The national championship matchup is set and will be a showdown of the ages between Alabama and Notre Dame. Nick Saban's club will enter the contest next month as heavy favorites, as not too many people outside of South Bend are giving the Irish a legitimate shot to pull off the upset.
However, Notre Dame did run the table this season and showed that it is worthy of a shot for the crystal football. In fact, there may be a few starters on this Irish team that are even better than the players on the Crimson Tide roster.
What if I was to tell you that a certain linebacker for Notre Dame is better than any linebacker for Alabama? Could members of the Irish secondary be better than the Crimson Tide's defensive backfield? What about the offensive side of the ball?
Here are five players for Notre Dame that are better at their respective positions than Alabama.
Michael Williams is the much better blocker between these two tight ends, but Tyler Eifert is a top-notch receiver who provides the Irish with a legitimate receiving threat. The Notre Dame tight end has terrific body control, can line up all over the field and catches just about anything you throw his way.
Williams is great at opening up running lanes and helping protect quarterback AJ McCarron, but he isn't quite as athletic as Eifert or as effective in the passing game.
In a sport that uses the tight end position more than ever, you can give me the guy that can take over a game and make big plays. Eifert is somebody you have to double team often and know where he is on the field at all times. He will likely be the first tight end taken in next year’s NFL draft and is arguably the best receiver on either one of these teams.
Stephon Tuitt gets off the ball extremely quick and often finds himself in the backfield making plays on opposing running backs and quarterbacks. He leads the Irish with 11 sacks and has also made 40 tackles.
Damion Square is good for Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme, as he makes everybody else’s job easier by demanding double teams. However, he isn't going to 'wow' you on the football field and doesn't make many game-changing plays.
Tuitt can make plays on his own and provide a defense with a much needed spark. Due to his quickness and athleticism, the Irish have a legitimate playmaker on the defensive line.
You can put Trey Depriest, Nico Johnson or whomever else Alabama has at the linebacker position in this slide.
They are all good at what they do, but none are as great as Manti Te'o. We're talking about the best middle linebacker in all of college football and somebody who could end up winning this year’s Heisman trophy.
Te'o is a leader on and off the field, has developed a knack for making the biggest plays at the biggest moment and can do a little bit of everything for this Irish defense. Due to his athleticism, the senior is a force in stopping the run and can also drop back into coverage without any issues. His football intelligence is off the charts and allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline.
He is the heartbeat of this Notre Dame defense and is the type of player coaches around the country wish they had on their team.
Bennett Jackson has really improved from a year ago and stepped up for this young Irish secondary. He is second on the team with four interceptions and is tied with Zeke Motta for 61 tackles, which is also second best.
The former high school wide receiver has turned into a solid cornerback who is terrific in run support and has great ball skills. Along with his four takeaways, the junior corner also has four pass deflections.
As for Deion Belue, he is talented with his closing speed and instincts on the football field, but he often gets confused in coverage and misses tackles. He can be beaten in coverage and the Irish will likely try to expose him next month.
The secondary is the weak spot for Notre Dame, but Bennett has had a much better season than Belue.
With Jamoris Slaughter missing the majority of the season for the Irish, Zeke Motta has stepped up as the leader of the defensive backfield. He has made sure everybody is in the right place and has really helped this pass defense mature over the season.
While he is a leader on the field, he is also tied for second on the team with 61 tackles and has displayed above-average pass coverage skills.
Vinnie Sunseri is an active player who finds himself making big plays at times due to the fact that he runs all over the field. He was key in the SEC Championship Game and has forced three turnovers on the year. However, I am concerned with him in pass coverage and am not sure he is consistent enough to be that difference maker in the backfield.
Motta has displayed leadership and is really the glue that makes this secondary look better than it is.