For college football fans, it doesn't get much better then a tilt like this. Alabama is trying to win its third national title in four years -- and become the first program to do so since Nebraska in the mid 90s -- while Notre Dame has proved that painting gold on your helmets before every game isn't sacrilegious.
But since I have to give you analysis and a prediction, I won't waste your time with traditions. Point blank, this will be a slugfest. 'Bama has an elite defense across the board and is only second in points allowed per game ... second behind the Irish. If Nick Saban's Tide is the big, bad wolf, Brian Kelly's Irish is the team of destiny. Senior linebacker Manti Te'o made a terrific case for the Heisman Trophy and his leadership and dominant play is the main reason why Notre Dame has one of the premier red zone defenses of the past decade. Te'o, along with future first-round draft choice DE Stephon Tuitt, provide excellent versatility for a defense that could propel Notre Dame to its ninth national championship of all time, which would tie Alabama, by the way, for tops in NCAA history.
To be honest, Alabama would win seven or eight times if these two played 10 times. It has much more speed and a legitimate pro in quarterback AJ McCarron, who led the nation in passing efficiency and very nearly made the trip to New York City for the Heisman presentation. He is a tall, classic drop-back passer who excels in play-action and loves to throw the deep ball. That play action of course is made possible by a two-headed rushing monster in Eddie Lacy and frosh T.J. Yeldon, who could wind up being better then Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
Everett Golson meanwhile, has been solid for the Domers, and at times spectacular. He's thrown 11 touchdowns and rushed for five more. He's small, but lightning quick and especially accurate on the move and, despite his youth, doesn't make mistakes. In other words, he's decisive, a trait you must have -- as Johnny Football proved -- in order to beat the Tide. Against one of the premier schedules in all of college football, Gholson threw just five interceptions. Saban and his defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are known to bring exotic blitzes and tremendous pressure in big games though, just as they did against Aaron Murray and Georgia in the SEC Championship. How he handles such pressure will play a vital role in the outcome. Since the signature win on the road at Oklahoma, Golson has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,167 yards with 10 total touchdowns and two turnovers.
For as much talk as Te'o and Tuitt receive however, 'Bama cornerback Dee Milliner is a surefire first-round draft pick and perhaps, even better then 2011 All-American corner Dre Kirkpatrick. He possesses very good cover skills and terrific zone ability. Then, there is the matter of fellow All-American C.J. Mosley, a linebacker who goes sideline to sideline like a cheetah with the ferocity of a lion. He replaced first-rounders Dont'a Hightower and Rolando McClain easily.
So, to answer your question, yes, the Fighting Irish are going to need something of a miracle. Yes, oddsmakers have them listed as 9.5-point underdogs and yes, 'Bama is more talented. But, sometimes talent doesn't matter and sometimes, you have to just throw the stats and all the logic out the window. Where am I going with this?
Here's where: Give me the Irish Monday night.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report.
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