If the Fighting Irish are to upset defending national champion Alabama tonight in the BCS National Championship Game, they must get a handful of players to shine.
Following Rant Sports gives you five Notre Dame players to keep an eye on tonight in Sun Life Stadium. How those handful of players perform will decide whether the Fighting Irish win their first national championship since 1988 or not.
1. Manti Te’o – No. 5 has been the heart and soul for the Irish all season long and must deliver one of his best performances, if not the best performance, he’s ever had in a Blue and Gold uniform. Te’o never seems to disappoint, relishing big games. If he and Notre Dame’s front seven can contain Bama’s two-headed monster in the backfield known as running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers this season, the Irish will have a very good chance to win. Another interception by Te’o wouldn’t hurt either.
2. Notre Dame’s Defensive Line – Sticking with defense since the Irish D has been stellar this season and since it will be facing the nation’s best offensive line (and perhaps one of the best ever), the Irish front not only has to be good, it must be real good on South Beach or Notre Dame has no chance. Are you listening Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix III, Prince Shembo, Stephon Tuitt and Co.? To say the Irish will have their hands full with Bama’s front is an understatement as guard Chance Warmack, a 6-foot-3, 320-pounder, will be the best player on the field tonight bar none. He’s a likely top-10 pick come April in the NFL Draft and will be a handful for Notre Dame tonight.
3. Tyler Eifert – No tight end in America is the weapon that Eifert is and he must display all of his talents tonight. Eifert will be key to Notre Dame’s offense if it is to have consistent success moving the ball against a stout Bama defense. Eifert is a matchup nightmare for any defense and will be even for the fast Crimson Tide linebackers. What makes Eifert so deadly is even when teams opt to double cover him, he has shown time and again the ability to go up and out-leap defensive backs to haul in receptions.
4. Everett Golson – No doubt Notre Dame’s freshman QB can’t let the gigantic stage rattle him let alone the speed of the Alabama defense. He must play like he has all season long, managing the game well, not trying to force things and most importantly not turning the ball over. Golson knows this Bama defense might be susceptible to a mobile quarterback as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel showed. The Irish just might need a performance from Golson that even Manziel would be proud of tonight to win the national title.
5. Theo Riddick – Sure Notre Dame could use a big game from its leading rusher, but that might be wishful thinking. Where Riddick could do some damage is in the passing game. When the Irish line him up wide, he like Eifert will pose mismatch problems for the Bama defense. He’s put together one of Notre Dame’s best single seasons ever for a running back in the passing game. A big night from No. 6 is another must.
So there you have it. Those are five players (counting the d-line as one) that must have championship caliber performances if the Irish, double-digit underdogs, are to finish their magical season with a national championship.
Doug Griffiths is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths.