Monday, December 31, 2012

Notre Dame-Alabama Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Redshirt freshman Everett Golson has continued to get better and better for Notre Dame this season on offense. He has been at his best since the win at Oklahoma, and for the season he has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,135 yards along with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. In addition to the numbers he has through the air, he also has been important in the running game as well with 305 rushing yards (4th on the team) and 5 rushing touchdowns (Tied for 1st on the team with 2 other players). Golson has done well at home and away from home as well. Backup quarterback Tommy Rees has seen playing time in 11 games this season and has completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 436 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Andrew Hendrix has also seen a little bit of playing time in 3 games this season and has completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards and rushed for 41 yards.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Alabama Pass Defense: Alabama will Notre Dame's third opponent this season that is currently in the top 10 in pass defense this season (Michigan is ranked 2nd overall and Michigan St. is 9th overall) and ranks 4th overall in pass defense in college football. They have allowed opposing teams to complete just 54.3 percent of their passes for 2,161 yards and allowed only 7 passing touchdowns and the defense has 17 interceptions this season. Everett Golson has managed to do a great job at avoiding interceptions and while he has thrown 5 interceptions, 3 of them were early in the season (1 against Navy, 2 against Michigan). He will face a bigger test in the Alabama defense who has a great amount of interceptions this season. The big factor in this is the ability that Golson has in being a threat on the ground (Alabama's lone loss this season was against a team that also had a quarterback that was a threat on the ground). Golson will need to manage the game and be important in running and passing the ball as needed.

Edge: Even

Alabama QB's: AJ McCarron has been a highly efficient quarterback this season for the Crimson Tide. He has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,669 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. He takes care of the football as evidenced by what few interceptions as they didn't happen until the loss at home to Texas A&M and in the SEC Championship against Georgia. He was perfect in the months of September and October by being interception free. McCarron also has experience as well in the National Championship when he led his team to victory over LSU in the previous seasons National Championship. Blake Sims has seen playing time with 5 of 10 completed passes for 77 yards and 187 rushing yards on 30 carries for an average of 6.2 yards a rush with 2 rushing touchdowns. Phillip Ely has completed 3 of 4 passes for 42 yards and 1 touchdown. Both have played in 9 and 6 games, respectively.

Alabama QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Notre Dame comes in with the 20th ranked passing defense in the nation and has allowed opponents to complete just 59.4 percent of their passes for 2,333 yards and similar to Alabama has allowed 7 touchdowns and intercepted 16 passes. Notre Dame's pass defense has the distinction of allowing just three opponents all season to throw for 200 or more yards with zero of those happening in the month of September on top of that. While the Irish won't be the highest ranked pass defense that Alabama has faced (Michigan, Georgia, and LSU hold these distinctions), they have significantly exceeded expectations this season despite the loss of 3 players to season ending injuries. Forcing McCarron into incompletions will be difficult as he has only completed under 60 percent of his passes just 2 times this season (against LSU and Michigan), but regardless he still faces a challenge in a passing defense that doesn't allow many opponents to get a lot of yards through the air. However, Alabama's passing offense is only ranked 85th in the nation with just 214.5 yards a game overall.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame RB's: Notre Dame comes in with the 28th ranked rushing offense that is led by Theo Riddick. Riddick has moved from running back (freshman year) to wide receiver (2010 and nearly all of 2011) before moving permanently back to running back for 2012. He leads the team with 880 rushing yards on 180 carries with 4.9 yards a carry. He also is tied with 2 other players for 1st overall on the team in rushing touchdowns with 5. Riddick has also been absolutely vital to receiving game as well with some very important receptions this season, and he has 35 catches for 364 yards and 1 touchdown this season. Cierre Wood has 740 rushing yards on 110 carries this season for 6.7 yards this season and 4 touchdowns in 10 games this season and also has 2 runs of 60+ yards (both went for touchdowns as well). George Atkinson III has 361 yards on the ground this season on 51 carries and has 7.1 yards per rush. He also is tied for 1st in rushing touchdowns with 5 and has 2 runs of 50+ yards and both went for touchdowns. Cam McDaniel has seen playing time as well with 125 rushing yards on 23 carries and has a 5.4 average and 1 touchdown.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Alabama Rush Defense: Alabama has the top ranked rushing defense in all of college football and has allowed opponents to average 2.7 yards a rush and allowed 79.7 yards a game and 9 rushing touchdowns. However, Notre Dame has faced top ranked rushing defenses before this season with the 2nd and 3rd ranked rushing defenses being opponents Stanford and BYU. Notre Dame rushed for 270 rushing yards against BYU (the most BYU allowed in a single game this season and Notre Dame was the only opponent that rushed for 200+ yards on BYU all season long) and Notre Dame had 150 rushing yards against Stanford (3rd most Stanford allowed in a single game all season long). What Notre Dame needs to do is establish the run early and use it to wear down Alabama's defense as Notre Dame has ran for 200+ yards in 7 games this season with 5 of those being in the last 6 games this season.

Edge: Even

Alabama RB's: Alabama comes in with the 19th ranked rushing offense that averages 224.6 yards a game, has 2 running backs with 1000+ rushing yards and has 35 rushing touchdowns this season. Eddie Lacy leads the team with 1,182 rushing yards on 184 carries for a 6.4 yard average and 16 touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon has 1000 rushing yards on 154 carries for a 6.5 yard average and has 11 touchdowns. The drop off is big after that with Kenyan Drake having 274 rushing yards on 39 carries with a 7.0 average and 5 touchdowns. Regardless, Alabama's running game is extremely important for the team with 2 running backs having 1000+ yards this season and combine for 27 rushing touchdowns (out of 35 total for the ground game).

Alabama RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Alabama will go up against the best run defense they have seen all season long in Notre Dame. The Irish are ranked 4th in college football by allowing 92.4 yards a game and just 2 rushing touchdowns all season long as the 2 rushing touchdowns are the fewest allowed by any team this season. Notre Dame has allowed only 4 opponents to run for 100 or more yards this season with no team rushing for more than 161 yards (Michigan) all season long. Notre Dame has done a great job in shutting down running games this season behind a very impressive front seven. However they do face a team that has ran for 100+ yards in every game this season with the fewest being 103 (vs. Western Kentucky) and Alabama has 8 games with 200+ yards on the ground and 3 with 300+ on the ground.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: Notre Dame gets a big boost in the return of Davaris Daniels. Daniels played in the first 10 games before being injured against Boston College, he has 25 receptions for 375 yards this season and is important in deep passes. Tyler Eifert is having a great season and the winner of the 2012 Mackey Award to the best tight end in the nation. He also has quite a few school records when it comes to tight ends. On the season he has 44 catches for 624 yards and 4 touchdowns. TJ Jones is having his strongest season yet as a Notre Dame player with 43 receptions for 559 yards and 4 touchdowns. Robby Toma has been important on the shorter passes with 24 catches for 252 yards, while John Goodman has been used more later in the season with 7 catches for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Niklas has 5 catches for 75 yards and 1 touchdown, while Daniel Smith has 7 receptions for 57 yards. Chris Brown should see a solid amount of time and has 2 catches for 56 yards.

Notre Dame WR's vs. Alabama DB's: The Crimson Tide have a top pass defense that has not allowed an opponent to pass for 300 or more yards this season and only 6 have passed for 200+ yards in a single game. They face a team that has arguably the best tight end in the nation and one that attracts a considerable amount of coverage. If Golson continues to spread the ball around to other receivers, it will help considerably and open things up on the ground as well. Look for Davaris Daniels to have an impact with him back in the lineup and for TJ Jones to have a good game.

Edge: Even

Alabama WR's and TE's: Freshman Amari Cooper leads the team with 895 receiving yards on 53 receptions and has 9 touchdowns. Kevin Norwood has 26 receptions for 395 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Christion Jones has 25 catches for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns. Michael Williams has 21 catches for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns and Kenny Bell has 17 receptions for 431 yards and 3 touchdowns. DeAndrew White has 8 receptions for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Alabama WR's vs. Notre Dame DB's: The big matchup here will be Amari Cooper against Bennett Jackson. Jackson has been having a really good season in his first season starting at cornerback. Cooper having more than double the receiving yards and touchdowns will absolutely vital to shut down. Ever if Cooper is shut down, the other receivers will need to be accounted for as well. Notre Dame has done a great job in shutting down top receivers before (such USC's Marqise Lee and Robert Woods) this season, so this won't be unfamiliar territory for the young group of defensive backs that the Irish have.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame OL: The offensive line has done a great job as of late in the run and pass block areas. The line is helping the running game average 5 yards a carry, 202.5 yards a game, and 22 rushing touchdowns. They have allowed 16 sacks and 52 tackles for loss, and 42 quarterback hurries. The unit is particularly strong on the left side with juniors Zach Martin and Chris Watt, along with senior Braxston Cave at center.

Notre Dame OL vs. Alabama DL: Alabama has done a terrific job at getting into opposing backfields with 81 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, and 44 quarterback hurries this season. While not a single player has double-digit sack numbers, there are 14 players with at least a sack. Keeping Golson protected and opening things up for the running game will be needed to keep the offense going and help prevent Notre Dame's defense from wearing out.

Edge: Even

Alabama OL: Alabama has one of the very best offensive lines in college football that has a very experienced group overall. However, Rimington award-winning center Barrett Jones's status is in doubt for the game due to an injury and has yet to practice since the injury in the SEC Championship game. If the team captain is unable to play, then redshirt freshman Ryan Kelly will be the one to come in and start. The other four lineman have all started every single game this season. The unit has allowed 60 tackles for loss, 23 sacks, and 18 quarterback hurries this season. Run blocking has been very excellent as well since the average per rush is 5.6 yards along with 224.6 rushing yards a game and 35 rushing touchdowns.

Alabama OL vs. Notre Dame DL: Alabama faces a really strong defense in Notre Dame that is a rather deep unit. Notre Dame's defense has had no problems getting into opposing backfields with 67 tackles for loss. Quarterback pressure is also top notch as well with 45 quarterback hurries and 34 sacks as well with Stephon Tuitt having 12 sacks to lead the way. If Barrett Jones is for sure out for the Crimson Tide, then the line will have a significant challenge in nose tackle Louis Nix III that really helps anchor the defensive line and is a massive presence at 6'3'' and 340 pounds. Regardless, this is going to be one of the biggest matchups in the entire game here in the trenches. If Notre Dame's defense continues to dominate as they have all season, it can shut down the running game and force Alabama to rely more on their passing game.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DL: The defensive line has been one of Notre Dame's biggest strengths all season long. Stephon Tuitt is having a sensational season with 42 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 9 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 blocked kick. Tuitt hasn't been the only defensive lineman who has been dominant this season as Louis Nix III has 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Kapron Lewis-Moore is having a great final season with 39 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 9 quarterback hurries, and 2 forced fumbles. Other lineman have seen time with Sheldon Day having 20 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry. Tony Springmann has 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 3 quarterback hurries while Kona Schwenke has 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 0.5 sacks.

Notre Dame DL vs. Alabama OL: This is will be one of the most exciting matchups to watch in the National Championship game, even if center Barrett Jones might be out for Alabama with an injury. All three of Notre Dame's starters up front have been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and have little difficulty in getting into the backfield as well. If the Irish are able to consistently get pressure up front and stuff the run, then it will be beneficial. With the ability to rotate in other players, this prevents the starters from wearing out, but whoever wins this matchup will have arguably the largest impact on this game.

Edge: Even

Alabama DL: The defensive line of Alabama features an experienced unit thats leader in tackles is Jesse Williams who has 36 tackles along with 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries, and a blocked kick. Damion Square has 33 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 9 quarterback hurries, and 1 fumble recovery. Ed Stinson has 29 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 5 quarterback hurries while Brandon Ivory has 21 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 fumble recovery. Jeoffrey Pagan has 22 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups while Quinton Dial has 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 4 quarterback hurries.

Alabama DL vs. Notre Dame OL: Once again, this is another important matchup in the trenches and will have an important impact on what happens with this game. Notre Dame's left side of the line is the biggest strength and will need to keep Golson protected and also consistently open holes for the running game to get through to help make progress and put points up on the board. This is a very even matchup and is one of the most important.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame LB's: The linebacker unit of Notre Dame is led by what is likely the best player in college football in Manti Te'o. Te'o has won numerous awards and is the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. On the season Te'o has 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries. Dan Fox has 57 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries while Prince Shembo has been important to the defense with 48 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 12 quarterback hurries, and 1 fumble recovery. Carlo Calabrese has 46 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble and Danny Spond has 38 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 3 pass breakups. Ishaq Williams has 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Others that will see playing time include Jarrett Grace, Kendall Moore, and Ben Councell.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Alabama: While Alabama has a pair of running backs with 1000+ rushing yards, Notre Dame has done a great job against the run and shutting down running games. This may not seem any different from what they have done all season against the run. Manti Te'o has been having a strong season and is always a threat to have an interception with the 7 he has this season. Look for Notre Dame to stuff the run often and give support to the defensive line that helps give Notre Dame a very excellent front seven.

Edge: Notre Dame

Alabama LB's: C.J. Mosley leads the Crimson Tide by an overwhelming amount in tackles with 99, he also has 7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble. Trey Depriest has 56 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Nico Johnson has 54 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry, and 2 forced fumbles while Adrian Hubbard has 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 4 quarterback hurries, and 3 forced fumbles. Xzavier Dickson has 33 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 4 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble.

Alabama LB's vs. Notre Dame: Notre Dame's Theo Riddick will present a challenge for Alabama's defense with his ability to run the ball and catch the ball. Riddick is able to line up in other areas and the Irish have other backs in addition to Riddick. Tight end Tyler Eifert will also be a matchup nightmare as well for the Crimson Tide, and should present more interesting matchups.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DB's: The Irish secondary has significantly exceeded expectations this season with the fact that it was the youngest and most inexperienced unit going into the season, three season-ending injuries to Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood, and Jamoris Slaughter later and Notre Dame has done a terrific job shutting down the pass despite what has happened. Zeke Motta has 61 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups and 1 fumble recovery while Bennett Jackson has 61 tackles as well, 1.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. KeiVarae Russell has had a very good season as a true freshman and has 50 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, and 1 quarterback hurry. Matthias Farley stepped in for Jamoris Slaughter and has done well with 43 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. Others have seen playing time in Elijah Shumate with 8 tackles and 3 pass breakups along with Nicky Baratti with 8 tackles and 1 interception.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Alabama WR's: Bennett Jackson will more than likely be the one lining up against Alabama's Amari Cooper. The other receivers must be accounted for, but the main target to watch out for is Amari Cooper. KeiVarae Russell and Matthias Farley will also be quite important for the Irish secondary as well. While Alabama runs the ball quite often, accounting for the passing game is just as important when a highly efficient quarterback is involved.

Edge: Even

Alabama DB's: Vinne Sunseri leads the Crimson Tide's defensive backs in tackles with 52 and has 6 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries. Dee Milliner has 51 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 18 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble, and 1 blocked kick. Robert Lester has 42 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. Nick Perry has 37 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery and Deion Belue has 36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has 30 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble while John Fulton has 15 tackles and 5 pass breakups.

Alabama DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: Tyler Eifert is going to be a huge matchup nightmare for Alabama. The tight end can line up in many places and has massive size to catch the ball, and is important in the endzone as well. Davaris Daniels being back for the Irish gives them another deep threat. Alabama has been good defending the pass with an impressive 71 pass breakups by the defense. TJ Jones, Chris Brown, Robby Toma, and John Goodman will all be targeted by Golson and should provide an interesting matchup with Golson continuing to get better and better.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza has made 23 of 31 field goals this season with a long of 52. While he has had some consistency issues, he has only missed 3 field goals away from Notre Dame Stadium (12 of 15 away from Notre Dame Stadium), but missed 5 field goals at home (11 of 16 at Notre Dame Stadium). With the redzone issues Notre Dame has had at times, he will be counted on. Ben Turk has averaged 40.6 yards a punt on 48 punts with a long of 53, 2 touchbacks, 19 fair caught, 13 inside the 20, and 8 of 50+ yards. Kyle Brindza handles kickoff duties with a 62.5 yard average on 68 kickoffs and 25 have gone for touchbacks.

Alabama Kicking Game: Cade Foster is 4 of 9 on field goals with him being 3 of 5 when it is 50 or more yards and a long of 52. He has had one blocked though. Jeremy Shelley is 11 of 11 with a long of 28. Cody Mandell is averaging 43.8 yards a punt on 46 punts with a long of 61 with 5 touchbacks, 13 fair caught, 17 inside the 20, and 12 of 50 or more yards. Cade Foster is handling kickoffs as well with a 63.4 yard average on 92 kickoffs and 42 have gone for touchbacks.

Stronger Unit: Even
Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has returned 19 kickoffs for 394 yards and an average of 20.7 yards with a long of 39. Cam McDaniel has 7 returns for 135 yards and a 19.3 yard average and a long of 25. Punt Returns have been a non-factor with Davonte Neal returning 18 for 44 yards and a long of 11.

Alabama Return Game: Cyrus Jones has returned 10 kickoffs for 250 yards and an average of 25 yards with a long of 41. Christion Jones has 6 returns for 182 yards and a 30.3 yard average. He also has a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown as well. Christion Jones is also the primary punt returner with 20 returns for 212 yards and a long of 31.

Stronger Unit: Alabama

Everything Else: When it comes down to it, this is a very evenly matched game, both teams have top defenses and are especially excellent agains the run. Notre Dame has a very good front seven that features a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy award and has received numerous other awards. However, Manti Te'o isn't the only important player on the front seven. Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III, and Prince Shembo all have had really great seasons and while the secondary is young, they have held a great majority of their opponents to below 200 yards passing this season. If Notre Dame shuts down the running game of the Crimson Tide, they will need to really focus on Amari Cooper and the other receivers. Interceptions will be rare since AJ McCarron has thrown very few this season. Golson will need to spread the ball around and know when to dump it off to Tyler Eifert and Theo Riddick. Both present matchup nightmares due to how versatile they are on offense. The game will really come down to it in the trenches, if Notre Dame is able to consistently open holes in the running game, and the defensive line pressures an Alabama offensive line that might be without it's best player will be important for the Irish. Its a very even matchup in nearly every area and Notre Dame will need to be able to move the ball against the Alabama defense to prevent the Irish defense from wearing out and need to be able to put it in the endzone.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Alabama 16

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