No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS)
College Football BCS National Championship Game Preview
Date/Time: Monday January 7th, 2013. 8:30PM Eastern
Where: Sun Life Stadium Miami Gardens, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND +10/ALA -10
Over/Under Total: 42
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It’s hard to ignore the fact that the SEC will seek their 7th straight National Championship this January. It’s possibly even harder to ignore the fact that Nick Saban has built a modern day dynasty down in Tuscaloosa echoing the accomplishments of Bear Bryant nearly a half of century ago. Yet the Alabama Crimson Tide will make their 3rd BCS National Championship Game appearance in the last 4 years when they meet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish inside Sun Life Stadium on January 7th. For Alabama, the Crimson Tide will not only have the chance to become the first team in the BCS era to win back to back National Championships but they could also extend the SEC’s reign of dominance to 7 straight years.
While Alabama looks to add to their legacy and tradition, Notre Dame will try to recapture theirs. There was a time when Notre Dame was the most dominant program in college football each and every year. Coach Lou Holtz helped restore that dominance with the Irish’s last National Championship in 1988. However, it has been a rather long and frustrating 25 years since that last National Championship. Coach Brian Kelly has helped restore the winning tradition in South Benn by leading the Irish to an impressive 12-0 mark as the only remaining unbeaten team in college football. The Irish were not expected to be a national contender this season but have found ways to pull out the close wins to stay undefeated. The luck of the Irish has been apparent several times this season with 5 wins by less than a touchdown including two overtime victories. The big question now is can the luck of the Irish withstand one more game to recapture glory?
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The SEC’s formula to success over the last 6 National Championships can be accredited mainly towards strong defense and being able to run the football. Ironically, Notre Dame has mirrored that formula this season with the 6th best defense in the country and averaging over 200 yards per game running the football. The Irish has played old school style football, which like their uniforms, has been unchanged throughout time. Notre Dame has been able to win in the trenches this season and possess physical toughness on both sides of the football like few other teams around the country. Now the Irish gets the chance to test their strength against the big bad bully from the SEC in Alabama.
Alabama is the ultimate physical football team. The Crimson Tide defense ranks 1st overall allowing just 246 yards per game and 1st against the run allowing 76 yards per game. Additionally, Alabama is tremendous in the running game with an extremely talented offensive front averaging 224 yards per game on the ground. Many would argue that no other team in the country can match Alabama’s strength and size on either side of the football. However, Alabama backers have to be concerned about the Crimson Tide’s performance during the latter part of the season. Alabama was outplayed against LSU, defeated by Texas A&M, and just narrowly escaped an upset against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game 32-28. Georgia was able to move the football surprisingly well through the air which exposed Alabama’s weakness in their secondary which will be a concern against the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame’s strength is running the football with tailbacks Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Both tailbacks have combined for more than 1,600 rushing yards with 9 touchdowns. There is little doubt that the Fighting Irish will attempt to establish a ground presence against Alabama. However, I believe the Fighting Irish offense will have to hit a few big passing plays to rattle Alabama just like Georgia was able to do. Notre Dame QB Everette Golson has the playmakers in the receiving core to make the passing game effective. Still, Golson’s arm has been a concern at times this season completing just 58.9% passing on the year with 11 scores and 5 picks. Notre Dame’s defense has been the backbone of the team all year and should keep them competitive against Alabama. However, Golson’s arm could be the true difference maker to help the Fighting Irish offense hit some plays down the field to keep Alabama’s defense off balance.
On the other side of the ball, I mentioned that Notre Dame has one of most solid defenses in the country. However, it is hard to ignore how dominant Alabama was running the football against Georgia in that SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide offensive line dominated up front creating big holes for running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J Yeldon. As a team, Alabama rushed for 350 yards in the SEC Championship. Tailback Eddie Lacy was the game MVP with 181 rushing yards and Yeldon added 153 rushing yards. It was the same formula Alabama has used for the last 4 years over their dominating run in the SEC by using their big offensive line and wearing down defenses. Of course it does not hurt when you have tailbacks like Lacy and Yeldon who have combined for 2,182 yards with 27 touchdowns. Therefore it will be very interesting to see if Alabama can get that same type of edge up front against Notre Dame’s defense and control tempo with their running game. QB A.J McCarron has not been impressive under pressure this season and Alabama lost WR Kenny Bell for the season. As a result, the key match-up of this game will be Alabama’s offensive line against Notre Dame’s defensive front. If Alabama is not able to run the football, Notre Dame could possibly pull off the big upset.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This year’s BCS National Championship Game will feature two of the greatest programs in college football history with 39 combined National Championships between both schools. However, only one team will add to that legacy. Alabama has the edge on each side of the ball despite Notre Dame’s gritty defense.I think this game will be an epic battle in the trenches highlighted by both defenses. I expect scoring to stay low and the Irish to stay within one score. Ultimately, Alabama pulls out the win in a close 23-17 victory!
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