National Championship Game Preview

Mike Ehrmann

College football season ends tonight, you guys.

(Author's Note: Growing up a lifelong Notre Dame fan before I got to Penn State, I've been waiting for the Irish to play in a title game my entire life.)

BCS Title Game

(1) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (2) Alabama Crimson Tide

8:00 p.m., ESPN

This game is basically the same one that took place 10 years ago in Tempe where an offensively-challenged, Mike Doss-led Ohio State team went into Tempe and defeated the mighty Miami Hurricanes in the biggest upset of the BCS era. The Irish come into this year's game as 10-point underdogs against an Alabama team that is looking to win its second straight BCS title, something that has never been done, and its third title in the past four years. Here are some keys to the game in my opinion:

  1. Notre Dame has become a power-running team this year, but will not be able to depend on that alone against the #1-ranked rush defense in the nation. Everett Golson will have to create problems by moving around and outside the pocket (much like Johnny Manziel did when Texas A&M defeated the Tide) and playmaking running back Theo Riddick will have to use his athleticism and pass-catching ability to open things up for the Irish offense which has been anemic at times, especially earlier in the year.
  2. When you think of Alabama, you think of Eddy Lacy and T.J. Yeldon running it down your throat. However, starting center Barrett Jones has been walking around Miami with a walking cast for his sprained foot and will be lining up across from Irish nose tackle Louis Nix III who goes 6'3" and 325 pounds and turned down a certain first-round selection in this upcoming year's draft to stay at Notre Dame next fall. The key to breaking a bridge is destroying the keystone and if Nix can have his way with Jones, the Alabama gameplan may fall on the arm of A.J. McCarron.
  3. Speaking of McCarron, who won a national title last year in his first season as the Tide starter, he will have to take some shots down the field against a Notre Dame secondary which, while vastly improving throughout the year, is definitely the weakest part of the defense.
  4. Brian Kelly will also have to take some shots. He is probably not going to out-coach Nick Saban, but if he can confuse him with a couple of trick plays are new setups, he has a chance to win his first national title.
  5. Manti Te'o, as he has done many times throughout the year, has to make play after play after play.

These teams are almost one and the same with Alabama holding just a bit more experience, with seniors playing in their third title game. But when teams are evenly matched, I'm bound to go with history where the big underdogs ('00 Oklahoma, '02 Ohio State) have risen to the occasion and the teams trying to repeat ('00 Florida State, '02 Miami, '05 USC) have been stopped from doing so.

Prediction: Notre Dame 16 - Alabama 14


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