Notre Dame Will Beat Alabama If It Can Contain These 5 Players
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has constructed his Crimson Tide squad like a well-oiled machine. It is a machine that operates smoothly when all parts are working harmoniously.
It's a machine that simply can't be stopped by taking away one part; a collection of parts must be eliminated for the Irish to walk away victorious on Monday evening at Sun Life Stadium.
There are five key players on the Tide depth chart that must be contained for Notre Dame to hoist the coveted crystal ball amidst the confetti.
Who might those five players be?
Let's have a look.
5. Amari Cooper, WR
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With the absence of receivers Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White—both were lost to season-ending injuries—true freshman Amari Cooper has ascended to the top of the Tide's depth chart at receiver.
The young, stud receiver, who hails from my current location of Miami, Fla., is the Tide's leading receiver, having racked up 53 receptions for 895 to go along with nine touchdown snags.
The 6'1", 198-pound Cooper presents matchup problems against smaller corners, particularly because of his physicality and pure athletic prowess.
Cooper's speed also allows him to be a deep threat any time he's on the field, meaning that one-on-one matchups must be avoided by the Irish at all times.
Now, Cooper isn't on the same level as USC's Marqise Lee, but he's a game-changing receiver who possesses the potential to leave his mark on Monday evening.
4. C.J. Mosley, LB
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C.J. Mosley wasn't even pegged as a starter during the preseason, but he has ascended his way into a starting role for the Tide, which has paid dividends for Nick Saban and Co.
Mosley leads the team in tackles with 99, is third in tackles for loss with with seven and is second in sacks with four.
He's a nightmare of a defensive presence and has a nose for the ball: Mosley is the true definition of a ballhawk.
While completely shutting down a singular defensive player isn't realistic, containing him must be priority No. 1 for the Irish offensive line. It must reach the second level and attempt to take Mosley out of the play during rush attempts.
3. Jesse Williams, NT
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The battle in the trenches will determine the victor in Monday evening's title game, meaning that Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams will play a rather significant role.
The 22-year-old Australian native must win at the point of attack—Williams will be matched up against Notre Dame center Braxston Cave—in order to throw Notre Dame's zone-read rushes and pass protections off balance.
If he's able to wreak havoc in the trenches, Alabama's fortunes will be in good favor.
2. A.J. McCarron, QB
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One distinct advantage that Alabama possesses against Notre Dame is a former offensive MVP of a BCS National Championship Game.
Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron is that asset.
In last season's title game, in which Saban and Co. defeated LSU, 21-0, McCarron played an extremely efficient game against a stiff Tiger defense, completing 23 of 34 pass attempts for 234 yards.
What should scare Notre Dame fans is that McCarron has had a full season to improve since that performance.
McCarron is the director of the nation's top-ranked passing efficiency offense, which is a tough pill to swallow for any opposing defense.
Each pass from the Mobile, Ala., native is selected and called with great care, even when the redshirt junior audibles out of the Tide's original play.
1. Barrett Jones, C
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Everything Alabama desires to do offensively begins with Barrett Jones.
The two-time first-team All-American center is the heart and soul of the Alabama offense, which is predicated on running the football.
Jones is the leader of the wrecking crew that has paved the way for two 1,000-yard backs in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
Sure, Jones gets plenty of credit for being a physical specimen—Jones checks in at 6'5", 311—but it's his intelligence that often gets overlooked. His ability to recognize a variety of fronts and defensive alignments is an integral piece to the Alabama offensive machine.
He'll be matched up against Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix on Monday evening, which is no small task.
If you're a fan of physical, fundamental battles in the trenches, this is your matchup to watch in the title game.