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Is Alabama More Likely to Beat Notre Dame on the Ground or Through the Air?

Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
Alabama RB Eddie LacyKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 18, 2016

No. 2 Alabama will stroll into Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 7 with the chance to establish a modern-day college football dynasty.

BCS national championships in three out of four seasons is unprecedented in the modern age of college football and would solidify head coach Nick Saban as the top coach in a generation.

But just how will Alabama get past the Fighting Irish?

Brian Kelly's crew boasts the nation's No. 6 defense, allowing 286.8 yards per game, and the fourth-best rush defense in the country (92.42 YPG).

That gives the Irish a chance against the Crimson Tide, whose offense is predicated on establishing the run with junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon—both of whom broke the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. 

Stop the run, and you can stop Alabama. Right?

Well, maybe not. 

Alabama's game plan in last season's BCS National Championship Game was a bit backward. Quarterback AJ McCarron came out throwing, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards en route to offensive MVP honors.

So will Alabama run or throw its way to the title against the Irish?

Don't expect a repeat of last season's aerial assault.

McCarron can handle the pressure. He's been a model of efficiency this season, tossing 26 touchdowns and only three picks. Furthermore, if there is a weak spot to the Notre Dame defense, it's the pass defense. The team rank 21st in the nation in this area (194.4 YPG).

However, as we saw in the second half of the SEC Championship Game, Alabama wins by lining it up and running it down the opponent's throat. Lacy rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns while Yeldon rushed for 153 and a score to lead Alabama to the 32-28 win over Georgia and clinch a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

Alabama's strength is the running game and the offensive line's ability to run block. When Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and company get going, slowing down the Alabama rushing attack is almost impossible—no matter who's carrying the ball. 

The Crimson Tide stayed patient against Georgia and wore the Bulldogs down. That allowed McCarron to use the play action to hit Amari Cooper deep for the eventual game-winner.

The game plan should change. 

Pass blocking has been an issue for the Crimson Tide this season, as they have given up 23 sacks—60th in the country. Fluker has struggled a bit going side-to-side against speed rushers, which gives hope to Irish outside linebackers Prince Shembo and Danny Spond.

So don't let him.

Stick with what got you there.

If Alabama wants to win, it should line the Fighting Irish up and punch them in the mouth. If they get back up, it should punch them again. It has worked time and time again, and it is the primary reason why Alabama is playing on Jan. 7 and Georgia isn't.

There's no need to get fancy this time around if you're the Crimson Tide coaching staff. Stick with the strength, and, if necessary, adjust.

After all, a dynasty is at stake.

 

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