Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 1/3/13
Key Matchup The defining battle and defining question of the BCS Championship Game is simple: Can Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Teo and the Notre Dame defense withstand Alabamas dominant offensive line? Two-time All-American Barrett Jones headlines a group that has paved the way for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy (1,182 yards and 16 touchdowns) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yards and 11 scores), who racked up 350 yards in the SEC title game win over Georgia. Its the run defense that has led the Irish to this point. Behind linebacker Teo (103 tackles) and end Stephon Tuitt (13 tackles for loss) ranking fourth in the nation against the rush (92.4 yards per game), and helped it keep teams to an FBS-best 10.3 points per. If the Crimson Tide can control the line of scrimmage and the clock theyve held on to the ball for at least 33 minutes seven times, including a season-high 37:35 against the Bulldogs they can then put more pressure on the Fighting Irish offense and force it do something it hasnt done very well: throw the ball. Notre Dame enters the game ranked 75th in passing offense and has just 13 TDs through the air (103rd). Player to Watch A year ago, the BCS title game was AJ McCarrons coming out party. He shed the game-manager label and proved he could put the team on his shoulders, throwing for 234 yards and earning offensive MVP honors in the win over LSU. If the Irish defense can have any success in limiting the Tides ability to run the ball, McCarron may be asked to deliver a similar performance and exploit the only real ***** in the armor of the vaunted Notre Dame D. The Irish rank 21st in pass defense and have allowed a paltry seven TDs all season, but those numbers dont relay the 356 yards they allowed against Oklahomas Landry Jones or show that outside of Teo seven picks Notre Dame has just nine interceptions. While senior safety Zeke Motta (61 tackles) is a proven commodity, its a patchwork secondary that includes two converted wide receivers in cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell and a former running back with safety Matthias Farley. Its a group that hasnt faced a passer as steady for mistake-free as McCarron, who leads the nation in pass efficiency (173.0) and has thrown three interceptions in his last 16 games dating back to last season. Final Analysis Limiting the Bama ground game can keep the Irish in this matchup but then the question becomes whether QB Everett Golson and Co. can generate enough offense against the Tides D? For all the attention heaped on the Teo-led Irish unit, its Alabamas defense that ranks as the nations best, ranking first in total defense and against the run, second in scoring D and sixth vs. the pass. Its hard to see a Notre Dame attack that scored 22 or less points seven times being able to break out against the Tide. Expect the SECs run to continue with a seventh straight title and the fourth in a row for the state of Alabama. The Pick: Alabama 31, Notre Dame 20
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