Alabama vs. Notre Dame: X-Factors for Tide and Irish in BCS National Title Game

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard (42) in action against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Manti Te'o, Theo Riddick, Eddie Lacy and AJ McCarron are among the big names who will dominate the headlines leading up to the BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama. They are the players who attract viewers.

In order to win the title, however, it's going to take a comprehensive team effort. That includes players emerging from the shadows to play a key role. Given how close the battle of defensive-minded squads will likely be, those overlooked players are crucial.

With that in mind, let's examine one player from each that that will have to rise to the occasion if they are going to help their team earn the most coveted team prize in college football.


Alabama: Adrian Hubbard

Even though the Alabama defense was its usual dominant self during the regular season, the unit didn't feature a consistent pass-rushing threat. Hubbard led the team in sacks with six, and no other player recorded more than four.

In order to have success against the Fighting Irish, they must find a way to get pressure on Everett Golson, especially on third down. The sophomore can be forced into mistakes, but only if he's under a constant barrage of Tide defenders.

While Alabama fans will look toward C.J. Mosley to lead the charge, it's Hubbard who has the best chance to make life difficult for Golson. His combination of size and strength has a real chance to cause problems for the Notre Dame line.

Ultimately, the Tide should be able to put a couple touchdowns on the board against the Irish. If they can't get pressure on Golson, however, it won't be enough.


Notre Dame: TJ Jones

The Notre Dame game plan isn't secret. The Irish are going to lean heavily on their defense and running game to keep the game close with hopes of pulling the game out late. They don't want it to become a wide-open affair.

Alabama understands that, too. The Tide are going to pack the box to slow down the run and force Golson to make plays. In order to counteract that, the Irish have to utilize the play-action pass early to prove the passing game is a threat.

In those situations, Alabama's first defensive read will be Tyler Eifert. That means the onus will be on TJ Jones to help stretch the field early. The good news for him is that he should be facing a lot of single coverage, making his job a little easier.

The Irish won't be able to win the game without a few big plays from the passing attack. That gives Jones a chance to emerge as the game's unsung hero.