Alabama and Notre Dame both have great histories. Both are seeking to add to it tonight. And for the quarterbacks, AJ McCarron and Everett Golson, a chance to place their names amongst legends that adorned those uniforms and manned the most pivotal position.
The Tide have won three back-2-back titles in their history. As it goes with Tide championships, I am not sure if it is accurate or not, but let’s just go with that. McCarron will have the opportunity to win his second consecutive as the Tide’s starting quarterback. If he does, that puts him in pretty special company. It will also give him a chance to come back as a senior and go for a 3-peat, certainly possible at the football factory that is Alabama. In modern college football history, 9 teams have tried and failed to accomplish that.
The Irish have claimed a pair of back-2-back titles in their storied history. What is more relevant for Notre Dame and it’s fans is that a program that claims 10 titles between 1924-1977, it only has one in the last 35 years. Golson can be the quarterback to give a starving fan base, especially the old guard, what it had become so accustomed to.
I bring up the quarterbacks, not for the obvious adoration each would receive if they won, but because they are the back-page news of this particular match-up. Everyone wants to talk about the defenses. You certainly can understand why, but McCarron and Golson have each had moments of greatness this year where they were called upon to make plays to win the game, and each came through. Not every time, as Aggie fans can attest, but each has been put in that spot every quarterback dreams of when they are little aspiring signal callers, and each has come through. One, or both of them, will be in that spot tonight.
As for the rest of the BCS Title Game…
What concerns me if I am Alabama:
My defense wasn’t shredded, but it wasn’t exactly impenetrable against Georgia, LSU, and Texas A&M this year. The secondary has been gashed at times, especially down the field, so look for Notre Dame to take their shots. Keep in mind, it may only take a big play or two that makes the difference in a defensive slugfest. Aside from freshman WR Amari Cooper, will the other pass-catchers win their match-ups? The offensive line is tremendous, but has given up plenty of sacks (22 on McCarron), and Irish can get after the quarterback with 34 sacks this year. The Tide have had some issues with scrambling quarterbacks, so Golson is a threat to keep drives alive with his legs. Can’t turn it over, in their last 5 losses they’ve had at least two turnovers in each.
What concerns me if I am Notre Dame:
Lack of experience, especially compared to the Tide. Can’t afford to give up early opportunities because the butterflies are fluttering. That Tide defense has had it’s warts as mentioned, but in it’s other 10 games it gave up 65 total points. The Irish have scored 2 touchdowns or less in 6 of their 12 games. And in a couple others they struggled to score until late heroics. If the Tide take All-Amercian TE Tyler Eifert out of the game schematically, who will make plays in the passing game? Golson can run, yes, but in 5/12 games he was held to 7 yards or less, so don’t bank on a Johnny Football-like effort. Amari Cooper terrifies me if I am Notre Dame. He can bail out Alabama with a long bomb touchdown.
For both teams:
Neither quarterback turns it over (McCarron-3 and Golson-5) much so you may not be feasting on other mistakes as much as you’ve become accustomed to so your offenses may have to do more heavy lifting. Can you run against their front-7? If not, then you’re in big trouble. It may be as simple as that for one side or the other.
Notre Dame is here because they showed up and played great in their big games, many on the road, and got lucky a few times at home. Alabama is here because despite a stumble, the voters like them (and they are really good too, calm down). The Tide isn’t Navy, so the Irish won’t blow them out. Notre Dame isn’t getting blown out unless their offense turns it over 3 or more times, possible, but uncharacteristic of what got them here. So expect a close game, with each team willing to take some shots deep against the other because that is the best way to attack a great defense. Nick Saban has shown he will roll the dice (remember the fake punt to start the Texas National Title game?), so don’t be surprised if the Tide are team to dig into the bag of tricks first. Brian Kelly is the offensive mind of the two, so I’ll be curious what wrinkles he may have come up with, but if he can integrate them without taking the Irish out of their personality as a run-first team. I think the Tide have proven to be mentally tough, and won’t beat themselves and can’t see the Irish putting together more than 2-3 decent drives without help of a turnover. The experienced quarterback, AJ McCarron, will avoid any critical mistakes and Alabama will score just enough to win their 3rd title in 4 years, and back-2-back titles.
Crimson Tide 20-13