Notre Dame has survived every test this season. Now, the Fighting Irish will have to overcome one more obstacle against Alabama.
This will not be an easy task. Alabama has one of the top defenses in the nation to go along with a great offense and the experience of winning a national championship as recently as last year.
While this does not mean that Notre Dame is hopeless in the game, it does make things very difficult. The Irish have had a bunch of problems throughout the year and barely escaped a number of games with victories.
If the Irish do lose in the next game, it will likely be these factors that hold them back.
Everett Golson has the ability to create offense with his legs, but A.J. McCarron is still a better quarterback for his team. This is due to his efficiency as a passer.
McCarron has thrown 8.7 touchdowns for every interception this season while completing 66.8 percent of his passes. This has helped him lead the nation with a 173.1 efficiency rating.
Meanwhile Golson has completed only 58.9 percent of his passes, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is only 2.2. His 131.8 efficiency is No. 65 among qualified quarterbacks.
This is a running team, but the Irish will have a hard time defeating a tough defense like Alabama's without a better performance from Golson.
Inconsistent Run Defense
Throughout the course of the season, defending the run has rarely been a problem for Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, a couple of bad games prove that this type of attack is possible. Stepfan Taylor of Stanford rushed for 102 yards against the Irish, while Pittsburgh's Ray Graham totaled 172 yards on the ground.
Both of these games ended up going into overtime, with the Irish barely escaping with victories.
Alabama has one of the top rushing games in the nation, with two players over 1,000 yards on the year. T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy can both find open holes and burst for big runs.
If these players are able to get going in the title game, Notre Dame will not have a chance of keeping up on the scoreboard.
Like most football games, this one will come down to turnovers.
Notre Dame has seen firsthand how important giveaways can be during a close game.
Three fumbles against Stanford, including one in the end zone, kept the Cardinal in the game. The Irish also committed three turnovers against Pittsburgh in the triple-overtime win.
On the other hand, the Irish were able to win their toughest games of the season by winning the turnover battle. Oklahoma and USC combined for three turnovers compared to zero for Notre Dame, while the Irish were able to force six takeaways against Michigan.
The Crimson Tide are as talented on defense as any team in the nation. Golson and the rest of his offense cannot afford to give up chances to score, because they will not come around often.
This will likely be the biggest factor between a national championship for Notre Dame and simply a good season.
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