Monday night January 7, the top ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on second ranked Alabama Crimson Tide for one of the greatest prizes in sports the BCS National Championship. This is not the first time these storied programs battled for college footballs biggest prize.
In 1973, Notre Dame defeated Alabama 24-23 for their ninth recognized National Championship. The Irish had a last minute drive and late field goal to take home the title. Could déjà vu be in store for the Irish who seek their first national title since 1988, they will face an uphill battle dethroning the defending champions Crimson Tide.
Head coaches Nick Saban and Brian Kelly bring in teams that have many similarities. Both have tough defenses that are nightmarish for offensive coordinators, strong running attacks and well known emotional leaders.
Looking at the defenses, the slight edge has to go to Notre Dame. The Irish are among the top scoring defenses holding their opponents just under ten points per game and who can forget the goal line stand against Stanford and the Irish toped that by holding the high powered University of Southern California offense outside the end zone on five straight chances from inside the three-yard line.
Alabama counters with a top notch defense, however, they have been vulnerable against the mobile quarterback. The Crimson Tide have an impressive defense but will have to keep red-shirt freshman Everett Golson inside the pocket and not allow him to make plays with his legs. If Golson can escape the pocket, the Tide defense could be kept off balance all evening opening up for Notre Dame trio of offensive play-makers. Running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood have proved to be a potent one-two punch running all over Irish foes this season. The air attack can be summed up with two words Tyler Eifert. The tight end is the best in the country and is a nightmare match-up for any and all defenses he has faced this season.
Experience has to go to the Crimson Tide. Alabama is looking for their second straight national title and third in four years. The Crimson Tide have been there before unlike Notre Dame playing in the Big Game for the first time since 1988. Alabama is led by a pair of running backs in Eddy Lacy and T. J. Yeldon. The duo has run for a staggering 2100 yards and 27 touchdowns. Alabama has a very experienced offense that went through the grueling SEC schedule with only one blemish, a loss to Texas A&M and Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who had an award winning performance.
The Irish will counter with perhaps the best defense in the school’s history. Senior linebacker Manti Te’o let his emotional story reach the hearts of fans throughout the country battling through personal tragedy and prospering into perhaps the best season by a Notre Dame defender ever.
Te’o is rock of this Irish defense but he is not the only integral part. Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore both had excellent seasons on the Notre Dame defensive line and although often challenged their young inexperienced secondary of KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson more than held their ground. In the final game of the season, Russell and Jackson were matched up with perhaps the top receiving tandem in the country Marqise Lee and Robert Woods of Southern California. Russell and Jackson kept the Trojan receivers under wraps all evening as the Irish capped off their undefeated season.
This colossal matched up boils down the quarterback execution versus the top notched defenses. Look for a low scoring game, as the Irish defense will cause havoc for Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. McCarron has struggled against Texas A&M, Louisiana State University and Georgia before putting together late game winning drives against the Tigers and Bulldogs respectively. Alabama will do their best to contain Golson, however the Irish signal caller will keep drives alive with his legs and make plays exposing the Alabama defense.
Prediction, the Irish win 24-6. Although, many say the Irish are a team of destiny or how long can the luck last? The response is clear, Notre Dame has the best defense in the country and Alabama will not score enough points to beat the Irish.