Notre Dame Football: X-Factors for Irish in BCS Championship Game

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 17: Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is chased by Chibuikem Okoro #6 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 17, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Manti Te'o, Everett Golson, Tyler Eifert. These are the Notre Dame players whose names you will hear ad nauseam over the next month as the hype for the BCS championship against Alabama gets in full swing. 

But what about the key contributors to Notre Dame's perfect 12-0 regular season that don't get the recognition they deserve? What better stage for them to show what they can do than in the biggest game of the year?

Superstars need to play like superstars in a big game for a team to have a chance, but it is the unheralded players who can put you over the top. We see it happen all the time in these kinds of games, when you need a big first down or a stop on third down, someone steps up to make it happen. 

Here are the X-factors we are keeping a close eye on as the BCS Championship Game inches closer. 


Cierre Wood, Running Back

2012 Stats: 110 carries, 740 yards, 4 TD

The Fighting Irish rely on the running game to move the ball, as well as set up the passing game. They run a play-action passing style. Wood has been great when his number has been called, though there are times when he gets lost in the shuffle. 

Even though he ran for over 100 yards in a game three times this season, Wood's best performance actually came against Oklahoma. He had just seven carries in that game, yet managed 74 yards—62 on one carry—and a touchdown.  

As long as Wood is able to make a big play just once when he touches the ball against Alabama, the Fighting Irish will know that luck is on their side. They need a big running play, and Wood has been their go-to back in that regard. 


John Goodman, Wide Receiver

2012 Stats: 7 receptions, 159 yards, 3 TD

Goodman has become the ultimate X-factor for Notre Dame over the last three games. He doesn't put up huge numbers; rather, he makes the most of whatever opportunity comes his way. 

Three of Goodman's seven catches have gone for at least 20 yards. Two of his three touchdown catches came in the last three weeks. He does not have elite skills at the position but can get down the field and make a play when you need one. 

Alabama's defense struggles to put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, so it becomes vital that the secondary doesn't get caught in busted coverage. A player like Goodman, who can run down the field in a hurry, has the potential to do serious damage in this game. 

For Notre Dame's sake, Goodman needs to make at least one of his patented big plays to win this game. 


Kyle Brindza, Kicker

2012 Stats: 26-for-27 Extra Points; 23-for-31 Field Goal Attempts

In a game with two defenses as strong as this one, you know that special teams will factor into the outcome, one way or the other. 

Brindza is a sophomore playing in his first season as Notre Dame's primary kicker. Like all young kickers, he has had moments both good and bad. He dynamite on kicks less than 30 yards, which shouldn't be a shock, connecting on 11 of his 12 attempts. 

Where Brindza has run into trouble is when you start moving him further away from the goal posts. He has hit just eight of his 11 attempts between 30 and 39 yards and is 3-for-7 beyond 40 yards. 

At some point Brindza will be asked to kick a field goal outside of his comfort zone. Points will be at a premium in this game, so he will have to make at least one of them for Notre Dame to have a shot at winning a national championship.