The BCS National Championship Game will showcase two of the best defenses in college football, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will need to get a little extra from its top offensive players.
Alabama has the No. 13 scoring offense in the nation, led by junior quarterback A.J. McCarron and 1,000-yard rushers Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. The Crimson Tide rushing attack is No. 19 in the country, and Notre Dame will be paying a lot of attention to Lacy and Yeldon.
While Alabama has been a top offensive team this season, Notre Dame has relied more on its defense, which is ranked No. 6 in the country in total yards allowed per game. Led by star linebacker Manti Te'o, the Fighting Irish have held opponents to just 10.3 points per game on the season.
With Alabama’s strong rushing attack and Notre Dame’s top-ranked defense taking center stage, Notre Dame’s offense could be the deciding factor in the championship game.
The Fighting Irish are No. 48 this year in total offense and No. 74 in passing offense. They have had to rely on a sound rushing attack to carry the offense, but quarterback Everett Golson will be the key to victory for Notre Dame.
Golson isn’t a prolific passer. His strongest asset has been his ability to take care of the football this season, throwing just five interceptions all year. While his passing totals aren’t all that impressive (2,135 yards and 11 touchdowns), Golson has been efficient, completing 58.9 percent of his passes on the season.
It will be paramount for Golson to take care of the football against Alabama on Jan. 7. The Crimson Tide have allowed just seven passing touchdowns this year and have picked off 17 passes. Alabama has also held opponents to just 166.2 passing yards per game.
Golson shouldn’t be expected to carry his offense, and Notre Dame’s defense should keep the game close. But Golson’s role in the offense requires him to be efficient and cautious. Taking risks won’t be an option against a quality Alabama secondary.
Tight end Tyler Eifert will also be a key cog in Notre Dame’s offensive attack. Eifert is the team’s leading receiver (44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns), and has been Golson’s most reliable pass-catching option.
Eifert is a former wide receiver with exceptional pass-catching ability, and he’ll need to play his best game for the Fighting Irish on Monday. He’ll also play a big role in blocking an extremely talented Alabama defensive front.
Alabama plays a gap-control 3-4 defensive front with big, athletic outside linebackers spending a lot of time at the line of scrimmage. Those linebackers will be keying in on Notre Dame’s rushing offense, and Eifert will be called upon often to set the edge against those linebackers.
While Golson and Eifert are key individuals in Notre Dame’s offense, the Fighting Irish offensive line will be its most important offensive unit. Notre Dame’s blockers paved the way for running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood all season as the pair rumbled its way to 1,620 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
Alabama’s 3-4 front isn’t something the Fighting Irish have seen much of, but with over a month to prepare for the championship game, Notre Dame will be ready. If Golson can take care of the football and his offensive line does its job, fans should be in for a nail-biter on Jan. 7.