Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Irish Front-Seven Key to Ninth National Title

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIJanuary 7, 2013

Manti Te'o is the unquestioned leader of Notre Dame.
Manti Te'o is the unquestioned leader of Notre Dame.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame's front-seven will be what leads the Irish to a ninth national title Monday night against Alabama.

Ever since it was known that the Fighting Irish would face the winner of the SEC Championship Game, they have been underdogs. Nobody has given them a chance to win.

However, Notre Dame's front-seven is among the best in all of college football and is a big reason why it's in the championship game. It'll also be a big reason why the Irish win their ninth national title, tying the Crimson Tide atop the list.

There are some readers who want to know what kind of crack I'm on. To believe lowly Notre Dame can take down mighty Alabama of the SEC is simply ludicrous. Or is it?

Here's a look at how Notre Dame's front-seven will be the key factor to the Irish's national title:


Manti Te'o

It would be wrong of me to start anywhere else. Te'o is simply the best linebacker in the country and is the heart and soul of the Irish.

In 2012, Te'o finished with 103 tackles and seven interceptions, which was second in the country.

He also finished runner-up in the Heisman voting, which was the highest for a defensive player since Desmond Howard won it in 1997.

Te'o can play sideline-to-sideline but is best between the hashes. And what does Alabama like to do? Run the ball.

Although it would be laughable to say Te'o can stop the run all by himself, it can be said that he affects the run in so many ways.

Just like Ray Lewis, Te'o is one of those guys who leaves it all out on the field, and he's going to make his presence felt.


The Stats

Notre Dame is allowing 93.3 yards per game and has only allowed two rushing touchdowns.

Let that sink in for a minute. Two rushing scores.

They held Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and USC's Silas Redd to 77 yards and no touchdowns and held Stanford's Stefan Taylor to 102 yards on 28 carries.

Those are three of the better running backs in the country and the Irish held them down.

Throw in 34 sacks, and you have a front-seven that helped carry the Irish all year.


Strength on Strength

The battle between the Notre Dame front-seven and the Alabama offensive line is strength on strength. Alabama is known to be strong up front for its running game, while Notre Dame has controlled the line of scrimmage in its games.

The key for both teams is controlling the trenches in that matchup.

The matchup between the Notre Dame offense and Alabama's defense is not as exciting. However, Notre Dame is known to have a few holes in the secondary.

In the end, it comes down to the best part of each team.

Can Alabama's offensive line hold down possibly the toughest defensive front they've faced all year?