Several Notre Dame stars must shine vs. Alabama for the Fighting Irish to win the 2013 BCS Championship.
Manti Te’o is guaranteed to leave his mark on the game, but he won’t be able to single-handedly carry the Blue and Gold to victory against the Crimson Tide, the most talented team in the country.
Notre Dame will overcome that talent, though, if the following key players win their matchups.
3. RB Cierre Wood
Alabama boasts the best run defense in the nation. It allows just 2.46 yards per carry and 79.77 per game.
Wood is the Fighting Irish’s best chance to establish some sort of running game. While Theo Riddick is the more versatile back, Wood is without a doubt the more talented runner. His 6.7 yards per carry dwarfs Riddick’s average of 4.9.
If Notre Dame gets Wood going on the ground and avoids becoming one-dimensional, it would be taking the pressure of its defense to do all the heavy lifting.
2. CB Bennett Jackson
Outside of Manti Te’o, no one has made more plays on the back seven of the Fighting Irish’s defense than Jackson.
He’ll need to help Notre Dame’s front seven stop the Crimson Tide’s two 1,000-yard backs. Jackson is second on the team in tackles, not because he gets picked on, but because he’s tremendous in run support for a cornerback.
He’s also the Irish’s best shot at shutting down the explosive Amari Cooper. Jackson is second on the team with four interceptions, behind only Te’o. One more would do wonders for his club’s upset effort.
1. QB Everett Golson
Early in the season, Golson was seen as a liability who would hold Notre Dame back. Over the past five games, he’s completely changed that perception.
The dual-threat quarterback has racked up 278.2 yards from scrimmage per game over that span. If the Fighting Irish have a clear edge at any position, it’s at quarterback.
While Golson has shown the ability to take over a game, AJ McCarron’s performances are often underwhelming considering the amount of talent around him. Golson’s ability to move the ball with his arm and legs makes him the national title game’s ultimate X-factor.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.