Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Alabama Beats Notre Dame

This one is no-brainer.

Alabama wins tonight in the national championship battle against Notre Dame in Miami. If you're betting, smart money is on the Irish, who are underdogs by between 9.5 and 11. Bama should win, but not by much, most likely in a low-scoring game.

These are both defensive giants, two of the best in college football. Bama's stats are slightly better--No. 1 overall on defense, first against the run and second in points allowed (10.7 per game). Notre Dame is a notch behind, 6th overall, but tops in points allowed (10.3 per game). 

The heart of this Notre Dame team is its front seven, headed by linebacker Manti Te'o, who just missed winning the Heisman Trophy. Only Stanford, with its monster linebacker corps, matches the Irish front seven, which is also the beefiest in college ball. Neither offense dazzles, with Notre Dame's at No.49 and Bama's at No.39. Against these two brick-wall defenses, neither so-so offense will shine. So expect a score in the high teens or mid-20s. Only an attack of jitters, leading to lots of turnovers, could turn this into a high-scoring affair.

The best players in this game are all on defense, and they will dominate. Incidentally, the matchup to watch is the Notre Dame front seven vs. the Bama offensive line, easily the best in the nation, stocked with future NFL players. Focus on the line play, not the work of the skill players, who, in this game, aren't that skilled.

Bama is clearly the better team, having navigated a tough SEC schedule, losing only once, to rugged Texas A&M, which is headed by Heisman-Trophy winning QB, Johnny Manziel, who played brilliantly. Undefeated Notre Dame survived a less impressive schedule, usually winning modestly and twice, against Pitt and Stanford, winning miraculously. Expecting a very good Notre Dame that's lucky to be undefeated to topple a veteran national championship team is expecting too much. Oregon or Stanford or Texas A&M would be a better matchup against Bama. All could probably whip Notre Dame handily.

What has many Bama fans on edge, though, is that some of the SEC cream has turned sour in the bowl season. Who would have thought that heavy favorites Florida and LSU would lose to lesser teams? If those Goliaths could falter, why not Bama?

The answer to that one is simple. Bama is coached by Nick Saban, a dictatorial control freak who simply won't allow his team to lose a national championship game to a lesser team. A loss to Notre Dame in this game, to Saban, just isn't possible. And that's how his players will play.