Notre Dame Football: Predicting Who Will Lead the Irish in Rushing vs. Alabama

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Notre Dame Football: Predicting Who Will Lead the Irish in Rushing vs. Alabama
Harry How/Getty Images

His white jersey was covered in grass stains. White field paint was smeared on his arms that were also nicked up with small cuts and abrasions while his face was aglow under the illuminating lights at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick looked every bit the part of a football warrior. 

Minutes before, Riddick and the Irish had defeated their archival, USC, 22-13, that was the final touch on their first undefeated regular season since 1988.

But if it weren't for Riddick's heroic effort against the Trojans, Notre Dame may not have earned a berth in January's BCS National Championship Game.

The 5'11", 200-pound converted wide receiver had, perhaps, the most brilliant performance of his career at Notre Dame against the Trojans on Nov. 24, amassing 146 rushing yards on 20 carries to go along with one touchdown.

The Irish will need a similar gutty performance from Riddick on Jan. 7 at Miami's Sun Life Stadium against Alabama if they wish to return to South Bend with the coveted crystal football.

All odds are pointing to Riddick being the Irish's leading rusher when time expires on the boxing match between these two heavyweights.  

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The workmanlike attitude that Riddick has displayed all season fits seamlessly into prize-fighting metaphors; he's a gritty runner between the tackles and revels in throwing the first punch, which will prove to be an essential trait against an Alabama defense that prides itself on stopping the run, as the Tide finished the regular season ranked first nationally in rushing defense. 

Of course, Riddick can't do it alone, making the depth at running back provided by Cierre Wood and George Atkinson invaluable.

But make no mistake about it; Riddick is the alpha dog of the Irish's running back unit.

Yet it's his versatility that makes him such a dangerous threat to opposing defenses.

Originally recruited by former head coach Charlie Weis as a running back, Riddick was moved to receiver by Brian Kelly prior to the 2010 season, but returned to his natural position at the latter end of the last season due to Jonas Gray's season-ending knee injury.

The experience that Riddick gained at receiver during his nearly two-season stint at the position has carried over into his role as the Irish's starting running back.

He possesses ability to motion out to the slot and leak out into the flat, all the while demonstrating his sharp route-running skills.

Forcing a defense—yes, even that mighty Alabama defense—into taking account of that type of versatility can, potentially, make life easier for an offense.

Riddick has the opportunity to make life easier for his team, though it will require yet another heroic effort that will be the final of his collegiate career.

He'll be staring straight into the teeth of the meat grinder that is the Alabama defense.

When the horn sounds at the conclusion of the Irish's bout with the Tide, Riddick will, per usual, be sporting grass stains and the physical evidence of an accolade-worthy rushing performance.

And if his final statistics are eye-popping, Riddick and his teammates may just be all smiles under the gentle glow of the overhead lights at Sun Life Stadium in less than two week's time.   

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