Unless we have a tied game going down to the wire, either Alabama or Notre Dame will need to make a comeback in order to win the national championship. It doesn't matter if the come-from-behind victory is a 21-point halftime deficit or a late-second drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal.
If Notre Dame gets down early, don't turn your television sets off just yet. Things will only be getting interesting. Although if Alabama finds itself in a hole, it may be time to pack up and reward the folks out in South Bend with a well-deserved national title.
Which team do you think has what it takes to pull off the victory when trailing early?
Here is why your money should be on Notre Dame.
Experience with Close Games
Everybody has been critical about Notre Dame and the amount of close games it has been involved in throughout the season. A total of five games were decided by one possession, including two overtime finishes and many contests that came down to the final seconds. Some may say that this is the reason the Irish have no shot at winning, because they can't put teams away or even bully a roster that has far less talent.
However, when needing a comeback victory, the close games should play in Notre Dame's favor. This is something the team is used to doing. Recapturing the lead in the second half and dramatic finishes is what this year has been full of for the Irish. We can't say the same thing for Alabama, a team that has only had three close games all year and have lost one of those matchups.
Having experience in tight contests will only help Notre Dame when things get tough down the stretch. This isn't a squad that is going to panic if it is trailing in the fourth quarter, or if it gets down early right off the bat. In fact, with the way the team has played during the season, it is almost expected that the Irish will trail at some point in this ball game.
And with the familiarity of being in close games and the track record in these tight affairs, you have to like Notre Dame's chances in a come-from-behind victory.
Game Changers on Defense
A comeback win doesn't always have to be on the offensive side of the ball. Sometimes it is the defense that can make that big play that completely turns the game around, giving the losing team new life in the ballgame. There aren't many defenses that you would rather have than Notre Dame's when it comes to making that big play.
Alabama may have the better overall defense, as numbers clearly indicate that 246 total yards allowed is the best in the country. However, there aren't nearly as many players on that unit that can take over a game like there are for Notre Dame. There isn't a Manti Te'o, Stephon Tuitt or a Louis Nix that puts his big boy pads on and carries his team to victory.
The pressure up front for Alabama is a group effort, as there isn't one guy that can consistently get to the opposing quarterback and finish a game with a crucial sack. Robert Lester and Dee Milliner would likely be considered the top playmakers on this defense, but how many big plays will the Alabama secondary create on a Notre Dame offense that has been extra careful when throwing the ball?
Guys like Tuitt, Te'o and Nix have consistently come up with that big play when the defense has needed it most. It doesn’t matter if it was the 77-yard touchdown run by Tuitt in the Navy game, the interception against Oklahoma by the Heisman finalist or the sack and a half in the close game against Purdue by Nix.
Both defenses are great and are both more than capable of holding its own. But it is Notre Dame that has the guys that are just waiting to step up when the situation gets hairy.
No Bread and Butter on Offense
We have no idea how Notre Dame is going to approach this game offensively. While that may sound like a bad thing, it will keep the Alabama defense on its toes throughout the entire matchup. Will the running backs try to use its speed to get to the outside? Is this finally the game Everett Golson has his handcuffs removed? Or will we see the coaching staff try and use that running ability to expose Alabama like Johnny Manziel did?
We simply don't know how the Irish are going to come out swinging. However, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Coach Kelly says he will use more of an up-tempo approach at some point during the game.
"There’s no question that up-tempo is beneficial during the game and we’re going to utilize it," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said during his Saturday meeting with reporters in South Bend. "But our whole game plan won’t reflect that. We’ll pick our spots where we’ll use it."
Still, we have no idea what is up this team’s sleeve.
On Alabama's side, we know that they are going to run the ball. A.J. McCarron may be asked to throw a little more than usual to try to expose a young Irish secondary, but the strength is without question the tough-nosed running game. Knowing that Alabama is going to want to run the football, it makes things a little easier for the Notre Dame defense.
The Irish know they will need to stack the box and won't be as concerned about McCarron throwing the football. If Alabama finds itself trailing in this game, it would force the junior quarterback to make a few more plays with his arm and take away the running game a bit. The last time this happened against Texas A&M, McCarron made a bad decision with the ball that resulted in a loss.
Notre Dame doesn't have a strength on offense and pretty much does whatever is working at the time. Alabama is pretty predictable on offense, but would be taken out of its comfort zone if it is losing late in the game.
Once again, this favors the Irish and that stingy defense.