There is one game and one game only that matters in college football: The BCS National Championship.
Alabama and Notre Dame have earned the right to play for the national championship, and the two will lock horns on Jan. 7, 2013.
Notre Dame will be the heavy underdogs heading into the showdown, but that's why they play the game. Here is what Notre Dame must do to defeat Alabama.
Stop the run
Was Notre Dame's overall rush defense more like the 15 yards they allowed against Oklahoma or the 172 yards allowed to Pittsburgh's Ray Graham?
Notre Dame is clearly closer to its game against Oklahoma, but they have shown lapses in stopping the run.
Notre Dame has proof of some of its downfalls defensively—USC had some success against the Fighting Irish and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor rushed for 102 yards.
T.J. Yeldon, Eddie Lacy and the Alabama offensive line can bring it in the rushing attack. Look at what they did against Georgia in the SEC Championship game—350 yards on the ground.
When the offensive line, Lacy and Yeldon get going, not too many teams can stop them. Yeldon and Lacy each have rushed for 1,000 yards or more and 11 touchdowns this season.
Notre Dame must slow down Alabama's rushing attack, because that's the only way Alabama can consistently move the ball. If they do that, they have a chance.
Force AJ McCarron to beat them
Making this happen has a lot to do with stopping the run, but it has more to do with winning on first and second down.
Forcing Alabama to third-and-longs will be a great recipe for Notre Dame defensively. McCarron was in major trouble against Georgia if not for the rushing attack—he didn't want to throw; he didn't want to drop back.
The rushing attack got going and it allowed McCarron to settle in slightly.
Getting McCarron off his game by forcing as many third-and-longs as possible will be key. Make McCarron beat you through the air.
Get off to a fast start
Generally, upsets happen when the underdog jumps out to an early lead. It quiets the crowd, makes the opposing team take a step back and forces the opposing team to take more chances.
More chances can sometimes result in more mistakes.
Notre Dame went into Oklahoma and USC and played this role to perfection. Many people thought Notre Dame would defeat USC, but many thought they would lose at Oklahoma.
Both games provided the same recipe: leading after the first quarter. Notre Dame was beating Oklahoma 7-3 after the first and was beating USC 10-0 after the first.
Leading after the first quarter doesn't seem important, but it is when you're not supposed to have the lead.
It means a lot towards a team's confidence to play well out of the gate.
If Notre Dame can do these three things, they will be right where they want to be when the final whistle blows.