Monday night, two of college football’s most historic programs with 25 National Championships (if you go by Alabama’s count), will battle it out on college football’s grandest stage. Notre Dame seeks their first title since 1988 and Alabama looks to win their third championship in four seasons. Notre Dame and Alabama have met six previous times including twice in bowl games. The Irish have won five of those six match-ups, including both bowl games in 1973 and 1975. The teams have not met on the gridiron since November 14, 1987, which was a 37-6 Notre Dame victory.
This battle of legendary programs is a little bit different than during the Irish’s dominance of Alabama in the 1970′s. Alabama under Nick Saban: 62-13 (36-9 in SEC play), two SEC Championships and a win away from their third National Championship. Alabama is seen by virtually the entire country to walk out of Miami Gardens with another crystal football. But if I remember correctly, the phrase goes, “You still have to play the game”. So before Notre Dame’s number one critics, ESPN analyst Mark May and Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, give the Tide a 40 point win Monday, let’s break the game down.
The talk of the title game is Alabama’s running back duo of T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy running behind college football’s best offensive line against college football’s best front seven led by Heisman Trophy finalist, Manti Te’o. But in this match-up of strengths, Te’o isn’t exactly the focal point of Alabama’s gameplan. That title (no pun intended), goes to energetic, 326 pound nose guard, Louis Nix III. His one-on-one meeting with all-universe center Barrett Jones will be huge in regards to winning the trench war. Jones just started practicing late this week after injuring his foot in the SEC Championship and expects to play Monday.
When Notre Dame has the football is quite an interesting topic as well. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson does not have the big game experience like Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has under his belt, but Golson has gotten better and better as each week passes. The three headed monster of Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III in the backfield are all capable of breaking loose. Tyler Eifert is arguably the best tight end in college football and Notre Dame’s very talented and experienced offensive line are no slouches themselves. Since Brian Kelly took over three seasons ago, the Irish have not seen a defense like the Tide’s ferocious defense. In order to win this game for Notre Dame, Everett Golson will have to make plays. He’s been the “x-factor” all season and will have to utilize his speed and break contain on a few snaps to keep the Irish in the game.
Prediction: Alabama along with the rest of the SEC, have dominated the college football world for six straight seasons. The Irish have had to listen to SEC doubters and most of the country has not bought into the Irish the entire season. They have played motivated all season and on college football’s biggest stage, they will shock the world. Golson makes plays with his legs for key first downs, Eifert is a match-up nightmare and the Irish front will get to A.J. McCarron on more than one occasion. Give me the Irish 26-23 in a thriller.