The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be heavy underdogs in the BCS National Championship, but with a solid game plan and perfect execution, they can upset the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Notre Dame went undefeated this year, largely because of the efforts of Manti Te'o and a stifling defense. The Irish allowed just 10.3 points per game this season, which was best in the nation.
However, as good as Te'o and his defensive teammates are, they won't be able to beat Alabama on their own. The Irish offense will have to do their part as well. That means completing the following three keys.
If Notre Dame can do these three things, it will have a great shot to bring the trophy home to South Bend. If it can't, the team will have a long, sad flight home from Miami.
Take Care of the Ball
The Irish have abstained from turnovers for most of the season, which was a major reason they went 12-0. Quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees combined to throw just seven interceptions in 341 attempts, which often prevented their opponents from operating on a short field.
Of course, Alabama's defense is one of the best in the nation. If they can force Notre Dame into multiple turnovers, the Irish will be in trouble.
In their two closest victories, the Irish committed three turnovers against both Stanford and Pittsburgh before eventually prevailing. If they give the ball away that often against the Tide, they won't be as lucky.
Involve Theo Riddick in the passing game
Running back Theo Riddick has been an important weapon for Golson and Rees all year long, often serving as a safety outlet when the receivers downfield are covered. He caught 35 passes this season (fourth most on the team) for 364 yards and a touchdown.
They'll need another big game from him against Alabama, as the Tide will likely be zeroed in on All-American tight end Tyler Eifert. With 'Bama looking to control Eifert, Riddick should be able to find some gaps between the linebackers and move the chains.
Don't make Kyle Brindza take long field goals
Brindza is a decent young kicker, but he has struggled from distance.
He's just 8-of-11 this season on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, and 3-of-7 on attempts from 40-49 yards. He did connect on his only 50-yard attempt, but that shouldn't instill a ton of confidence in Brian Kelly and his staff.
There have been countless instances of teams losing because their kickers couldn't deliver. In a contest where points will be very hard to come by, a missed field goal will likely be a crushing blow.
Brindza is certainly capable of coming through on the big stage. If Kelly wants to avoid disaster, though, he will find a way to keep his young kicker in his comfort range.