More than one month of build has come down to this. Alabama and Notre Dame will finally determine which team was the best in college football during the 2012-13 season in Monday night's BCS Championship Game.
All the talk about who needs to step up and who will step up for their respective teams to win, or who will disappoint on the big stage makes you forget what wins these games: stars. To be more specific, superstars win these games.
As the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish wait for the final hours to tick away so they can finally stop talking about this game and actually play it, here are the stars who will shine under the bright lights in Miami.
Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon
Lacy's 2012 stats: 184 carries, 1,182 yards, 16 touchdowns
Yeldon's 2012 stats: 154 carries, 1,000 yards, 11 touchdowns
Not surprisingly, all of the talk leading up to this game has been about the defenses. One area that isn't getting nearly enough attention is the work the Alabama offensive line has done in both run and pass protection this season.
As much as I like A.J. McCarron, the running game will carry Alabama's offense in this game. The size of its line is incredible. Not that all of these players will get in, but there are 13 offensive lineman for the Crimson Tide listed at 290 pounds or more.
Because the line is so big, defenses can't see where the ball is or where Lacy and Yeldon are running.
Lacy and Yeldon have been the best running back tandem in the country all season. They both broke the 100-yard mark in games against Missouri and Georgia. Don't expect that to happen against a great Notre Dame defense, but Lacy and Yeldon will be the dominant forces in this game.
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner
2012 stats: 51 total tackles (33 solo), 2 interceptions, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks
On the other side of the ball for the Crimson Tide, Milliner might be the most explosive cornerback in college football right now. His ability to react to anything coming his way is unmatched by anyone else.
Notre Dame's passing offense, while not great, has gotten better as the season has moved along. Everett Golson doesn't make nearly as many mistakes with the ball as he used to, providing the necessary spark to get opposing teams to respect the passing game.
Milliner is going to be tasked with stopping T.J. Jones, who led Irish wide receivers with 559 yards and four touchdowns. If Notre Dame has no passing game to the outside and is forced to rely on Tyler Eifert, it is going to be hard to consistently move the ball against this defense.
Expect Milliner to be the difference-maker for Alabama's defense by shutting down any passing game Notre Dame hopes to get going.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o
2012 stats: 103 total tackles (52 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions
In his final college game, the heart and soul of Notre Dame's stellar defense is going to go out with a bang. He has been around everything this team has done all season, so why would he fall apart in the biggest game of the year?
As mentioned before, the Alabama offensive line is going to cause Notre Dame problems in the trenches. The second level, where Te'o lives and breathes, is going to be where the Irish have to stop the run.
A great defense needs a great inside linebacker. Te'o was the best in the country this season at making plays when this team needed them. He made the interception that helped the Irish break the Oklahoma game wide open.
If Notre Dame is going to win this game, Te'o has to be around everything, like he has been all year.
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