Monday, January 7, 2013

Cram Session (Bowl Edition) - 2013 BCS Championship

BCS National Championship Game

#1 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. #2 Alabama (12-1) in Miami, Florida

Kickoff is just hours away for the most anticipated Notre Dame game I have ever seen. Being an Irish fan for 20 years now, unfortunately big games have been far and few between. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that this 12-0 dream season has really occurred. As has been the case all season long, the Irish come into this game with plenty of doubters. People still somehow think a 12-0 season against top tier competition is a fluke. They believe that Notre Dame will cower at the site of big, bad Alabama tonight and the Tide will cruise to their third national championship in four seasons. I'm definitely biased but I have a feeling this will be  the tense, exciting game that college football fans have been clamoring for this bowl season.

Notre Dame would not be in this position without their defense. They finished first in the country, allowing just 10.3 points per game. Their most celebrate player is Heisman runner-up, senior LB Manti Te'o. Haters can call it hype all they want, Te'o had an outstanding season. He finished with 103 tackles and an insane 7 interceptions. The Irish have plenty of other outstanding players on the defensive side of the ball. Joining Te'o at linebacker is Prince Shembo, who had 7 1/2 sacks this season. The Irish defensive front is dominant, a unit that brings the pressure and stops the run as well. Guys like Stephon Tuitt, Lance Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore all had outstanding seasons. Offensively, the Irish have been up and down mostly based on what kind of play they receive from Everett Golson. Golson wasn't asked to do much, but came up big when needed in games at Oklahoma and at home against Pittsburgh. He was helped by a tremendous ground game, led by Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. George Atkinson III is also capable of breaking off a big play. Golson's favorite receiving targets were senior TE Tyler Eifert and WR TJ Jones, with each finishing with 4 receiving touchdowns.

Alabama is built much the same way, a team with a dominant defense and an opportunistic offense. The Bama defense finished second in the country in points allowed per game at just 10.7. It was even more impressive because of the amount of talent they lost from their defense to the NFL last season. This year's top defensive players are LB C.J. Mosley and CB Dee Milliner. The Tide secondary has been seen as the defense's weakness this year, but what remains to be seen is whether Golson can make plays through the air to take advantage of that perceived weakness. The Crimson Tide certainly aren't slouches on offense, where they finished 13th in the nation in points per game. AJ McCarron is no stranger to the big stage and had an outstanding junior season, throwing 26 TDs and just 3 INTs. The Irish secondary will have their hands full with freshman receiver and native of Miami, Amari Cooper. Cooper led Bama with 53 catches and 9 TDs. But where Bama does most of their damage is on the ground. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon each finished with over 1,000 yards rushing, while Lacy had 16 TDs and Yeldon had 11.

If people could see past their hatred for both of these teams they would notice that this should be a hell of a national championship game. Two great defenses facing each other, and both offenses hoping that they can dictate the pace. Bama has amazing running backs but will they find holes against the Irish massive defensive front? Can the Notre Dame offense, inconsistent all season, muster up enough points against the best defensive unit they will have seen all season? How will Everett Golson handle the pressure of this huge game? Will AJ McCarron continue to play mistake free football, or be the flustered player fans saw in the Tide's lone loss to Texas A&M. This game should be down and dirty and I believe will go down to the final minutes. If you aren't a fan of either team you can enjoy watching some great football, but if you are a fan of one of the teams as I am, this will be a nail biting affair the entire way. I haven't picked against the Irish all season, and I won't be starting now. I like the Irish to pull off the upset, making enough plays on offense, while dominating with their defense as they have all season long. Brian Kelly will return Notre Dame to national championship glory, joining Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz as fellow Irish coaches to win a national title in their third season. In storybook fashion, Manti Te'o will end his career as the MVP of the game, putting in one final fantastic effort for the Irish.

Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Alabama 17

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