Alabama had one slip during the season, coming up a couple of yards short in a 24-29 loss to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M teammates. For the year the Crimson Tide was 12-1 and is ranked second in the nation. Notre Dame was the Cinderella team of 2012. Unranked to start the year, the Fighting Irish went 12-0 and Notre Dame is ranked first in the nation.
Kickoff Monday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., will be at 8:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 central time) with ESPN televising the game.
Can Alabama win its second consecutive national championship and third in four years and 10th (wire service and/or BCS) or 15th (Bama’s count) overall?
For several weeks the book on Notre Dame has been that the Fighting Irish has an extraordinary front seven on defense and – like Texas A&M – the kind of mobile quarterback that could give Alabama a problem.
There is only one Johnny Manziel. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has gone from a player who got a starting job because the other guy was arrested to an almost mythical figure. The truth is, he was benched several times during the season. And while he has made progress, he has not progressed to Heisman Trophy consideration level.
Golson has completed 166 of 282 passes (58.9 per cent) for 2,135 yards and 11 touchdowns with 5 interceptions. His longest pass was 50 yards. Compare that to Johnny Football, who completed 295 of 434 passes (68 per cent) for 3,706 yards with 26 touchdowns and 9 intrceptions. In fact, compare Golson to Bama’s A.J. McCarron, who has completed 191-286 (66.7 per cent) for 2,669 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.
Golson does run better than McCarron. The Notre Dame quarterback had 89 carries for 305 yards and 5 TDs. But that’s not exactly Manziel-like. The Texas A&M quarterback had 201 runs for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Golson gets particularly high marks for his play in a Notre Dame victory over Oklahoma, which is convenient. Against the Sooners, Golson completed 23 of 42 passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns with an interception and ran 15 times for 74 yards and a touchdown. Nice numbers, but Manziel went against OU in the Cotton Bowl a couple of days ago and completed 22-34 for 287 yards with 2 TDs and 1 interception and ran for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Manziel total offense 516, Golson 301.
This is not to say that Golson is not a good quartrback. He is. But don’t expect Alabama’s defense to have the same problems with him as the Tide had with Manziel – 18 rushes for 92 yards and 24-31 passing for 253 yards and 2 TDs.
Notre Dame has been excellent on defense, and particularly rushing defense. The Fighting Irish have held opponents to a total of only 1,109 yards (92.4 per game and 3.2 per attempt) and only 2 rushing touchdowns.
Presumably, Alabama can test the Notre Dame rush defense. Bama has rushed for 2,920 yards (224.6 per game and 5.6 per rush) and 35 touchdowns. Two Tide tailbacks have made the 1,000-yard threshold (Eddie Lacy 184 carries for 1,182 and T.J. Yeldon 154 for 1,000).
Notre Dame has held opponents in the Red Zone (inside the 20) to 64 per cent scoring (21-33) and only 24 per cent on touchdowns scored (8-33). The Tide has been very good in the Red Zone, scoring 89 per cent of the time (51-57) with 41 of those scores touchdowns (72 per cent).
So here is how we see the game:
Alabama keeps Golson in the pocket, much as in the case against Michigan and Denard Robinson, which was a 41-14 Tide win. (The Wolverines are the lone common opponent for Alabama and Notre Dame. The Irish escaped with a 13-6 decision.)
Alabama is able to run the ball against the Notre Dame front seven, and that means the Irish have to commit a safety to help on rush defense. At that point McCarron has a field day against one-on-one coverage.
Our Nearly Flawless Football Prediction is Alabama 31, Notre Dame 10. Make room for another crystal football.