BCS Championship 2013: 10 Things That Must Happen for Notre Dame to Beat Alabama
The 2013 BCS National Championship between Notre Dame and Alabama is now only a week away. It has been talked about and anticipated for nearly a month now.
Notre Dame comes into the game 12-0, and Alabama only has one blemish on its record at 12-1.
The Fighting Irish will have to do a lot right in order to upset Alabama, but if they play up to their capabilities, victory is very possible.
Whether it is coming up with a few big plays or converting in the red zone, Notre Dame must do a lot right to knock off Alabama.
Here are 10 things in order of importance that Notre Dame must do in order to pull off the upset against Alabama.
10. Come Up with Two Big Plays
Putting together long-sustained drives is not something that is easy to do against a defense as talented as Alabama.
What would greatly benefit Notre Dame would be a few big plays.
That could come a number of different ways. Whether it be a blocked field goal, punt return or a 40-yard scramble by quarterback Everett Golson, the Fighting Irish need to find a way to come up with at least two game-changing plays.
If they can do that, it will make everything else a little easier.
9. Win the Battle of Hidden Yards
Hidden yards can play a huge difference in a game with two teams so evenly matched. Hidden yards could be anything from penalties to yards gained on special teams resulting in better drive position.
One major problem for Notre Dame is Alabama is one of the most disciplined teams in the country, as are most Nick Saban-led squads.
The Crimson Tide rank seventh in the country with only 32.85 penalty yards per game.
Notre Dame will need to not only win the battle of field position in the punting game but also try to limit its penalties.
That is certainly easier said than done.
8. Make A.J. McCarron Throw the Ball
A.J. McCarron is a very talented quarterback, but if Notre Dame can force him to throw the football, that would be good news for the Fighting Irish.
McCarron has only thrown three interceptions on the season, but two of those came against Texas A&M.
That was the only game all season where McCarron was forced to throw the ball more than 30 times.
When he is throwing the ball that much, Alabama is usually trying to come from behind. If McCarron throws the ball more than 30 times, Notre Dame will be in really good shape.
7. Stop the Run
The Notre Dame front seven has been solid all season. The group is led by Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o from the linebacker position.
Along the defensive line, nose tackle Louis Nix is an absolute space eater.
Those two players have been a big reason for the success of a run defense that ranks fourth in the country, only allowing 92.4 rushing yards a game.
The Crimson Tide bring a duo in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon that has combined for 2,182 yards on the ground.
It might be the best group Notre Dame has faced all season.
With the talent Alabama also brings along the offensive line, this will be a huge test for the Fighting Irish defense.
Keeping Alabama around 150 rushing yards or less will go a long way toward securing a Notre Dame victory.
6. Find Tyler Eifert
One of the biggest weapons on offense for Notre Dame is 6'6" tight end Tyler Eifert.
The senior leads the team in virtually all statistical receiving categories, including yards (624), receptions (44) and touchdowns with four.
He can be a difference-maker for the Fighting Irish, particularly near the end zone. He is sure-handed and can go up to get a ball over smaller defensive backs.
Brian Kelly needs to make a concerted effort to get this kid the ball as often as possible.
5. Consistently Run the Football to Open Up Play-Action
Notre Dame has a two-headed running back tandem of its own. While it may not be as publicized as the Alabama duo, these two can put up some numbers.
Cierre Wood has rushed for 740 yards, and Theo Riddick has rushed for 880.
As a group, the Fighting Irish rank 28th in the country, averaging just over 200 yards rushing a game. The problem is the Alabama defense is first in the country, allowing less than 80 yards a contest.
Running the ball with some consistency at the beginning of the game will help open up the play-action passes to tight end Tyler Eifert.
4. Get a Heisman-Like Performance from Manti Te'o
There are few players in the country who have come up with more big plays than Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
He has seven interceptions on the season, including two in a close victory earlier in the season against Michigan.
Te'o has had plenty of other moments, including the goal-line stand against Stanford.
If Notre Dame comes out on top in this one, Te'o is going to have to be a big reason why.
3. Convert on Red-Zone Opportunities
Getting into the red zone is something that is easier said than done against a team like Alabama. When Notre Dame does have an opportunity, it will need to capitalize on it.
The Crimson Tide have allowed opponents to reach the red zone only 27 times. During those 27 appearances, only 17 have ended in scores.
Notre Dame is going to have to put points up every time it enters the red zone. Touchdowns would certainly be preferred.
2. Get off to a Fast Start
Nick Saban has been here before. The Alabama coach is no stranger to big games, particularly national championships.
Brian Kelly has certainly coached in his fair share of big games, but has never been to a national championship.
He will need to have the Fighting Irish ready to play from the start.
Notre Dame can simply not allow itself to fall behind and have Alabama run the ball down its throat, like it will be trying to do.
1. Win the Turnover Battle
Alabama is a team that feasts on turnovers. The Crimson Tide rank 12th nationally, having forced 28 turnovers on the season.
Notre Dame is not too shabby itself, ranking 21st in the country with 23 turnovers forced.
In a game that could be very low-scoring judging by the defenses of these two teams, a turnover or two could be the difference in the game.
Winning the turnover battle would significantly enhance Notre Dame's chances of victory.