January 7, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Alabama 6-Notre Dame 37
Line: Alabama (-9.5)
Lead Editor Andrew Hall: Notre Dame 14-Alabama 20
Staff Writer Nick Combs: Notre Dame 20-Alabama 17
Staff Writer Mike Whitlow: Notre Dame 26-Alabama 23
Staff Writer Tim Colin: Notre Dame 17-Alabama 14
Podcast Co-Host Brett Arney: TBA
January 7th will be a battle of the two best scoring defenses in the country. Notre Dame is the best scoring defense only allowing 10.3 points per game and Alabama is second giving up 10.7 points per game. The statistic that really jumps out at me is rushing yards per game, which Alabama is ranked number 1 (79.77 yards per game). Passing defense has to be their weakness right? Wrong, the Crimson Tide ranks 2nd in passing yards allowed (166.2 per game). Total defense again ranks Alabama number 1 only giving up 246 yards per game. Now statistics can be biased, since Alabama did play Western Carolina, Western Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic, but still they are the best total defense when it comes to yards allowed in the country. How will Notre Dame attack this defense? The game plan has to be similar to Texas A&M, since that was the only team to beat the Crimson Tide all year.
The 2012 version the Crimson Tide are lead by an outstanding Offensive Line, a two-headed monster at Running Back and a capable game managing Quarterback. This group has one of the highest scoring averages in the nation with 38.5 points per game. They are led primarily by a stout running attack that averages 224.62 yards per game on the ground. The Tide are balanced in their use of the pass. They average 214.5 yards per contest.
Gaining the upper hand in the running game will be difficult for both Notre Dame’s run defense and Alabama’s run offense. Notre Dame ranks 4th in the nation, only allowing 92.42 yards per game. Alabama’s average was 19th best in the country. This is the classic match up of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. This battle will likely be a stalemate with Notre Dame winning some plays and Alabama others. But, it only takes one long run to get in the end zone.
The difference between Notre Dame’s pass defense and Alabama’s pass offense shows a big disparity. Notre Dame holds it opponents to an average of 194.4 yards passing per ball game. This total is 20th in college football. Alabama’s average is 79th in the country. Notre Dame should be able to stop the Alabama threat through the air. But, they must be aware of play action. The majority of Alabama’s passing plays come from play action. This allows A.J. McCarron to pick one on one match ups on the outside with players like Amari Cooper.
If Notre Dame can stop Alabama with 7 guys in the box, they will keep Alabama well below their season average for points. Everything points to Notre Dame being about to do that. With the injury to Barrett Jones, Notre Dame may have an advantage on the interior of the Offensive Line. The Irish can use this to their advantage schematically.