With the BCS National Championship Game just days away, it’s time for the final installment of my series breaking down the rosters by position for the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish—with this concentrating on special teams and the coaching staffs for both clubs.
Considering both clubs mirror each other in their philosophies on offense and defense, the importance of winning the special teams' phase becomes heightened in a game of this magnitude.
Nick Saban and Brian Kelly represent two of the elite minds in college football, and this matchup serves as meeting between a coach at the top of the mountain and one of the coaching industry’s most significant challengers trying to knock him off that perch.
Alabama kickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster have combined to convert 15-of-20 field goal attempts this season (with Shelley making all 11 of his kicks), and punter Cody Mandell booted 17 of his 46 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
The Tide’s return units had an up and down season, but receivers Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones (no relation) possess the ability to make things happen in the return game when given the opportunity.
Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza connected on 23-of-31 field goal tries, including five clutch kicks in the Irish’s 22-13 victory over USC that punched their ticket to the national title game. Punter Ben Turk has been solid, averaging more than 40 yards per punt this season.
Irish sophomore George Atkinson III has not been as productive in the return game as he was a year ago (averaging more than 26 yards per return and taking two kicks back for scores in 2011), but his blazing speed makes him a threat the Tide will have to prepare for.
With field position likely to play a vital role in gaining a leg up in a game between two evenly matched clubs, how do both teams measure up against one another in the third phase of the game?
Additionally, how will the chess match between two of the country’s finest coaching staffs unfold?
Find out as I wrap up this series by comparing the special teams units and coaching staffs for the Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish.