Ignore The Oddsmakers, Fighting Irish Have A Chance

 

Brian Kelly Notre Dame

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame doesn’t have a chance against Alabama in the national championship game, right?

At least that’s what many prognosticators think.

The Fighting Irish are listed as about a 10-point underdog by just about every oddsmaker there is, but this is nothing new.

Notre Dame wasn’t supposed to beat Michigan State or Oklahoma and many thought Stanford and USC were more than capable of knocking off the Irish.

The fact is though the Irish have cleared every hurdle they’ve had this season and don’t be surprised if they leap another one in a little over 24 hours.

To shock most of the college football world, Notre Dame will have to get production from its offense against the best defense it has faced this season.

It’s not like Alabama is unbeatable. Its defense is good, but has shown it’s somewhat vulnerable.

Just ask Texas A&M. Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies scored 29 points on the Crimson Tide D in Tuscaloosa to hand Bama its only loss of the season.

Georgia is the only other team that has scored more 17 points against Nick Saban’s bunch. The Bulldogs dented the scoreboard for 28 points in a losing effort in the SEC Championship Game.

With that said, the Crimson Tide head into the showdown against the Fighting Irish with the No. 2 defense in America, allowing a minuscule 10.69 points per game. Only Notre Dame’s defense has allowed fewer points this season (10.33).

Meanwhile, Alabama’s offense has tallied 35 or more points in nine of 13 games and scored 33 and 32 in two others.

In contrast, Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points all season and it took Pittsburgh three overtime sessions to do that. No other team on the Irish schedule has scored more than 17 points.

A similar defensive effort by Notre Dame will be required if the Irish are to upset the defending national champions.

In addition to getting a stellar effort from its defense Monday night, the Irish must take care of the football, something they’ve done well this season. They rank 22nd nationally in turnover margin and rank tied for 11th in the country in turnovers lost (14).

Notre Dame also knows if the game is close, it can rely on kicker Kyle Brindza to deliver. He’s 23-of-31 in the field goal department this season with a long of 52 yards and is coming off a 5-for-6 performance against USC.

Although the Irish defense and special teams will be very important come Monday night, Notre Dame’s chances likely hinge on its offense and whether can be somewhat consistent against Alabama’s No. 1 strength – its defense.

The Irish, just like A&M, feature a dual-threat quarterback. I’m not saying Everett Golson is in Johnny “Football” Manzel’s league, but Golson will make Bama respect both his option to pass and run just like the Heisman Trophy winner did. Plus, Notre Dame’s three running backs are more than capable taking it the distance every time they touch the ball, even against a defense like the Crimson Tide’s. The Irish have a go-to receiver in tight end Tyler Eifert, the nation’s best at his position, and sure-handed receivers who have shown at times they can stretch the field on occasion.

All this adds up to Notre Dame definitely having a chance against mighty Alabama. It’s a one-game winner take all and not a best four out of seven. If it was a seven-game series, the Irish’s chances would be slim, but anything can happen when it’s just one game.

And don’t be completely stunned if Irish eyes are smiling once again late on the first Monday of 2013.

Doug Griffiths is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths.

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