Since Dec. 2, we have been told why this is the most important BCS championship game. According to ESPN, it is mostly because it’s Notre Dame and Alabama and all the history that surrounds the names of these two universities.
Much like the Super Bowl, we have been subjected to just about every possible scenario and way to look at the teams and universities. There are people in Alabama still mad that Notre Dame won the national champion in 1966 instead of Alabama, because then coach Ara Parseghian played for a tie at Michigan State without his starting quarterback and won the national championship. This is 46 years ago Sports-Watch readers. (Crimson Tide flags are car accessories in Alabama)
Or what about Notre Dame, whose fans have been mostly quieted for a couple of decades, but who are largely reported as being the most insufferable. (Old N.D. joke- How do you tell the Notre Dame graduate in a room of a 1,000 people? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.)
But it still comes down to the game and here is one final look before kickoff about the most important aspects.
Because most college coaches know little about point spreads unless it is brought to their attention, listening to those who either played these teams and or watched tape on both, figured Alabama would be a 3 to 5-point favorite over Notre Dame, not the 9.5 or 10-points we have seen since Dec. 3.
Alabama has the best offensive line in the country, quite possibly the past several years and Notre Dame players are sick of hearing about it. It is acknowledged the Fighting Irish defensive front can hold its own against the Crimson Tide’s imposing crew, but word has Bama wearing them down. If Notre Dame’s defense is as good as it believes, they hold the Tide under 150 yards rushing. If they don’t, it could be Roll Tide.
On the disrespect meter, the Notre Dame offensive line can whip out the ‘respect card’. They too have heard about the superior Alabama offensive line and how they will not move the ball against the Crimson Tide defense. Though the Irish O-Line has not received all the love their counterparts have, this offense average 202 yards per game on the ground, which was the most in 16 years for a South Bend team. Do you think they will be motivated? The No.1 team has to reach 160 yards on the ground to win.
With so much time off, both offensive coaching staffs have enjoyed more than enough time to create and ideally setup different looks and gadget plays. Last year, Alabama stunned LSU by throwing on 11 of their first 16 offensive plays, which turned AJ McCarron from a game-manager to quality quarterback. There is little doubt Nick Saban and his coaches will have surprises from Notre Dame’s D.
Lost in all the steady stream of conversation of how Brian Kelly managed to go 12-0, despite not being ranked in one of the main preseason polls is his past. Kelly has proven to not only be a great recruiter, but being able using the talent on hand. Kelly prefers mobile quarterbacks, but Everett Golson had almost no experience and the likes of Michael Floyd and Golden Tate were in the NFL for wideouts. Kelly nursed Golson along and now has greater trust, thus expect him to engineer a few plays he might have used at Central Michigan or Grand Valley State.
If either team has a +2 advantage (positive or negative) in trickeration, this will help mold the outcome.
Notre Dame covers and possibly wins by running and stopping the rush as mentioned above. The Fighting Irish have to score points every time they are inside the Alabama 25-yard line and Tyler Eifert must have a minimum of six catches and likely more. Golson will need to run for six first downs on his own and have four completions of at least 15-yards. For Notre Dame to win, it will require a certain amount of luck and or good fortunate. If you believe in fate, Kelly becomes the fifth coach to win a national title in his third season at South Bend.
Alabama covers by being balanced on offense from play one, keeping the Irish defense guessing. McCarron hits Amari Cooper for three plays of 20 or more yards and T.J. Yeldon has three runs of 10 or more yards. If at any point the Crimson Tide were to lead by 10 points, that figure could rise in a hurry, since Notre Dame is not built for overcoming significant deficits, especially against a defense as good as Bama’s.
At last peek, Notre Dame was running at just under 60 percent of side bets and over 75 percent on the money, with the total dead even at 50-50. In reviewing handicappers picks as listed at various sites (including Sports-Watch members), the Fighting Irish are at 62 percent and the total is essentially even.
It promises to be a very physical contest and the humidity could be a factor. Here is how one S-W reporter is betting this game. Playing Notre Dame on the side and ML. (Irish -17, Crimson Tide -16)