The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have finished their 2012 season undefeated and punched their ticket to Miami for the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
If Alabama can win the SEC title game, the Tide will be joining the Irish down in South Beach.
Should these two teams match up, it will be one of the best title games in recent history and an absolute thrill to watch. Let’s take a look at some key players in this projected championship showdown.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Whenever a full-time defensive player is a serious Heisman candidate, he’s obviously going to be the top player to watch.
Te’o captains one of the toughest defenses in the nation—one that's giving up just 10.3 points per game and is easily the strongest point of the only undefeated FBS team in the country.
Against the rival USC Trojans, Te’o collected another interception (bringing his total to seven on the season) and helped out on another five tackles to add to his nearly 100 total prior to the game.
While he may not be the flashiest player, he’s the most effective, and he is going to give Nick Saban fits to game-plan against when his Crimson Tide offense takes the field.
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
McCarron punctuated a dominant 2012 campaign with a four-touchdown, zero-interception Iron Bowl performance, helping ‘Bama beat Auburn 49-0.
For the season, the signal-caller finished with 25 touchdowns and a scant two interceptions, completing 178-of-265 pass attempts for 2,507 yards.
He’s grown a ton since quarterbacking this team to a national championship last year, and he could easily be the reason why Alabama wins back-to-back titles.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
Golson is in the same spot that McCarron was last year, and it’s quite an unenviable position against the Crimson Tide.
The freshman has completed just 166-of-282 passes for 2,135 yards and 11 touchdowns, with five interceptions in 2012. He’s going to have an extremely tough time against the vaunted ‘Bama defense, which some believe would be able to hang with an NFL team.
Of course, the Irish are likely to run the ball as much as possible, but eventually they are going to have to turn to the man under center to help break through against the brick wall they are likely going to be up against.
Can Golson answer the call? We’ll find out on January 7.