The BCS National Championship game will bring two elite football teams together in Miami to battle for the Coaches’ Trophy.
Both Alabama and Notre Dame have an overwhelming amount of top talent, but they also have some players that struggle to keep their starting jobs. Even the worst players on these rosters still contributed to the national title run, but it may have been easier with better performers taking the field.
Taking a look at the roster matchups that will land in the national title game, here are the best and worst starters for the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish.
Robby Toma is a senior receiver for Notre Dame this season, hauling in the fifth-most passes of any Irish pass catcher this fall. Toma has 24 receptions but no touchdowns to his name. He is also averaging a team-low at receiver with 10.5 yards per catch.
Toma’s 252 yards this year are the most in his four-year career in South Bend, but his four years have not been the most productive.
The Irish have had issues finding a consistent quarterback in the past few seasons, but Toma has been severely underdeveloped in his four years with the team. If the Irish could find a better outside threat, they would take it.
The Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line is one of the best in the country. If there is a weakness, it is at the right guard position where Anthony Steen resides.
The Tide have found consistent success on the ground all year, but when faced with larger inside defenders they have struggled to open up inside lanes. A lot of that has been from the deficiencies that Steen brings to the field.
He has also given up a handful of sacks this season—another point of concern and inconsistency for the Alabama offensive line. Steen’s play is often covered by the success of senior Barrett Jones at center.
The Fighting Irish have struggled to find playmakers on the outside this season with John Goodman not helping the cause.
A young Everett Golson was able to come along as a passer by finding running backs in the flats and his tight end Tyler Eifert with regularity.
Goodman is a senior that has played like a freshman. His 159 receiving yards are the most in his career, but those numbers are extremely low. Goodman needs to bring his best performance in four years in Miami if Notre Dame hopes to walk away with a win.
At this point it is almost like I am picking on Sunseri, but the truth is he doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to traditional Alabama safety play.
All season he has battled for the position with Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, and most of the time he has come up short with his on-field performance.
Sunseri has a football pedigree that is impressive—his dad is a coach and his brother is the starting quarterback for Pitt—but he is not starting safety worthy for the Crimson Tide.
Clinton-Dix will take over the starting role by the time 2013 gets rolling.
As good as Manti Te'o has been for Notre Dame, Danny Spond has been just as inconsistent.
Spond has only four games with more than five tackles, and only one with seven or more. He has been relatively ineffective in the final few games of the season, only accounting for 11 total stops in the past four games.
Spond is a member of one of the best front sevens in college football, but he is by far the weakest link in the armor. Spond needs an all-star type performance to keep the Irish title hopes alive.
Christion Jones has been thrust into action by a string of injuries that have destroyed the Crimson Tide receiver corps this season and Jones has done well. He is still not the best option for the Tide, and for that reason he snags a worst listing.
Jones has caught a pass in all but one game this year for Alabama, but he only has one game over 50 yards receiving, and three with more than 20 yards.
The Tide would much prefer to have DeAndrew White or Kenny Bell in the lineup when they take the field against Notre Dame in January, but Jones will do enough to not kill the Tide in the title game.
Manti Te’o is an obvious selection for this list. He finished the year as a Heisman finalist and won the Maxwell Award—given to the nation’s best player.
Te’o finished the year with seven interceptions and over 100 tackles. He has been the leader for one of the most dynamic defenses in the country. It will be a tough day for the Alabama rushing attack against the Te’o led Irish.
Wherever the pile moves, Te’o can be found. He flies to the football and helps create mismatches for the Irish defense.
Barrett Jones is the anchor for the Alabama offensive line. He has played every position along the line throughout his tenure with the Crimson Tide, settling in at center for his senior season.
Jones was selected as the Rimington Trophy award winner this season, an award that is given to the nation’s top center.
Jones has helped Alabama push through some of the best defensive lines in the country this fall. He has been a key to a second consecutive title run for this team. Without Jones up front, the Tide would struggle to make the BCS.
Theo Riddick has been one of the most dangerous dual-threat running backs in the country this season. Riddick finished the season as a leading rusher and pass catcher for the Irish offense.
Riddick rushed 180 times for 880 yards this fall, but he also caught 35 passes for 364 yards. He was a solid safety valve on nearly every down for Everett Golson.
The Irish bring a trio of backs to the field with every game, but Riddick is the leader of the Notre Dame ground attack. Without Riddick, this offense would have struggled to find wins early in the season.
Adrian Hubbard has been the most impressive underclassman on the Alabama defense this fall. Hubbard is constantly around the football, helping the Crimson Tide bring down some of the best skill players in the country with consistency.
In his first year as a starter Hubbard accounted for 39 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also forced three fumbles and rushed the quarterback four times.
Hubbard’s impact was a huge piece of the Crimson Tide’s success this fall. His ability to clean up broken plays and stifle the run has been impressive to watch in 2012.
Tyler Eifert finished the 2012 season as one of the best tight ends in the college game. Eifert has the speed of a receiver and size of a tight end, making him a tough option to cover for defenses.
Linebackers are too slow to keep up, and defensive backs typically can’t handle his size. That helped Eifert catch 44 passes for 624 yards this fall. He also won the Mackey Award.
Alabama will have fits trying to find the right coverage to blanket Eifert in January. He has the ability to be the game-changing threat that tips the title to Notre Dame.
A.J. McCarron has quietly put together one of the best seasons for a quarterback in the college game this year. He finished his first 13 games as No. 1 in passing efficiency with a 173.08 mark.
McCarron is also guiding his second national title contending team in as many years.
So far in the 2012 season McCarron has taken more sacks a game than nearly 100 other FBS quarterbacks. Despite getting nailed consistently, he continues to impress the country with his accuracy and poise.
If the Tide make it out of Miami with a second consecutive national title, they will have McCarron to praise.