Notre Dame Football: Important Matchups That Irish Must Win to Upset Alabama

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22:  Running back Theo Riddick #6 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs the ball in the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Sometimes the biggest games can be broken down into a few small matchups.

Alabama and Notre Dame are both loaded with skill on both sides of the football, but a few players will be more important than others in the BCS National Championship Game.

In order for the Fighting Irish to pull the upset, these key players will have to win their individual battles.


DE Stephon Tuitt vs. OT D.J. Fluker

Alabama has talent all over the field, but the offensive line might be the team's greatest strength.

Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack solidify the interior and help the run game. However, D.J. Fluker is just as good protecting his quarterback from the tackle position.

Still, Stephon Tuitt will be able to challenge the junior as well as anyone in the country.

Tuitt finished the regular season with 12 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He also showed off his speed with a 77-yard fumble returned for a touchdown.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron does not throw many interceptions, which is mainly due to the fact that he does not face a lot of pressure. Tuitt must provide that pressure around the edge to cause some disruptions for the opposing offense.


RB Theo Riddick vs. LB C.J. Mosley

Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III have some big-play ability, but Theo Riddick is the running back that Notre Dame trusts to lead the offense.

Things will not be easy against arguably the toughest defense in the nation.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley leads Alabama with 99 tackles on the year. He also has seven tackles for a loss and four interceptions, so he has incredible versatility.

Mosley will try to be everywhere on the field, but Riddick has to do his best to avoid getting taken down by the defensive leader. 

Considering the Irish's struggles in the passing game, the team needs the starting running back to have a big game.


CB Bennett Jackson vs. WR Amari Cooper

Against Notre Dame's solid run defense, Nick Saban might change his team's game plan to become more pass-heavy.

This is what happened in last year's national championship game. Quarterback A.J. McCarron ended up throwing a season-high 34 pass attempts and played well.

If this happens, Amari Cooper will be in line for a big game. The receiver has more than double the receiving yards of anyone else on the team.

Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell need to make sure they focus on defending the freshman to at least keep the Tide one-dimensional on offense.

It will give them a chance at defending the high-powered offense and keeping the game close.