The Discover BCS National Championship Game match-up between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the most-highly anticipated in some time. The two programs have some of the most passionate fan bases in the country, and a history between them that suggests we could all be in for a classic.
While, on the surface, this one appears to have the makings of a defensive battle, it’s actually more of a battle of wills between two teams that will be looking to establish their game plan early, and ensure the pacing of the game goes in their favor and leads to victory.
While Brian Kelly’s Irish squad has shown themselves capable of scoring some points when needed — led by the dynamic, if inconsistent, quarterback Everett Golson — Notre Dame would much prefer to set the tone on the defensive side of the ball early on and ensure the pace of Monday night’s game is ground way down, making scoring a premium. A few big plays in the early going by Manti Te’o and his defensive mates could be enough to turn the “tide” of the game squarely in the direction of the Irish.
On the other side, Nick Saban and Alabama are perfectly content to play in a defensive battle — after all, they’ve won plenty of field goal festivals during their time n the SEC — but if they can escalate the pace they’ll be happy to do so. With offensive weapons like Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon, the Tide have the chance to do just that, and force Notre Dame into trading scores — something they definitely want no part of.
In short, given these attributes, we should be looking at a classic battle of wills on Monday evening. Both coaches have had a full month to game plan and do their best to pick apart the weaknesses of the other — at least in theory. How this game-planning is executed will tell the tale, as there is so little separation in terms of overall ability and quality in these two teams.
This lack of separation makes the match-up between them one of the most intriguing in the last few years of the BCS Title Game which has certainly seen its share of snooze fests due either to lopsided match-ups or a total lack of offensive capability.
Will Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame defense exert themselves early and do their part to keep things low-scoring, or, will the Tide get a big play from Cooper, McCarron, or Yeldon and open things up for scores to be traded throughout?
The answer to this question will determine who’s holding the Crystal Trophy at game’s end and partying well into the Miami night.