Conventional wisdom might suggest that for Notre Dame to upset Alabama today, the Irish need to play a spotless game, void of any turnovers and big mistakes. To do that, some might think that Ian Book needs to be extremely careful with the football. Playing that kind of game, however, still probably gets Notre Dame beat – and beat big. To pull off a shocker today, Notre Dame needs Ian Book to take chances – lots of them – against the Crimson Tide defense.
If Ian Book ends today’s game with no turnovers, there’s a good chance that the Irish will be on the wrong end of a one-sided beating. I say that because it means Book likely didn’t take a lot of chances. Now, if he ends the game with four turnovers, it would also mean the Irish got their doors blown off. The thought that Notre Dame simply cannot turn the ball over at all, though isn’t one I totally agree with.
Notre Dame beat Clemson in November despite a nearly debilitating endzone fumble by Ian Book. LSU beat Alabama last year even though Joe Burrow lost a fumble on the first drive of the second half. Granted, Burrow had the luxury of a 33-13 lead at the time, but he didn’t have an immaculate game, and the Tigers still held on. Kye Trask lost a fumble against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, and the Gators were still ended the game within one possession.
Trask and the Gators hung with the Tide because Trask wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger throughout the game. Trask took chances with the football and threw some passes with anticipation, and let his receivers make plays. He ended the game 26 of 40 for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns.
This is NOT what Ian Book did in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. Book was too careful with the football. He held on to the ball too long and took sacks that put Notre Dame behind the chains. Despite the announcers continually saying, “there’s no one open,” there were receivers open – just not wide open.
Book had opportunities to throw up passes to Avery Davis and Javon McKinley specifically that he didn’t pull the trigger on. Those are the exact kind of passes that he did make against Clemson the first time out, so we know he’s capable of letting those rip. For whatever reason, he just didn’t in the ACCCG, and he hasn’t in some other recent big games against good defenses.
If we get the Ian Book that we saw against Clemson in November, Notre Dame will have the chance to put some points on the board – at least more points than they put on the board against Clemson. Alabama’s defense is very good, but it’s not quite the same elite defense that they’ve had in the past either.
This isn’t the kind of game Notre Dame can expect to win 24-21 or something like that. Alabama’s offense is too good for that. If Notre Dame wants any chance at all today, they’re going to need to put up 30+ like they did in the first Clemson game. Anything less and we’re looking forward to 2021 while Clemson and Ohio State are kicking off.
Putting up 30 points on Alabama might sound insane, but Florida scored 46 on them a couple weeks ago. Texas A&M, whose offense leaves A LOT to be desired, scored 24 on them earlier this year. Ole Miss scored 48 on them in October. Now October Alabama and December Alabama tend to be two very different beasts, but point being, some teams have scored on Alabama this year.
Putting up the kind of offensive performance Notre Dame needs to have a chance today is a gargantuan task. The only way it’ll be posible though, is if Ian Book fires away on pass attempts he hasn’t always been comfortable making.
Are the chances of that happening great? Probably not. After 34 career starts, we have a pretty good idea of what Book is capable of. Still, we have seen him do it already this season. If he does it today, maybe Notre Dame will have a puncher’s chance. If he doesn’t, well, then today will only feed the “narrative” that Notre Dame is desparate to put to rest.