Alabama and Notre Dame will take the field on Monday night in the BCS title game to determine who is the greatest college football team in the country.
Both will feel they have a huge shot at victory; both will know they have the potential and talent to stop their opponent from having their way on the night.
But who will emerge as the victory from the BCS Championship in 2013?
Let's have a look at how the title game will be won and lost.
With the running backs key to their offensive chance, both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon have the potential to be huge players for the Crimson Tide on Monday night.
If they can find solid running lanes and continue to move the chains against a strong Notre Dame defense, then Alabama can continue to operate in good field position and restrict the Irish from any real chance at running riot over their offense.
They'll most likely have to try and run through Manti Te'o at some point in the night, which is certainly no easy achievement, but on they'll have to do if they want to win this one.
The Tide's offensive line is strong. Their quarterback is sound, and wide receiver Amari Cooper could very well be the player of difference out wide if given the chance.
But all of that won't stand for much if they cannot run the ball effectively against Notre Dame and continue to move the ball downfield.
There is little doubt that Alabama's defense is more than capable of winning them the championship game—anyone in doubt needs to only look back to last year.
The Tide have also been dominant in defense this year—leading the nation in rushing defense and in total defense for the season.
Their front seven is explosive and devastating, meaning that much of the focus here could come on the long plays that Notre Dame attempts in this one.
Both LSU and Texas A&M showed that it was possible to move the ball downfield against the Tide's secondary. If Irish quarterback Everett Golson can find some good time in the pocket on play-action, then the Notre Dame certainly has a chance in this game.
The keys to stopping the Irish passing attack rest with defensive tackle Jesse Williams getting good pressure on Golson in the pocket and with the play of cornerback Dee Milliner, who broke up three times as many passes this season as any other player in the Alabama secondary.
Notre Dame: Offense
Everett Golson will be the key to this game for the Fighting Irish.
If he can keep the turnovers limited (or even removed completely) and keep the play alive outside of the pocket, then expect Notre Dame to be in this one right down to the wire.
Golson is a strong athlete and one that can keep the ball moving downfield even when the moment seems to have passed—something that Notre Dame must capitalize on.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said of Golson (via Sports Illustrated):
Extended plays are how they've made a lot of big plays. The guy has really great arm talent because he can throw one side of the field to the other.
I can see in my mind three plays we watched over and over, he scrambles to his right, throws it all the way across the field to his left to a wide open received where a guy just lost him. They had him covered and they lost him.
To that kid's credit, that creates a different angle of the offense that's hard to prepare for.
If Golson can keep the play alive and connect with his receivers downfield at key moments of the game, then the Irish certainly have a chance in this one.
Notre Dame: Defense
The Alabama offensive line is vastly talented and their running game is sound, so for Notre Dame to win this one on defense, it's all going to come down to their front seven winning the battle in the trenches.
If they can get good penetration against the ground game, they'll force AJ McCarron into throwing the ball more. Having witnessed McCarron throw some key interceptions at huge moments this season, this could work in the Irish's favor.
Nose tackle Louis Nix has a huge role to play up front, as does linebacker Manti Te'o—who will be one of the most sought-after prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft.
With pressure, Alabama could very well give Notre Dame a sniff here, and the Irish are more than capable of cashing in on this advantage.
Without it, however, the Tide will be tough to beat given their consistency and offensive talent.
Given all that's been said, the key battle for me will be as to whether Notre Dame can stop the ground game of Alabama in this one.
If they can stop the Tide's lineman from controlling the middle, they'll force McCarron into throwing more—giving their secondary a chance to make some plays, but also giving their defensive lineman the chance to get to the quarterback.
The Tide's run game is so strong and so consistent that it seems impossible to stop, but I think that the Fighting Irish will be a real tough opponent for it.
Alabama's defense will be forced into making bigger plays than they're accustomed to, and it might even come down to a special teams error or magical moment to decide the championship game. Yet even with that, I still see the Tide coming out on top.
Alabama 23, Notre Dame 16
Who do you think will win the BCS Championship Game?
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