Monday, January 7, 2013

Chooch Breaks Down The Keys To Victory For Tonight's BCS Nation Championship Game Between Notre Dame And Alabama

Notre Dame seeks to cap off the most improbable of seasons with a 13th victory in the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama is on the verge of becoming the first school to win 3 titles in 4 years since Nebraska in 1994, 1995, and 1997. This championship game is certainly not lacking for drama and storylines. By now you’ve probably heard most of them, so here is a quick preview of the keys to the game:

Alabama Center Barrett Jones vs. Notre Dame Nose Guard Louis Nix: Hands down, this is the most important matchup of the game. The key to Notre Dame’s front 7 success this year has been Nix in the middle, where he commanded double teams and blew up plays when not blocked by 2 guys. Jones, meanwhile, is seeking his 3rd national championship at Bama, at his 3rd position on the line in fact (he’d previously played both tackle and guard before moving to center this season). Jones sprained his ankle in the SEC championship game though, so he may not be 100% come kickoff. This is a potential area for Notre Dame to exploit. Texas A & M had some success against Jones by lining up a NG right on him, which ND will do in this game. If Nix can draw a double team, it will free up the ND linebackers to flow to the ball.

Notre Dame second level tackling: Alabama boasts two outstanding running backs in Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon. While ND’s front 7 should be able to at least contain many run plays, these two backs will inevitably break some runs into the secondary. On these plays, Notre Dame’s cornerbacks and safeties must tackle surely and limit the damage. Will 8 yard runs turn into 22 yard runs? They did against Georgia, and that was the key to the game.

Big Plays from the Alabama passing game: The Crimson Tide’s bread and butter is to pound you with the running game, then take deep shots in the play action pass game. Alabama has one notable deep threat on the outside in Amari Cooper, an elite true freshman and future first round pick. He caught the game winning touchdown bomb from AJ McCarron in the SEC title game. Bama will surely look his way a few times. ND must prevent this big play.

Notre Dame’s interior offensive line: The Irish interior has a few veterans and has been solid all season, but Kirby Smart’s defenses at Alabama are always stout in the middle. This year is no different with NT Jesse Williams. ND has to be able to get some push up the middle. If the Irish can’t convert 3 rds and short on the ground, they won’t be able to sustain drives.

Tyler Eifert: Perhaps the one area on Notre Dame’s offense where there’s a solid talent advantage is at the tight end position. Tyler Eifert should be a first round pick this April and will be the best player on the field when Notre Dame is on offense. He’s too big for a safety and too fast for a linebacker. Expect the Tide to double team him, especially when he splits out wide. This should create chances for Notre Dame’s other receivers, particularly TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels.

The layoff: Which of these teams will be better prepared mentally and physically to play after a 5+ week layoff? Saban and Alabama have been here before (2009 and 2011), while Notre Dame hasn’t. Brian Kelly does have a lot of experience preparing teams for title games from his DII days at Grand Valley State, so that could be a plus.

I won’t offer a full prediction, other than that I think this game will either be a close ND win or a comfortable Alabama win. ND’s offense must sustain drives to let the defense rest, otherwise Bama will wear down the Irish with their running game. Louis Nix is the single most important player in this game. He must control the middle. Go Irish.


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