BCS National Championship Game
Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
January 7, 2013 – 8:30 PM
When all was said and done and it was figured out that the BCS national championship game was going to be #1 Notre Dame against the defending champion Alabama Crimson tide, ESPN executives had to exited at the prospect of two of college football’s most storied programs facing off. No doubt this will be one of the most watched college football games ever.
But it is also a really good match up, if you like defense.
Like their BCS ranking, Notre Dame and Alabama come in ranked 1 and 2 in scoring defense, allowing 10.3 and 10.7 points respectively. Notre dame only allowed over 17 points once this season, and those 26 points were scored in a triple overtime game. Alabama was equally dominant, recording 4 shutouts, including a pair of 49-0 victories after their loss to Texas A&M.
The Irish defense is led by Heisman runner up Manti Te’o, who recorded 103 tackles and seven interceptions. He leads a unit that head coach Brian Kelly assembled with big and physical players to resemble the defenses in the SEC. The question is, will the imitation be as good as the real thing.
The key to this game will be which offense can break through on the opposing defense. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron is a good game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over. He passed for about 2700 yards and 26 touchdown while only throwing 3 interceptions. The key for their offense is their giant offensive line protecting McCarron and opening holes for a pair of 1000 yard rushers, Eddie Lacy (1182, 16 TDs) and T.J. Yeldon (1000, 11 TDs).
The Irish offense relied on QB Everett Golson to make smart decisions, which usually involved passing to TE Tyler Eifert, who caught 44 balls for 624 and 4 touchdowns. He also hands off to a pair of good running backs, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, who combined for 1620 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Forget tradition and history, forget Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant, this is the top two scoring defenses in the nation facing off for the big glass football. Notre Dame’s undefeated season has not been without its ups and downs, including an overtime victory against eventual Rose Bowl champion Stanford, and a triple overtime thriller against Pittsburgh. Alabama, on the other hand, was cruising along until they encountered the Johnny Football phenomenon and lost to Texas A&M. It would take a lot of help for them to climb back into the national title game after a loss so late in the season. And proving that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, Oregon and Kansas State stumbled on the same night and Georgia came up 5 yards short in the SEC Championship game.
Brian Kelly is a hell of a coach who has done a tremendous job bringing Notre Dame back to national prominence, but I will take Nick Saban with a month to prepare. When two teams have such dominant defenses, the deciding factor is the better offense. I can see Alabama shutting down the Irish’ attack a lot easier than I can see Notre Dame shutting down the 13th ranked Crimson Tide scoring offense.
This game would have been more fun with either team facing Oregon, but alas, we will probably be treated to a low scoring, rather boring game where Nick Saban defense stifles the Fighting Irish offense.
The Crimson Tide is favored by 10, which is a pretty big spread considering the level of these defenses. I expect them to cover, just barely though. The over/under for this game is set at 40, and I would take that action based on the fact this is going to be a defensive struggle.
Prediction: Alabama 24 – Notre Dame 13