Here we are, at the end of the line. It has been a crazy, fun, wild and entertaining ride. In short, it has been another college football season. It all wraps up tonight in Miami when the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide meet for the national title. Alabama always expected to be here, and is looking to be the first team to win 3 titles in 4 years since Nebraska accomplished the feat in 1994, 1995 and 1997. Notre Dame is back on college football’s biggest stage, looking for their 12th national title, and first since 1988.
How They Got Here
Alabama began their title defense in emphatic fashion, and in a way that likely brought joy to many PSU fans. The 41-14 season opening blowout against Michigan was the first of 9 straight wins to start the season for the Crimson Tide, including a thrilling 21-17 come from behind victory in Baton Rouge against LSU. Alabama returned home a week later to face Texas A&M, and fell 29-24 in what would be their only loss of the season. The win over LSU gave Alabama the SEC West title, and a date with Georgia in the SEC Championship, where the Tide scored late on an A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper touchdown pass, then held on to beat the Bulldogs and return to the title game
The Irish opened the season unranked, and on the road, in Ireland, against Navy. Notre Dame won that game 50-10, and was on their way. Defense first, mistake free football would become the calling card for Brian Kelly’s team, as they rattled off close win after close win. There was the game winning field goal drive by Tommy Rees against Purdue, and the 5 turnovers forced against Michigan in a 13-6 victory. Notre Dame came from behind to beat Stanford 20-13 in OT, although the Cardinal appeared to have scored a game tying TD on 4th and goal in OT. They also needed 14 4th quarter points to force OT against unranked Pitt at home, and won in the third extra session. The 22-13 win at rival USC capped the 12-0 season, and sent Notre Dame to Miami.
Rushing Offenses vs. Defenses
Both teams rely on their running game on offense, and they will be going up against two of the top front sevens in college football. Notre Dame’s Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and even quarterback Everet Golson are going to be challenged by the Crimson Tide front, lead by Butkus finalist, linebacker C.J. Mosley. On the other side, T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy face Te’o, a likely top 5 draft pick, Louis Nix III and the rest of a very good Irish defense. All told, the Irish defense ranks 1st in the country with Alabama second, each giving up just over 10 points per game this season.
Brian Kelly vs. Nick Saban
One has been here, the other has not. Brian Kelly has done a masterful job returning Notre Dame to the elite of college football in just his third season in South Bend. Nick Saban took on a similar challenge when he arrived at Alabama in 2007, and has already cemented his legacy in Tuscaloosa alongside Bear Bryant. Kelly’s challenge will be matching wits with a coach who is appearing in his 5th national championship game.
Anyone who expects Notre Dame to get run out of the stadium is going to be very disappointed. The Irish defense is as good as advertised, and they are not exactly facing a prolific offense from Alabama. With that said, Alabama is going to be, quite easily, the most talented team that the Irish have seen this year. The physical Alabama rushing game will mimic what they saw from Stanford, but the difference will be the quarterback and receiver play that the Tide will bring to the table. It will not be a blowout, and the Irish will put a scare into Alabama, but in the end, Alabama goes back to back.
Notre Dame 16
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