Notre Dame and Alabama, the two most storied programs in College Football, will square off for the BCS National Championship.
All is right in the world.
Many have pegged this game as a mere formality, claiming that Alabama is too big, too strong, too good to be upset by the Irish. The SEC is the best conference in football, and Alabama won the SEC, so it only makes sense that they'd win it all.
But that thinking does a massive disservice to Notre Dame and the annus mirabilis they enjoyed. They may not be as talented as the Tide, but there's plenty of capable players donning the golden helmets in South Bend.
Here are three guys Alabama must slow down if they want to hoist the crystal football:
LB Manti Te'o
Any discussion about Notre Dame starts and ends with Te'o, the senior linebacker-cum-Heisman finalist.
On the one hand, Te'o will be a crucial player in the running game. Against what's essentially an NFL offensive line, with two future NFL rushers in the backfield, Te'o will need to step up in a big way for the Irish.
But more importantly than that, Alabama will need to prevent him from making any game-changing plays in the passing game.
Te'o has been a ball hawk all season long. It seems every time the Irish have needed to make a big play, he's been there, on cue, to make it happen.
A.J. McCarron has been pretty good at protecting the ball this season. But he'll face his stiffest (individual) test against Te'o. If he's not careful, the game could change in a heartbeat.
QB Everett Golson
The Notre Dame offense has been anything but a powerhouse this season. Golson is partly responsible—he's been up and down all season—but when he's on, he's on.
Most people mistakenly label Golson a running quarterback. He isn't immobile, but that's a misnomer, nonetheless. He likes to move around, but he does his biggest damage with his arm. Sort of like a less-talented Russell Wilson.
Notre Dame will be sure to run some unorthodox plays in this one, trying to compensate for the massive skill gap between the two units. Golson has proven exceedingly successful on plays like this—especially when he rolls right and throwbacks left.
Alabama will need to keep their eyes peeled all game long and can't let Golson catch them off guard.
TE Tyler Eifert
Eifert was awarded the John Mackey award as the nation's top tight end this season. And while his stats aren't quite jaw dropping, there's no way anyone could argue with the choice.
The senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana actually saw a decrease in his statistical output from his massive junior season. But he's become a more well-rounded player in 2012, and he plays his best in the big games.
The Tide are predictably stout defending opposing tight ends. But Eifert—as alluded to earlier—is the best college TE football has to offer. They'll need to pay him special attention if they want to take home the championship.
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