Trying to find faults with an undefeated Notre Dame team and a one-loss Alabama team that is playing in its third BCS Championship Game in four years is a daunting task. If there is one thing we know about college football this season, it is that everyone has a weakness that can be exploited.
While most teams eventually slip on the banana peel, the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide are so good at hiding their deficiencies because they play mistake-free football on offense and have powerful, intimidating defenses that can keep anyone—Johnny Manziel excluded—down.
But neither team is perfect, despite Notre Dame's unblemished record. Both have serious questions that must be answered heading into the BCS Championship Game. Here are the biggest ones that stand out.
Will Everett Golson be able to move the ball against Alabama?
The evolution of Golson this season is the biggest reason the Fighting Irish are in this game. As great as the defense is, the young quarterback became a stabilizing presence on an offense that is not loaded with five-star playmakers.
Golson is never going to post big numbers, so to think he is going to run all over Alabama's defense the way Johnny Manziel did will lead to disappointment. But his efficiency, particularly since the fifth game of the season, has been better than anyone could have asked for.
Since throwing three interceptions in his first four games, Golson has thrown just two in the last seven weeks. Points are going to be hard enough to come by in this game, so Golson can't give Alabama extra opportunities with a short field.
Despite being thought of as a running quarterback, Golson had just 305 rushing yards this season. His ability to move around inside the pocket to create time for his receivers is his best weapon. His accuracy, while not great, has been good enough.
The Irish average 202.5 yards per game on the ground this season, but Alabama doesn't give up big plays against the run. The Crimson Tide gave up just 79 rushing yards per game, best in the country.
Golson has to find holes in the Alabama secondary to create touchdowns, rather than settling for field goals.
Is Alabama's dynamic rushing tandem the antidote for Notre Dame's defense?
Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined to run for 2,182 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide this season. Even more impressive than their total yardage output is the fact that they both averaged more than six yards per carry.
Because teams have to respect their ability to dominate up front and run the ball, A.J. McCarron has more available options on the outside to throw to. That rushing attack is the biggest reason McCarron had a 26-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2012.
If there has been one weakness in the Notre Dame defense this season, it has been against the run. Stanford, Michigan and Pittsburgh all ran for over 140 yards against the Irish.
Alabama has the best offensive line in the country, making it that much easier for Lacy and Yeldon to find holes and break big plays out of the backfield. That rushing attack will be the key to deciding the outcome of this game.
Which coach will be able to adjust on the fly?
Football is a game of constant adjustments. Coaches read and react to everything they see from their team, as well as what the other team is doing.
Notre Dame and Alabama have two of the best coaches in the country. Brian Kelly flew under the radar at Cincinnati, even when he led that program to a BCS game prior to joining the Irish. Nick Saban is the most revered coach in all of college football right now.
Kelly trusted a team that has a championship-caliber defense with a true freshman quarterback most of the season. That move has paid off beautifully, as Golson has evolved into a better pocket passer than anyone would have thought when the season started.
Saban lost Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw from last year's championship team, yet because he is so good at recruiting, coaching talent up and game planning, Alabama didn't miss a beat in 2012.
As great as Kelly has been for Notre Dame, especially this season, how do you bet against Saban in this spot?
Until someone proves that they can out-coach him in a big-game situation, Alabama is going to be an easy favorite every time.
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