Alabama vs. Notre Dame
The Front Seven
Everyone has spent the past six weeks talking about the front seven of Notre Dame. Manti Te’o, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix have led the Irish defense all year and they will need to play well against Alabama’s physical offensive line.
It should be an awesome match-up between one of the best offensive lines in college football against one of the best defensive lines in the country. I also look forward to some great battles of Notre Dame’s linebackers against the Crimson Tide running backs and tight ends.
However, despite all the attention of the Notre Dame front seven, Alabama also has a very good group of linemen and linebackers. If they are able to stop the Notre Dame running game and force Everett Golson to beat them with his arm, it could be a difficult night for the Fighting Irish.
Even though Alabama defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship game, it wasn’t thanks to its run defense. If the Tide haven’t fixed their problems in stopping the run, it could allow Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame offense to get into a comfortable rhythm.
The Turnover Battle
When Alabama struggles, it’s usually due to having issues with turning the ball over. In the Crimson Tide’s only loss this season, they were -3 in the turnover margin against Texas A&M. In their close victories over LSU and Georgia, Alabama was a combined -3 in the turnover margin.
If Notre Dame can cause A.J. McCarron and the Alabama offense into turnovers, it will be huge momentum for the Irish. It will also be a tremendous mental boost for Notre Dame. The Irish have gone through this season with the aura of a team of destiny. No matter what happens, they always find a way to win. If the Crimson Tide struggle with holding on to the ball, they might start to feel like it’s simply Notre Dame’s time.
Both of these coaching staffs have done tremendous jobs throughout the season. Brian Kelly has led a group that was unranked in the preseason through a difficult schedule to the biggest stage in college football. The way Kelly developed Everett Golson has been amazing and the Notre Dame defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the year.
But, how will Brian Kelly and his staff handle the pressure and expectations of this game? How will they respond when things go wrong? What adjustments will they make against an Alabama defense that is sure to give them tons of different looks?
Everyone has talked about Nick Saban and Kirby Smart and how good they are when having an extended period of time to prepare a gameplan. That’s hard to argue when you look at the results. But, I do wonder if the Crimson Tide players think they will be able to come out and punch Notre Dame in the mouth and assert their will.
If Notre Dame is able to withstand Alabama’s first punch and fight back, will the Tide be ready for a four quarter battle? If the Irish can keep the game close in the 4th quarter, what will Saban do to help his team deal with the pressure, which will be squarely on their shoulders.
Alabama was my preseason pick to win the National Championship and I’m sticking with them. I’ve learned not to pick against a Nick Saban-coached team and I think the Crimson Tide have too much talent, speed and depth for Notre Dame.
I expect Alabama’s offensive line to play great and for the combination of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to wear down Notre Dame’s talented front seven. I also think Notre Dame’s quarterback, Everett Golson, will struggle against Kirby Smart’s defense and be forced into trying to do too much.
The Crimson Tide win 24-13 and this Georgia fan continues to think in agony, “Just 5 more yards....”