We are slowly inching closer and closer to the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame. What once seemed like forever to arrive is now within distance, as the month of December is flying by. Before you know it, both the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish will be on the field and ready to battle it out for the ultimate prize.
Until then, everybody and their cousin will have an opinion on who wins the big game. Most are siding with Alabama to win, but that is really beside the point. Those are the people that are scared to take a walk on the wild side and throw a few different predictions up against the blackboard.
If the prediction isn't bold, it simply isn't good enough and shouldn't count towards anything but a pat on the back.
With that said, here are 10 bold predictions for the national championship matchup between Alabama and Notre Dame.
Why This Is Bold: The last punt returned for a touchdown in a BCS bowl was in 2009 when Alabama's Javier Arenas took it back 73 yards against Utah. Neal also hasn't been terrific on punt returns, averaging less than three yards an attempt on the year.
Why This Will Happen: When teams have had room to attempt a return, there have been players that have had their fair share of success against Alabama. The team has only allowed 15 punt returns on the year and is allowing 7.6 yards a return, which is ninth in the SEC.
Neal was a top recruit in the 2012 class because of his versatility and game-changing speed. His change of direction and ability to make people miss are one of the reasons folks out in South Bend were so excited about this kid.
With nearly an entire season under his belt, it is time he shows the college football world some of that playmaking ability.
A true freshman will have one of the biggest plays of the national championship.
Why This Is Bold: When was the last time you saw Alabama struggle to run the football? The offense has scored 35 touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 5.5 yards per touch.
Why This Will Happen: The front seven of the Irish is about as good as it gets. It is also bigger than most SEC defenses if you have ever wanted to combine the overall weight of some these players.
The defense is much more than Manti Te'o, as players such as Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Prince Shembo are all capable of shedding blocks and making plays in the backfield by themselves. Each and every player on the line gets off the ball nicely and can hold his own against some of the top offensive linemen in the country.
Then you also have Te'o and linebacker Dan Fox that will continue to be the tackling machines on the defense and will limit the big plays when there are running lanes to breakthrough.
Overall, Notre Dame has only allowed two rushing touchdowns all season and about three yards per carry.
This unit is the real deal and should make things difficult for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
Why This Is Bold: McCarron has only had two games throughout his entire career that he has thrown for at least 300 yards. With the Alabama running game so strong, the junior quarterback really hasn't had to step up big with his arm.
Why This Will Happen: With the running game struggling, the Crimson Tide must get its offensive production from somewhere. Quarterback A.J. McCarron will be the guy to bail out Alabama in the national championship game.
McCarron has improved his game drastically from a year ago, throwing for 26 touchdowns and limiting himself to only three interceptions. He has done an amazing job of scanning the field and making the right decisions with the football.
The good thing for Crimson Tide fans is that Notre Dame does have a young secondary that can be beaten when tested. With the Irish defense focusing mainly on the running game of the Tide, receivers are likely going to see a lot of man-coverage.
With the accuracy of McCarron and favorable matchups for the Tide skill position players, you have to like the odds of the junior having a big game. Remember, this is the same quarterback that went off against LSU last season in the national championship game.
Why This Is Bold: It seems like Eddie Lacy finally has his feet under him and has become the main guy in the ground game for Alabama. Yeldon is also a true freshman that hasn't had one play all season of 50 yards or more.
Why This Will Happen: You know that SEC speed that everybody likes to brag about? Well, it really doesn't get much faster than Yeldon in the open field. His elusiveness, field vision and ability to flip the switch with his acceleration are a deadly combination for the guys trying to tackle him.
Yeldon is a threat to take it the distance every time the ball is in his hands and has produced eight plays on the year of more than 20 yards. He received 25 carries in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, and if he sees that many touches against Notre Dame, we will see a big play at some point.
The young running back is a threat running and catching the ball out of the backfield. He is somebody the Irish must watch at all times.
Why This Is Bold: Tommy Rees has thrown at least one pass in nine of the 11 games he was eligible to play. While this team may belong to Everett Golson, the junior quarterback has still played his part and has found a way to see the field.
Why This Will Happen: Rees has been valuable throughout the season and his experience has played a big role in keeping the team unbeaten. However, this is Golson's team and it is about time head coach Brian Kelly shows him that.
He is making better decisions with the ball and has shown more command in leading this team. There should be no more pulling him out of the game when he makes a mistake. If it is his team, Golson should go down when the ship is sinking and receive majority of the praise when the team is winning. After all, that is what happens when you are the leader of the team.
There is little doubt that Golson will be the starter heading into next season, and there is no better time for Kelly to show his signal-caller that he has complete trust in him.
No matter what the results of this game are, Rees should remain on the sidelines and watch it unfold.
Why This Is Bold: Alabama has only gone three games this year where it hasn't forced at least one turnover.
Why This Will Happen: One of the differences between last year’s Crimson Tide defense and this year's, is that the defense has created more big plays. The 28 forced turnovers on the season are eight more than all of the 2011 season.
And even though turnovers are what have helped make this defense so good, Notre Dame has done a good job of holding on to the football. There have only been 14 turnovers lost for the Irish defense all year. Golson has also only thrown two interceptions in the last seven games he has played.
Notre Dame has done an even better job of not coughing up the ball in the biggest games of the year. Sure, every game for the Irish has been big, but in the games against Oklahoma, USC and Michigan State, there were a combined zero turnovers.
You know ball security is something Coach Kelly is preaching to his boys throughout the month.
I'm sure they are all listening.
Why This Is Bold: Forcing two turnovers in one game is pretty awesome.
Why This Will Happen: Have you seen Manti Te'o play at all throughout his career? I'm not sure there is one player in the last decade that has had a nose for the football like the Heisman finalist linebacker.
For the third straight year, Te'o has led the Irish in tackles. But this season, he has taken his game to a whole other level and has made that big play for the Irish defense in every game this year. Whether it was the goal-line stop in the Stanford game, the interception against Oklahoma or the two interceptions against Michigan, Te'o has made an impact.
Alabama has had an issue of holding onto the football, fumbling the ball 12 times on the year. You know Te'o will be looking to strip the ball and take it back the other way.
With the season the senior linebacker has had, expecting anything less than a couple game-changing plays would be senseless.
Why This Is Bold: Jeremy Shelley hasn't missed a kick all season long. He is a perfect 63-of-63 on extra points and 11-of-11 on field-goal attempts.
Why This Will Happen: Remember the kicker from a year ago?
That guy still has to be around here somewhere.
The only thing Shelley could be counted on for last season was to miss a kick. He finished the year 21-of-27 and even missed a pair of attempts in last season’s national championship game.
This year has been too perfect.
Maybe it is the pressure of the big game or a bad snap is the reason for a kick sailing off to the left. Either way, Alabama will witness a crucial kick not going through the uprights at some point in this contest.
This is bowl season, and it usually never fails when the kicker is called on to bail the team out.
Why This Is Bold: Is anybody outside of South Bend actually picking the Irish to win?
Why This Will Happen: Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide almost never lose big games. When you give him a month to prepare, you can almost put an Alabama victory next to death and taxes as the things guaranteed in life.
However, can we really pick against a team that appears destined to win?
There are thousands of things that could have gone wrong for Notre Dame throughout the season, and for some reason, the football gods answered the bell every single time. The Irish could have lost nearly every game on their schedule but somehow managed to avoid losing.
Some may call it the luck of the Irish; others would just assume that it is this team’s year. History is on Alabama's side, but I think destiny plays a bigger role on the college football Richter scale, especially in a national championship game.
Somehow, someway, Notre Dame will find a way to win.
It is what the team has done all season long.
Why This Is Bold: Yes, the SEC winning streak will come to an end, but there is another streak that will as well. There has never been a team in BCS national championship history where the losing team at halftime has come back to win.
That's right, the team that was leading at the half has won every single national championship since 1998. (The 2008 championship game of Florida and Oklahoma is an exception, as the game was tied at the half.)
Why This Will Happen: Alabama heads into the half with a four-point lead and many will assume that Saban will turn to the ground game in the second half and wear down the Irish defense. Instead, Coach Kelly gives Notre Dame a Tebow-like speech in the locker room and it inspires everybody, including the water boy.
The team then takes the field and Te'o forces those two turnovers. Golson leads his offense down the field for a score because Rees is banned from participating in the game. The Irish run defense bottles up the Bama running game and Davonte' Neal finds a lane to take a punt back for a touchdown.
Later in the second half, Shelley then misses a field goal, which takes all of the wind out of the Crimson Tide's sail, and the rest is history.
Notre Dame not only wins the game, but the halftime streak also comes to an end in a story-like finish.