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Eddie Lacy: 184 carries, 1,182 yards, 16 TD
T.J. Yeldon: 154 carries, 1,000 yards, 11 TD
Theo Riddick: 180 carries, 880 yards, 5 TD
Cierre Wood: 110 carries, 740 yards, 4 TD
Alabama's top two rushers are responsible for 27 of the Tide's 35 touchdowns on the ground. Notre Dame's top two have scored nine of the Irish's 22 touchdowns.
Both teams will fight an uphill battle trying to stop the other from running the ball, but Notre Dame's battle will be more difficult to win.
Alabama is averaging 5.6 yards per rush, and Notre Dame is averaging 5.0. The kicker here is that neither team has faced the other yet.
Alabama has the nation's 19th-best rushing attack, Notre Dame the nation's 29th-best (based on yards per game). Unfortunately for Alabama, Notre Dame has faced two of the nation's top 10 rushing defenses: BYU (No. 2) and Michigan State (No. 9). Alabama has faced only one, and that was LSU (No. 10).
Notre Dame rushed for 122 yards against Michigan State and 270 yards against BYU. Alabama rushed for 166 yards against LSU. So far, the teams look pretty even in the rushing aspect, but let's take a look at strength of schedule to break the tie.
How did Michigan State get to be the No. 9-ranked rushing defense? The Spartans played the nation's 29th-strongest schedule. How about BYU? The Cougars waded through the nation's 47th-hardest schedule. Finally, LSU's SoS was second in the nation, behind only Alabama.
The last bit of statistical analysis is also indicative that these tandems are almost equal. How much better is the Lacy/Yeldon combo than the Riddick/Wood combo? Not much:
Yeldon has rushed for 1,000 yards, or 84.6 percent of Lacy's 1,182.
Wood has rushed for 740 yards, or 84.1 percent of Riddick's 880.
Alabama's rushing attack may be better than Notre Dame's, and the stats support that. However, the idea that Alabama's ground game is light years ahead of the Irish is just not true. This aspect of the game is going to be decided by the battle in the trenches, not by the talent of the tailbacks.
At the true running back position, Alabama has a slight advantage, but when running backs are making catches out of the backfield, Notre Dame balances things out. Riddick tops Lacy, Alabama's best receiving tailback, by 15 catches and almost 200 receiving yards.
Advantage: None. (Alabama's rushing advantage cancels out Notre Dame's receiving advantage.)