The Alabama Crimson Tide is a heavy favorite over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. It’s not going to come easy, though, and will take a complete team performance.
Notre Dame matches up well with the Tide and poses several interesting matchups. Those matchups will be dissected and game-planned around over the next month and change until the big dance.
Let’s take a look at what Alabama needs to do in order to bring home its third national championship in the last four seasons.
Control the Line of Scrimmage
Both the Irish and Crimson Tide have done a good job at controlling the line of scrimmage all season. Both on offense and defense, each has its own playmakers. But it’s the units as a whole that have really shined. Their ability to play together in a unified front has allowed great success in shutting down opponents this season.
Neither has been perfect, but there are few better in the entire nation.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Tide must contain the penetration of the Irish’s front four if it hopes to have any chance at winning. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt have proven to be disruptive in both the run and pass this season. If they can get off the ball and into the Alabama backfield, it could be a long game offensively for the defending champs.
Defensively, the Irish have run the football effectively this year but could face problems against the first-ranked Crimson Tide rush defense. They are averaging over 200 yards on the ground but have struggled against some of the better rush defenses they have faced.
Here are some notable totals for the Irish on the ground this season: 122 yards vs. Michigan State (99.5 YPG), 94 yards against Michigan (156 YPG), 150 yards against Stanford (87.6 YPG), 231 yards vs. Pittsburgh (129 YPG).
If Alabama can contain the multi-headed Irish rushing attack, this game could be over quickly.
Amari Cooper vs. Irish Secondary
Kenny Bell is on the shelf with a broken leg and could miss the title game. That leaves Amari Cooper as the team’s lone big-play threat.
He shined in the SEC Championship Game, hauling in eight catches for 128 yards. That’s including a go-ahead 45-yard touchdown catch with a little over three minutes left to play.
Notre Dame could be susceptible to giving up big plays through the air, especially if it is focused on stopping the Tide’s punishing rushing attack. However, the Irish have limited big plays to opposing quarterbacks. It is first in the nation, allowing just 9.68 yards per completion.
If Cooper doesn’t find a way to break free at least once, the Tide will struggle to put points on the board against Notre Dame.
Contain Everett Golson
Mobile quarterbacks haven’t posed too much of a problem for the Crimson Tide. That was until freshman Johnny Manziel ran loose on the team during its only loss of the season.
While Golson is not a typical dual-threat QB like Manziel, he does have an eye for scrambling once coverage takes away his first and second reads. He has rushed for 300 yards and five touchdowns on the year.
His biggest utility as a rusher comes in passing situations. With a long down-and-distance, opposing defenses send pressure to try to confuse and pressure the freshman QB.
If Alabama doesn’t put him down with its blitzes, Golson has the ability to make them pay by picking up big chunks of yards on the ground.