Saban and the Tide look to repeat as BCS champs.
Alabama will be the most unreal challenge for Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS Championship game.
Now, obviously that is rightfully expected.
After all, the SEC has taken home six consecutive national championships and even featured two schools from the same division last season. So, the Crimson Tide squaring off against the Irish certainly stirs up numerous questions for Notre Dame.
Why Nick Saban's team, though, is the best opponent for Brian Kelly's Golden Domers can only be looked at regarding this season. Because for as much experience as Saban and the Tide have on the big stage each new season is a different story.
Few defenses are on the level of Alabama. Notre Dame is obviously one, because of Manti Te'o and the Irish allowing only 10.3 points per game.
The Crimson Tide, however, are quite interesting this season compared to recent years. Last season sticks out immensely, because Saban had studs such as Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and Dont'a Hightower.
This season the Tide doesn't present nearly as much star power, but have been just as effective. In allowing a mere 10.7 points per contest, Alabama also ranks No. 6 against the pass and No. 1 against the run.
In short, Notre Dame's rushing attack is facing a front seven suited to control the line of scrimmage. Alabama doesn't need a standout pass-rusher because Saban's coverage locks down in man-to-man and shields at the intermediate level.
The end results are few mistakes and points allowed and another BCS title appearance.
'Bama's Ground Attack
This aspect of the Crimson Tide is much more dynamic than given credit.
Eddie Lacy certainly is the first to come to mind, because he has been an impact player since 2010. Not to mention, Lacy followed Heisman candidates such as Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
What is Notre Dame's toughest challenge vs. Alabama?
Having collected 1,354 total yards and scored 17 times, Lacy's presence allows T.J. Yeldon to go overlooked. Impressively enough, Yeldon has accounted for 1,131 total yards and 12 touchdowns.
This is the disparity of Alabama's offense compared to any that Notre Dame has seen.
Two stud ball-carriers capable of slamming inside and making plays out of the backfield in any situation. Whether it's off tackle, counters, tosses, sweeps, screens or beating a linebacker in man coverage, Lacy and Yeldon force a front seven to constantly respect the line of scrimmage.
In turn, this takes great pressure away from A.J. McCarron and sets up the big play, just as we saw in the SEC title game vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Big Play Potential
Amari Cooper is the main difference here.
As a freshman in 2012, Cooper has caught 53 passes for 895 yards and scored nine times. Of the nine, his game-winner against Georgia epitomizes Alabama's ability to stretch defenses for big plays.
It's why the ground game of Lacy and Yeldon is so crucial, because Cooper's size and athleticism to beat man coverage is a competitive advantage.
Only the USC Trojans posed a similar threat to Notre Dame via the aerial assault; however, Lane Kiffin's rushing attack is nowhere near the level of Alabama's. Therefore, it wasn't surprising to see the Irish limit USC to only 13 points.
Offensively, the Tide are a complete team. Plus, this is a unit that features elite offensive linemen in Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack.
From an all-encompassing perspective, Alabama presents the best running game, offensive line and big play potential Manti Te'o and Co. have yet to face. To that end, Notre Dame must perform better than its A-game to upset the defending champs.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.