Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Top Players to Watch in BCS National Championship

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IIJanuary 3, 2013

November 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o (5) after the 22-13 victory against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, we are just days away.

We are days away from finding out whether Notre Dame can cap off an undefeated season with a national title. We are days away from finding out if the SEC really does trump all, even the nation's top-ranked team. We are days away from discovering whether Alabama can win a second national championship in a row.

There is certainly a lot to look forward to when these two teams take the field in Miami on Monday night.

Here's a look at the top players to watch in this year's BCS national championship.

Everett Golson - QB, Notre Dame

We know all about Notre Dame's vaunted defense. We know that defense is what has kept the Fighting Irish afloat during the most trying of times in 2012.

But what will happen when the Irish face a team with just as good a defense and a far superior offense?

The answer: Quarterback Everett Golson and his cohorts will have to show us what they can do like never before.

There hasn't been a lot of heat on Golson and the ND offense this season simply because there really hasn't had to be. The defense has always done its job—and such a good job, at that—that Golson has been able to get by with doing just enough. He finished the regular season with 2,135 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, which is good but not great. A couple of times, this offense has put up 40 points or more, but not nearly as frequently as the Alabamas and Florida States.

Needless to say, Monday will be Golson's time to have the best offensive performance of his life. Alabama can do exactly what Notre Dame can do defensively. There are only 0.4 points per game separating these two teams on that side of the ball. The question is whether Notre Dame (26.8 points per game) can do what Alabama (38.5 points per game) does offensively.

AJ McCarron - QB, Alabama

The biggest advantage AJ McCarron has over Golson isn't that he plays in the SEC. It isn't that he's had to face five ranked teams this season. His biggest advantage is that he was right here one year ago.

Postseason experience can't be overrated. The layoff between the regular-season finale and the national championship game is long, and there is plenty of time for pressure to build. There is lots of time to practice and very little opportunity to test whether that practice is working. But McCarron has done it all before, and Golson hasn't.

A year ago at this time, the situation facing McCarron was very similar. The Crimson Tide were facing an unbeaten, top-ranked team in the national championship game. They relied upon a stellar defense and pulled off a 21-0 shutout victory on the nation's biggest stage, despite the fact that they lost—at home—to that very team two months earlier.

There have been plenty of times this season when McCarron has had to pull off a W in a must-win, just like he had to do in the national championship game last year. One of those times was in early November, against LSU once again. Another was a month ago, in the conference title game against Georgia with a national championship berth on the line.

He knows what he has to do in these situations. That, at least, gives him some expertise.

Manti Te'o - LB, Notre Dame

A month ago, Manti Teo nearly became the first all-defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. He didn't win it, of course, but most likely, he'd much rather win a different trophy this season and he'll get a chance to play for it on Monday.

Despite what the Heisman voters may have believed, Te'o is the heart and soul of the nation's top-ranked team. He is its lifeblood, it's linchpin. Though it may be harder to discern his impact than that of an offensive player, he has been the difference between winning and losing many times this season, and he'll be that difference once again when it comes time to play for the biggest prize of all.

On the field, Te'o always seems to be in the perfect place at the perfect time to make the game-winning play. He finished the regular season with seven interceptions, 11 pass deflections, a fumble recovery and 103 tackles. He is far and away the Irish's most valuable player. Off the field, he is the leader of this team, the example to live by. 

Te'o will be the best defensive player on the field on Monday. And if it's true that defense wins championships, he certainly gives the Irish one big leg up.