I know it seems like every team has played in a bowl game named after everything imaginable from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl to the GoDaddy.com Bowl, but the game everyone has been waiting for is finally here. The Crimson Tide of Alabama takes on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS Championship game to see who finishes #1 and takes home the crystal trophy.
This game has been dissected from every angle, which is what happens when you have a month from the Tide’s last game and even longer for the Irish (they beat USC on November 24), but to say this short and sweet, the Tide and the Irish are very similar in every way, but the Tide get the node in this game.
This will be a hard hitting defensive struggle between two of the top 5 defenses in several categories in the NCAA such as in total yards where Alabama is #1 and ND is #5, points for ND is #1 and Alabama is #2, and offensively two top 30 rushing games with ND#29 and the Tide at #19, passing games ranked in the 70’s (Alabama is #79 and ND is #75). Two teams that have red hot all season, except for the Tide’s bad day on November 10th complements of Johnny “Football” Manziel.
So what is the big difference in the Tide winning this game?
One difference in the game are the types of teams the other had trouble with this season. The Tide’s only blemish was to a gunslinger with a ton of confidence and no conscious in Manziel. Manziel was not afraid to make mistakes and being pulled or the Tide’s vaunted defense. Other teams the Tide played always had that apprehension of getting into a battle with Alabama’s defense, in which the Tide used to their advantage in winning their games by an average of just over 30 points (39.6 points for to 9.2 against) in those victories.
The Irish on the other hand have not lost but came very close to in overtime victories to Stanford and Pittsburgh, which brought difficulties of their own in the way of turnovers. The Cardinal and Panthers each caused three turnovers in and turned them into points, while not committing any themselves. The Fighting Irish only committed 14 turnovers all season, but had six in these two overtime games. If the Tide can cause the Irish into making these mistakes, which they did 28 times all season (tied for #19 in the NCAA this year) they will have a leg up in this battle.
The Irish do have the emotional season All-American linebacker Manti Te’o’s story has experienced this year pushing them to heights they did not think were possible this year, but how far can this carry them now. Red shirt Junior QB AJ McCarron, last year’s BCS championship MVP is back for a second year and this should outweigh the emotion of Te’o brings. He also knows what to expect and should be able to handle the noise, excitement and pace
The biggest difference maker is coaching. Nick Saban has the advantage as he has been in this spot now three of the last four years winning the first two, as well as his victory in 2003 with LSU. Saban has been tough when it is on the line and this will be the same situation as last year when they came in #2 with the one loss, so he is familiar to the surroundings.
Brian Kelly had a good run with Cincinnati before coming to South Bend, winning 34 of the 40 games he coached. He was only 16-10 coming into this season, but like some of the Fighting Irish coaches have done before him, the third year is the charm, where he is 12-0 this season. Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz each won their first championships (Leahy won four and Parseghian won two) in their third season. But this did not go for everyone as even the legendary Knute Rockne did not win in his third season after going 9-0.
As much as would I would like to see the Irish quiet the Tide and win this, I just can’t see Notre Dame pulling this one out. Sorry Irish but Tide by 14, 28-14.