Can The Fighting Irish capture its first national championship since 1988?

The time has come. The long wait through inconsequential bowl games is finally over. It’s for real now and for all the marbles.  Even the Mayans never could have predict a preseason-unranked football team coming of a lackluster 201 campaign led by a green Sophomore to boot would finish 2012 with a perfect season and stand on the precipice of a national championship. Notre Dame (12-0) gets to cement its place in College Football history on January 7th in the Discover BCS National Championship Game against SEC champs the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) to be played in Miami Gardens, Florida at Sun Life Stadium. The action starts at 8:30 pm and will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish trounced their west coast rivals USC 22-12 to finish their 12-0 season and RB Theo Riddick finished the game with 146 yards rushing and one touchdown. Alabama prevailed over the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game 32-28 back on December 1st.  Junior RB Eddie Lacy rushed for two touchdowns on 181 yards rushing that day for the Crimson Tide.
Since 1973 Notre Dame and Alabama have met six times. Notre Dame leads the series 5-1. In their last meeting in 1987, he Crimson Tidet fell to the Fighting Irish under Lou Holz in his second season 37-6 in South Bend. The best game In the schools’ rivalry was billed the as “The Game of The Century” that saw the third-ranked  Fighting Irish battle the top-ranked Crimson Tide in the 1976 Sugar Bowl. Alabama lost 24-23 on a crucial missed extra point. In spite of the victory, Notre Dame shared the national championship that year with Alabama as the AP and UPI polls ranked each school number one respectively.

This time around there will be no ties. The winner takes it all.

Here is a preview of the two top teams in the country:

Notre Dame Offense:
The squad, motored by its QB Everett Golson, ranks 76th in the nation in scoring averaging 26.8 points per game.

Golson (2135 Passing YDs, 11 TDs, 59% completion percentage) has turned into a steady and reliablepocket passer over the course of the year, making great reads and decisions in leading his team to a perfect season.

His mobility and elusiveness (305 Rushing YDs, 5 TDs) will actually be encouraged on January 7th against an Alabama team that has suffered a rack of recent losses to dual-threat QBs including Heisman-winners Johnny Manzeil, Tim Tebow, and Cam Newton. Each had averaged 250 yards passing, 2 TDs, and 36 rushing yards in victory over Alabama. These stats are not out of the Irish QB’s reach.

The Offense is motored by its Running Back triumvirate of Cierre Woods (740 yds, 4 TDs), Theo Riddick (880 YDs, 5 TDs) and George Atkinson III (361 yds, 5 TDs) . For the second straight season the Fighting Irish have rushed for over 2,000 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.

All-American Tyler Eifert, the team’s leading receiver with 624 yards and 4 TDs will look to have a game for the ages in his final year on the team.

Notre Dame Defense:
The vaunted Fighting Irish scoring defense is ranked first in the nation, just above number two Alabama, in giving up 10.3 points per game. A key to this dominance is the ability of the Fighting Irish to keep opponents’ big plays at bay. The unit has allowed only 29 plays of 20 yards or more along with 9 plays of 30 yards or more from scrimmage.

The Notre Dame Defensive line is arguably the best in the nation. It is anchored by Senior Tackle Kapron Lewis Moore (6.0 sacks, 8.5 TFL (Tackles for a Loss), 3 QB hurries, and a forced fumble), Nose Tackle Louis Nix whose tremendous impact is felt beyond his stats (2.o sacks, 5.5 TFL, 3y QBs hurries, and a forced fumble) and the monster DE Stephon Tuitt, considered the best Sophomore at his position in the country (12.0 sacks, 13 TFL, 9 QB hurries, and 3 forced fumbles).

The feared Blue and Gold linebacking corps is led by the highly decorated, All-American, Sports Illustrated icon LB Manti T’eo who is undeniably the best player in the country at his position and the best defensive player period. His stats speak for themselves: 103 tackles, 7 interceptions (tied for 2nd in the nation), 5.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks.  The Notre Dame captain is superhuman in his ability to play every down and to be as effective in stuffing the run as in dropping back in pass protection. Alabama will need to run through or  around this havoc-creating,  Hawaiian Heavyweight to the National Championship. T’eo’s squad in the backfield is bolstered by the solid play of  underrated LB Dan Fox (57 tackles), OLB Prince Shembo (7.5 sacks, 48 tackles, and 12 QB hurries), and the youngest featured LB for the Fighting Irish Ishaq Williams (3.5 sacks, 21 tackles.)

Alabama Offense:
The Crimson Tide ranks 14th in the nation in scoring averaging 38.5 points per game. QB A. J. McCarron’s play (2,669 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 67%  completion percentage) was instrumental to Alabama’s 12-1 season and yet another shot at a national championship.

Like their BCS Bowl opponents from South Bend, Alabama has a fearsome rushing attack of it’s own. RBs Eddie Lacy (1182 yds, 16 TDs) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yds, 11 TDs) have averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Lacy and Yeldon are only as proficient its offensive line. And the Crimson Tide’s is considered to be the best in nation behind the smart, athletic, and  versatile play of Center Barret Jones who will have his hands full versus Notre Dame’s sublime noseguard Louis Nix in a key match-up.

The Crimson Tide receiving corps may be hindered by the possible absence of WR Kenny Bell (broken leg) but WR Amari Cooper (894 yds, 9 TDs) will test the Irish defensive backs and look to break a big play.
Alabama Defense:
Ranked 1st in the nation in total defense (246 yards per game) and 2nd in scoring defense allowing only10.7 points per contest, The Crimson Tide will mercilessly raise havoc as they have done all year testing the youth and patience of Fighting Irish QB Golson in the pocket.

Alabama’s rushing defense has been kryptonite to rushers all season letting up a scant 2.5 yards per carry. The school has held it’s last 23 BCS opponents under 200 yards rushing and 17 of those teams were stymied and held to less than 100 total yards. That could spell trouble for the Fighting Irish rushing attack.

This run-stuffing prowess is thanks to a very capable and solid Crimson Tide stable of standout linebackers including the elite and versatile junior C.J. Mosley (99 tackles), OLB Adrian Hubbard (6.o sacks, 10 TFL), and Trey Priest (50 tackles).

My Prediction: Notre Dame 20  Alabama 17

Notre Dame's Manti Teo & Alabama's Dee MilinerSports Illustrated