Some key players will have to step up for Notre Dame to upset Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Miami.
Alabama not only sports a sterling defense, the Crimson Tide have an offense capable of putting up big points, as evidenced by the 32-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC title game.
Here are some vital players for the Fighting Irish who will have to have big games against Alabama in the national championship game.
Everett Golson, QB
Everett Golson's performance may be the key to a Notre Dame victory.
Given Alabama's sterling run defense, it's going to be difficult for the Fighting Irish to do much on the ground. That means the sophomore quarterback will have to find ways to gain yardage through the air.
The most important part is that Golson doesn't throw any interceptions. He only has five picks on the year, but Alabama has notched 17 interceptions this season, tied for 14th in the nation (via CFBStats.com).
Tyler Eifert, TE
As Notre Dame's leading receiver, Tyler Eifert will be critical for Golson against the Crimson Tide.
Eifert, who has racked up a team-high 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns this season, is Golson's favorite target. He had a big game (57 yards, touchdown) in the 20-13 overtime victory over Stanford on Oct. 13 and posted 69 yards against USC in Notre Dame's final regular season game.
If Notre Dame is going to have any kind of success against Alabama's pass defense, it starts with Eifert.
Manti Te'o, LB
Obviously, stopping the run against the Crimson Tide is the priority for Notre Dame. Heisman finalist Manti Te'o will be leading the Fighting Irish in such a crusade.
Te'o posted a team-high 103 tackles this season, to go along with 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and seven interceptions (tied for second in the country, first among linebackers).
The one-two punch of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will be a challenge for Notre Dame's defense, but the Fighting Irish held Stanford star Stepfan Taylor to 3.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns on Oct. 13.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
Stephon Tuitt is undeniably Notre Dame's greatest pass-rusher. He posted a team-high 11 sacks this season, including three games with two sacks.
The Fighting Irish will not only have to stop Alabama's rushing attack, they are going up against a quarterback in junior A.J. McCarron who has been awfully good this season.
McCarron can be get to (Alabama has allowed 23 sacks this season, tied for 60th in the country), so it is Tuitt's job—and the job of his fellow teammates—to apply pressure early and often.
Prince Shembo, LB
Prince Shembo has been the other force for Notre Dame's front seven this season. He's posted 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, both marks good for second on the team.
The junior outside linebacker had solid games against ranked opponents Michigan and Oklahoma during the regular season. He will be needed against Alabama, defending the run and the pass.
Theo Riddick/Cierre Wood, RB
While it's going to be tough to run against Alabama, the Fighting Irish can't be forced into a situation where they are passing frequently and allowing the Crimson Tide to sit back and spy Everett Golson.
Notre Dame needs to find some success on the ground against Alabama, even if it means simply creating more manageable third-down opportunities.
Riddick and Wood have combined for 1,620 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns on the ground this season. Riddick also has the ability to make an impact as a receiver out of the backfield.
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