BCS Championship 2013: 5 Mistakes Notre Dame Must Avoid vs. Alabama
Championship-caliber football teams are like sharks: When they smell blood, they go in for the kill. Alabama and Notre Dame are no different, as each team consistently capitalizes on its opponents' mistakes.
For the Irish to claim a victory against the Crimson Tide at Sun Life Stadium next week, they must avoid mistakes at all costs so as not to become Alabama's prey.
Which specific mistakes do Brian Kelly and Co. need to be extremely sure not to commit?
Let's find out.
5. Everett Golson Carrying the Ball Like a Loaf of Bread
Please take a moment and notice how Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is handling the football in the photograph above.
The Irish's first-year starting quarterback has given head coach Brian Kelly fits all season while carrying the football with one hand, which is all but asking for a turnover.
And against an Alabama defense that prides itself on taking the football away, Golson simply cannot run with the football in one hand as he is so prone to doing.
If you're a fan of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles or Atlanta Falcons, you've likely experienced similar nerves with Michael Vick carrying the ball carelessly, resulting in more than a few perfectly avoidable fumbles.
Should Golson continue his Vick-esque style of holding the football, Notre Dame may be reminded of its 2011 season that was, by all accounts, a turnover-plagued debacle.
4. Getting off to a Slow Start
While stumbling out of the gate isn't a tangible mistake, it's an issue that the Irish have dealt with during the 2012 season.
In six of the Irish's 12 games, they failed to score on their first possession.
Against an effective ball-control team such as Alabama, jumping out to an early lead will be crucial for Notre Dame; playing from behind will likely spell doom for the Irish.
Brian Kelly and his team have spoken about taking pride in throwing the first punch, but that statement only holds true if they come out swinging from the start.
3. Biting on Play Action
What Alabama likes to do offensively is no secret.
The Tide will run, run, keep running and then run some more. Because Alabama possesses the luxury of an incredibly powerful offensive line, it doesn't have to mix up its play-calling.
However, just when a defense becomes content moving one or both of its safeties up to help against the run, Alabama will burn that defense deep with play-action passes to its freshman phenom wide receiver, Amari Cooper.
The key here is for the safety that remains in the backfield to commit to his assignment.
If he bites on play action, Cooper will blow right by him for a long gain, or worse, a touchdown.
2. Not Converting in the Red Zone
There's something about the red zone that the Irish offense just doesn't like.
When they've entered the final 20 yards of the field, the car breaks down more often than not.
Sure, Brian Kelly isn't satisfied with settling for field goals in the red zone, but he can't force his offense into the end zone. It's a problem that stems from Everett Golson's erratic play within the red zone.
Throwing within the confined space seems to bother the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native, which is likely an area that he and Kelly worked on tirelessly during the month-long preparation for the BCS National Championship Game.
1. Turning the Ball Over
More often than not, the outcome of a game is dependent upon which team did a better job of protecting the football.
The Irish understand that concept better than perhaps any program in the country, considering they finished last season ranked in the cellar of the FBS in turnover margin at minus-1.15.
It's fair to say that each of the Irish's five losses a season ago were directly attributable to turnovers.
Well, a season later, Notre Dame has rid itself of its turnover-filled ways, which has been a major reason why the Irish finished the regular season undefeated.
But if they fail to take care of the football against Alabama, the Tide will capitalize and put points on the board off those turnovers.