Alabama Football: Tide's 6 Biggest Advantages over Notre Dame
The Alabama Crimson Tide will meet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Jan. 7 in what is likely to be the most watched BCS title game in college football history.
Alabama is by most accounts a 10-point favorite at this point and will be looking to win its second consecutive national title and its third in the last four years.
Even though Notre Dame is the one that comes into this one unbeaten, the Tide are the ones that have the definitive edge here. While that guarantees them nothing, it will be very difficult for the Irish to win their first title in 24 years.
Here is a look at the six most glaring advantages Alabama has over Notre Dame.
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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has put together quite a resume. His success at Cincinnati led him to South Bend, Ind., and in just three years he has turned around what was a very mediocre program.
Having said that, Kelly is no Nick Saban.
Saban and the Tide have won 60 games in the last five years while losing only seven. As stated earlier, this would be the third BCS title for Alabama since 2009.
Saban has clearly separated himself from every other coach in college football and is widely recognized as the best coach in the business. Kelly, on the other hand, has yet to prove that he can lead his team to victory under the brightest lights college football has to offer.
Yes, Kelly won Division II titles at Grand Valley State and he did take the Bearcats to a 12-0 record before leaving for Notre Dame.
Nonetheless, Kelly has not earned the right to be compared to the likes of a Nick Saban.
Moreover, with this being the fourth BCS title game that Saban will be coaching in (he won the first three), Saban has the routine of such a game down to a science.
His team will be mentally and physically prepared. His team will be ready. His game plan will be flawless.
With Kelly, we just can't be certain that he is ready for what he is about to get into. With Saban, we know.
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Again, Alabama is no stranger to championship games. Including the SEC championship, which some would argue is every bit as important as intense as the BCS, this is the sixth title game appearance for the Tide in the last five seasons.
Notre Dame, however, has not played in a game of this magnitude since facing an undefeated Florida State in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in November of 1993. Irish quarterback Everett Golson was 11 months old at the time.
In games such as this, experience is often the difference. With few exceptions, the majority of Tide players have played in this game before. Some of them have done it twice (2009 and 2011).
For the Irish, regular season games against Oklahoma, Stanford and USC are as close as they have been to a championship atmosphere.
While the Tide are highly unlikely to get caught up in the moment, it will be practically impossible for Notre Dame not to be at least a little bit awestruck upon arrival in Miami.
Being awestruck creates doubt. Doubt causes you to lose focus. Lost focus leads to lost games.
3. Interchangeable Running Backs
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Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon have both run the ball for over 1,000 yards this season and have combined for 29 touchdowns.
Notre Dame will try to stop them with a front seven that ranks among the best in the nation. It ranks fourth in the nation in rushing defense and has allowed just two rushing touchdowns on the season.
The benefit for the Tide here is that they have not one but two formidable backs.
Lacy and Yeldon combined for 45 carries in the SEC championship against Georgia just a few weeks ago and picked up 350 yards in the process.
As the game gets into the second half and legs grow tired, the fact that Lacy and Yeldon will be constantly swapped out in exchange for valuable rest will enable them to have fresh legs down the home stretch.
This will take its toll on the Irish defense as fatigue will lead to bigger holes for the 'Bama backs.
If Alabama goes into the fourth quarter with the lead and the ball, Notre Dame will find it very difficult to keep up the pace.
4. The Offensive Line
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Lacy and Yeldon are beasts. Quarterback A.J. McCarron has the best QB rating in the nation. Freshman receiver Amari Cooper is emerging as one of the game's brightest stars of the future.
None of these guys could do what they have done without help from the best offensive line in the nation.
Led by three-time All-American center Barrett Jones and current All-American Chance Warmack, the Alabama front line has been the key to the Tide's success this season.
They average over 315 lbs. per man and are the best run-blocking corps in the country.
If Alabama is able to run effectively, the opportunities for McCarron and the passing game will open up. From there, Alabama will have its way with the Irish.
Again, Notre Dame has a very solid defensive front and will be a challenge for the Tide. Still, with the experience that these five elephants possess, Notre Dame will have to use everything in the book in effort to neutralize this clear Tide advantage.
If the 'Bama front is as effective as it was against Georgia, Notre Dame is in a world of trouble.
5. The Layoff
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By the time these two meet up face to face and toe to toe, it will have been 37 days since the Tide last took the field and 44 days for the Irish.
One of the most disappointing things about college football is the layoff between the end of the regular season and the BCS title game.
In this case, the layoff provides a clear advantage for Alabama. Again, they have done this before. For the Tide, the time spent awaiting the title game has become somewhat of a routine.
Saban and his staff went into the break knowing what has worked before. They also know what has not worked. This enables the Tide staff to formulate the best possible way to prepare for the title game with greater accuracy.
For Notre Dame, more than six weeks will have passed since it played its last game against USC. In the Kelly era, it has not gone more than 34 games without playing.
This extended time off makes it very hard for any team to remain focused and properly prepared. With this much on the line, the difficulty grows exponentially.
Again, Alabama is used to this routine. Notre Dame is trying it out for the first time.
6. The Pressure Is on the Irish
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In 2008, Alabama rolled through the regular season undefeated, much like Notre Dame has this season.
Only the Florida Gators stood between the Tide and a BCS title game. The Gators had been there before. They pulled away from Alabama in the closing minutes for a 31-20 win and went on to take the BCS title for themselves.
Now it is Alabama who has been there before; Notre Dame has not.
The pressure to win a national title is immense. Once it has been done, though, the pressure, the nerves and the stress do not play as much of a role the second time around.
Sure, the Irish are confident and probably feel that they are back at the top to stay. That said, they also watch ESPN and other national news outlets.
They have heard time after time how unstoppable the Alabama offense is. They know all about the stout Tide defense. They know Saban's record in big games.
Since Notre Dame has not proven that it is truly the best in the nation, there is that little smidgen of doubt in the back of its mind.
No, it won't admit it, but it's there.
Alabama will come into this game very loose, just as it did against LSU a year ago. Notre Dame will have the deer in the headlights look, just as LSU did a year ago.
The pressure is on the Irish; the Tide has the swagger.