Monday, 7 January 2013

Notre Dame v Alabama Preview

Much like me writing for this preview, for Notre Dame there is no better time than the present.
In Miami tonight, the Fighting Irish take on the Crimson Tide of Alabama - the current National College champions - for all the marbles to be declared the National title winners and the best team in College Football for the year 2012.
Ever since this game was made in December leading to 40 days of anticipation and preparation, there has been much spoken of between the two teams and where the game will be won or lost.
Firstly, this game will not be a high-scoring classic akin to the game between Vince Young's Texas and Reggie Bush's USC when there was 70 plus points, you will probably have a lower scoring game like last year's 21-0 match between Alabama and the LSU Tigers.  Both teams will also score that is certain.
Throughout the season, you have two teams that have committed the fewest turnovers but also teams have converted those turnovers into points and wins.  Notre Dame with the ever-improving Everett Golson under centre have a quarterback who commits few turnovers, maintains control of the ball helped by the dual threat running backs of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Tyler Eifert who can play tight end or wide receiver is a potent threat to any defence.
Alabama have the better quarterback in AJ McCarron - a competent player who is able to make the bigger plays.  That deeper threat may lead to more takeaways, but as he showed in the road win at Baton Rouge - McCarron can handle huge national exposure and pressure.
The defences will probably have more of a say than the offences; Notre Dame has a renowned front seven led by Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o they can stop the run led by senior Eddie Lacy and the younger TJ Yeldon.
Yet watch out for the ND red zone defence which twice this season has goal-line stops to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Alabama are no slouches themselves on defence, yet the inability to create turnovers against Johnny Manziel led to their one defeat at Texas A&M; for the Tide to win they need to pressure the composed Golson.
This may come down to versatility - and like the Seattle Seahawks have shown in recent weeks - there ability to score a lot of points is down to the great field position from punt returns and kick offs.  If Golson has less field to score on, then that will put less pressure on him and allows the defence to make their statement.
Another factor to remember is that this game is being played at night, the body clock of college athletes can be manipulated to perform at the optimum peak level when required.  Notre Dame have played the majority of their games this season late starting at 8pm prime-time.  Alabama have played a lot of mid-afternoon kick offs of 3-4pm; it may not matter but the physiology of young athletes cannot be discounted.
My prediction is that this may well come down to a field goal, the score will be 20-17 to the Irish who will gain their first National Championship since 1988.
Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood 

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