The Alabama Crimson Tide have faced some tough defenses this year, but nothing like what they're about to face against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish are first in total points allowed and sixth in total yards allowed, guaranteeing the Crimson Tide their toughest test of the season.
Since points will be so tough to come by for the Tide, they will need to excel on defense.
Both offensively and defensively, here are the key matchups and stats that the Crimson Tide need to win to take home their second consecutive National Championship.
Both of these teams excelled at creating turnovers during the regular season. Notre Dame has racked up 16 interceptions while the Tide have 17, showing that both of these defenses know how to create turnovers.
Both teams also are excellent at avoiding turnovers: Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron has thrown just three interceptions this season, while Irish quarterback Everett Golson has thrown five.
Whichever defense can force mistakes will set their team up for success in what is likely to be a defensive struggle. Just one turnover could be the difference between a win and a loss for these two teams. That makes turnover margin a stat that the Tide must win to win this game.
Everett Golson vs. Tide Defense
Only one player gave the Tide defense any real trouble this season—Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
While Everett Golson doesn't quite compare to Johnny Football, he possesses a similar skill set that could give the Tide trouble.
Golson is a dual-threat quarterback with the ability to extend plays and take off for a big gain on the ground as well. Johnny Manziel was able to do that against the Tide to great effect, combining for 345 yards of total offense on his own.
Don't expect Golson to rack up that many yards, but just a few big plays from Golson could decide this game. The Tide must make sure they defend him better than they did Manziel.
Bama Running Game vs. Irish Defense
If Bama is going to score in this game, they'll do it on the strength of their ground game, which is among the best in the nation.
The combo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 2,182 yards this year, but they have yet to face a defense of this caliber. Can these two run effectively against a defense that allowed just 3.16 yards per carry? The game might depend on it.
A.J. McCarron is a capable quarterback, but this offense flows through the ground game. If Notre Dame shuts it down, they will almost certainly win this game. The Bama offensive line and that duo of running backs will be the deciding factor in how well this offense does.
All of these matchups are winnable by the Tide. In terms of talent, they are probably the better team, and to be fair, Notre Dame hasn't played a team of this caliber. Still, Alabama must be attentive to these matchups or risk letting an underdog Notre Dame team emerge victorious.