenses the Tide encountered all season—that gave its offense fits.
The Tide was limited to 165 rushing yards—yes, Alabama's rushing attack is that potent—on the evening, which was 50 yards below it's season average of 214. In turn, Saban relied on McCarron to move the ball through the air, resulting in the Mobile, Alabama native attempting 27 passes—his third highest amount of passing attempts this season.
McCarron completed just 14 of those 27 passes for a pedestrian 165 yards, one of which was a 28-yard screen pass to Yeldon for the game-winning touchdown.
What you can take away from the Tide's offensive output during that contest is that when its rushing attack is contained—notice I didn't say stopped—it struggles to put points on the scoreboard.
Alabama was the better team against LSU on that early November evening, though it would have likely lost if not for a few highly questionable play calls from Tigers head coach Les Miles.
Despite losing the game, LSU gave Alabama's opponents a clear blueprint of how to take down the Tide.
Notre Dame's 5th-ranked rushing defense will be the best Alabama has seen all season, so considering how it fared against LSU, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Irish take Alabama to the wire.
Some who read this column may contest that this comparison should be discredited because it only includes statistics from one contest on Alabama's schedule, but do realize that the Tide's win over LSU was, far and away, it's most notable litmus test of the season.
It also proves that Alabama is indeed the more favorable matchup for the Fighting Irish.
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