Alabama vs. Notre Dame: X-Factors That Will Decide National Championship
When Alabama and Notre Dame play for the BCS National Championship, the defenses will get the most attention. While both defenses deserve credit for their remarkable seasons, it will be the offensive players who will decide the outcome of the game.
There are certain defenders who can be the biggest X-factor; a lot of the defensive matchups favor both teams. This means that whoever has the better offense will likely win the game.
While these are the most likely candidates to be the X-factor in the title game, there are a number of players on both sides who could swing the game in one way or the other.
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Although the two defenses will be the star of the show, A.J. McCarron will be able to quietly make plays and be the difference in the game. McCarron needs help from his offensive line, but should he get that, he is capable of making sure Alabama is the far superior offense in this game.
McCarron has been great this season, with 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The biggest key for him and the Tide is to not turn the ball over. It's no coincidence that in the only game Alabama lost all year, McCarron threw two interceptions.
It won't be as easy as it's been for McCarron for much of the season.
Thanks to Notre Dame's stingy defense, McCarron likely won't have a solid rushing attack to help open up passing lanes and give him more time to throw.
While Notre Dame likely needs Everett Golson to be great in order to win, the Tide just need McCarron to be efficient and make just enough plays to put them over the top.
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Louis Nix has a chance to make the biggest defensive impact for either team.
Against an injured Barrett Jones, Nix will have the chance to make a big impact. He has disrupted offensive lines throughout the season. The massive nose tackle has 30 tackles on the season, with 5.5 of those being for a loss and two of them going as sacks.
If Nix can get a constant push against Jones, Notre Dame will be in great shape defensively.
This pressure will shut down the Tide's potent rushing attack and will allow others on the defensive line to get to A.J. McCarron.
If Jones and Alabama can contain Nix throughout the game, they should be in strong position to attack Notre Dame's secondary. Nix is a big body to watch, and how he is able to attack Jones should dictate how things go with Alabama on offense and Notre Dame on defense.
Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon
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Alabama's running backs have an opportunity to create enough chances for themselves and A.J. McCarron to win the game. They will have their work cut out for them against Notre Dame's 11th-ranked rush defense that gave up just 3.2 yards per carry.
Should Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon get some yardage on the ground, it will put pressure on Notre Dame's defense and leave its secondary vulnerable.
If there is a weakness on Notre Dame's defense, it's definitely in the secondary.
Lacy and Yeldon are a challenging duo, as Lacy's 6'1", 220-pound frame and Yeldon's 6'1", 216-pound frame make them hard to bring down. They have shown an ability to wear defenders out over the course of a game and can make them pay for tackling them.
If they are able to have success early and build on it later in the game, there is no reason McCarron shouldn't have time to make plays down the field. If they can't find success, things will get tricky for McCarron and the rest of the Alabama offense.
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Everett Golson is the biggest X-factor in the title game.
He will likely need to play a near-perfect game for Notre Dame to win. He's capable of making big plays, even against the stingy Alabama defense.
The sophomore quarterback has played well down the stretch this season.
In his last three games, he's completed 51 of 80 passes for 763 yards and scored six touchdowns (one rushing) to just one interception. He also ran for 86 yards in the three games.
The Irish need Golson to use his feet to keep plays alive in order to give his receivers ample time against the strong Alabama corners. If Golson can frequently buy time, his receivers will eventually be able to get open.
He also needs to be smart about tucking the ball and rushing. Against a good secondary, he needs to be patient and make careful decisions about when to scramble and when to hold onto the ball.
If Golson plays well, Notre Dame should have a chance to win the game. If he plays poorly, Alabama will likely cruise to victory.