As with any match-up, there are numerous reasons why a certain team is favored. The expert prognosticators love to pretend that it is just a foregone conclusion as to why a certain team will win, and why the other team has less of a chance at success. Of course that doesn’t mean that it always plays out on the field as these so called experts like to pretend the games do – See Florida vs. Louisville.
A Notre Dame victory on January 7th will require a lot more than just talent. For the Irish to pull out their 13th and most important win of the season, they will need to be consistent in areas of strength and incredibly focused and disciplined in areas of weakness. Trust us when we say that Alabama Coach Nick Saban will have his players ready to play. There is a reason the Tide have consistently been one of best teams in the country over the last 5 years. Love Saban or hate him, if you truly follow college football with a passion, you have to respect him and his teams accomplishments. If you follow the Irish and their 3rd year Coach Brian Kelly, then you know that he, by self-confession, is trying to emulate what Saban has done in his tenure with the Crimson Tide.
When both teams hit the field in Miami, a victory is going to come down to certain factors and how they play out, as with any game. Both teams are disciplined, both have very talented skill players, and both teams understand how to win. Each coach understands how to manage a game in crucial moments and under the pressure of a national spotlight. So what does that leave as deciding factors as to which storied program will walk away with another national title under their belt?
The biggest factor will be execution. While this may sound too simplistic, when two teams this talented meet on the field, proper execution is not always an easy thing to accomplish. Will Alabama be able to run the ball against the best front seven they will have seen this year?. Will the Irish defensive front seven be able to handle the strength and experience of the best offensive line they have seen all year? Will an Alabama defense be able to contain a mobile quarterback with some success, as they have struggled against quarterbacks who can move, and teams that run the spread offense. These are just some of the question that need to be answered, and soon will be, as we are just few days away from kick-off.
If the Notre Dame defensive front can get pressure on Bama’s QB A.J. McCarron, then that allows the Irish to drop a linebacker into coverage and help an albeit much improved, but still young secondary. If they cannot do this, then the Irish secondary becomes very vulnerable on an island all by itself. The battle of the trenches is truly where this game will be won or lost for either team. If Alabama wins this battle it could spell doom for the Irish, as it will open the up the passing attack and give Tide running backs Lacy and Yeldon space to roam, and that is not a good thing. If the Irish win this battle, the Alabama offensive attack becomes much more one dimensional and they will struggle to put points up on the board. Instead of watching the ball when it is snapped, fans for both teams should keep their eyes focused on the trenches, as it will be an early indicator of who will take control of the game.
Another huge factor will be the play of Irish 1st year starting quarterback Everett Golson. Golson has proven all year long that he can create space and provide time for his receivers to get open. He also has shown the ability to scramble and make plays with his feet, when no other options are available.
That is not to say he has been perfect, as he still tends to miss reads, dance too long in the backfield, and make mental errors in regards to the security of the ball. These are all common traits of a young QB, but if the Irish plan on winning this game, he has to be very consistent and smart with each and every decision he makes. We are sure Coach Kelly has added a few wrinkles into the offense and hopefully Golson can handle them without feeling the pressure of the moment.
If the Crimson Tide defense stays in position and trusts each other to do their job, it could make for a bit of rough night the young QB. Golson is going to need confidence in his throws, be accurate, and understand that he will need to involve all of his weapons, not only a select few. For the Irish offense to be successful they are going to need to run the ball, include all their wide-outs in the game-plan, even more so if Alabama plans on double-teaming Notre Dames most recognizable offensive star,
Tyler Eifert. The Irish have to consistently involve Riddick in the run game, and passing game from swing passes to screens, and if they do, it could be spell trouble for a very good Alabama defense.
Georgia and Texas A&M both proved that this Bama defense can be scored on, and they did it by having a solid passing attack and an aggressive running attack. The Irish will have to do the same to be successful and can do so, as long as their players execute. Bama can be vulnerable in their secondary, and we are sure that Coach Kelly is aware of this. Notre Dame needs to take advantage of an average Tide secondary when possible, and then keep pounding the ball. The Irish can ill-afford to become pass happy or stagnant with the run on offense if they plan to keep Alabama on their back heels all game. The line of success and failure is so thin for both teams, that this game could possibly come down to just 2 or 3 plays that will decide it, and most likely this is what will happen.
We have a feeling this game is going to be one for the ages, and absolutely one that no real college football fan should miss. The hype for this game is huge and it should be, as these two teams are part of the cornerstone of college football as we know it. While the Crimson Tide has had more recent success, the Irish have finally arrived on the national scene again. Kelly has this team poised for another long run of success regardless of the outcome of this game, and Irish fans know what this team is capable of doing when they execute. Now the question is how well can they execute against the defending National Champions.
Notre Dame – 24
Alabama – 20