Notre Dame was provided a great display from Georgia on how to attack the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.
In the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia totaled 394 yards and 281 came via the aerial assault. The Bulldogs may have lost 32-28 against the defending BCS champs; however, Georgia nearly upset 'Bama after getting into scoring position with no timeouts before failing to reach the end zone.
The Dawgs played physical all game long, and it's something we've also seen from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throughout 2012. As a result, expect to see an expansion of Notre Dame's play-calling on both sides to eerily mimic that of Georgia.
In short, it is now the Irish's chance to finish something no one has done during the SEC's reign.
Give Everett Golson the Green Light
One thing that kept the Bulldogs alive throughout was Aaron Murray's strong arm. Despite being somewhat undersized, Murray possesses the mechanics, strength and accuracy to fire a dart between tight coverage.
That aspect was most exposed during Georgia's final drive with no timeouts, because moving the ball so quickly against Alabama allows Everett Golson to realize he's capable of similar production. After all, we've seen Golson's ability to launch the rock this season despite being a bit undersized as well.
His deep ball to Chris Brown against the Oklahoma Sooners epitomizes Golson's passing threat in a nutshell. His decision-making has improved week to week, and he has only thrown two picks in the previous seven games (missed BYU).
And if there's any sort of weakness displayed on Alabama's defense, it's defending the pass. Johnny Manziel torched the Tide for 253 and Murray got 265. Notre Dame's receivers are better than given credit, so as long as Golson utilizes his entire arsenal, the Irish will keep 'Bama honest.
Notre Dame's Dynamic Ground Game
Put Georgia's rushing attack in perspective: Todd Gurley.
Against arguably the best defense in college football, Gurley rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries and scored twice. Averaging 5.3 per attempt, Gurley's ability to break tackles, stay downhill, quickly cut through a lane and push a pile was quite impressive.
Still, that's only one running back doing some serious work in the trenches for Georgia.
Notre Dame, on the contrary, presents a three-headed monster in Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson. All three combine for 1,981 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Even better for Notre Dame is all three equal to average 6.2 yards per rush.
That impact alone will allow Notre Dame to control the tempo and set up the play-action pass. Factor in Golson's 305 yards and five rushing scores and the Irish can create various front seven mismatches at the point of attack.
Gurley is a stud one-man wrecking crew that exploited Alabama up front. Notre Dame is similar, but with more options to slam between and off the tackles.
Front Seven Controlling the Line
The SEC title game was a low-scoring affair in the first half because of Georgia's ability to get quarterback pressure. That alone is imperative for Notre Dame, as the Irish aren't as impressive as the Dawgs when it comes to accumulating sacks.
On the bright side, Notre Dame has definitely improved in applying quarterback pressure through each week. One area where the Irish have remained extensively dominant, though, is against the run.
That unfortunately was Georgia's weakness this season and evidence revealed 350 rushing yards for the Tide on Saturday. Notre Dame, however, ranks No. 5 in rushing defense and has allowed a mere 10.3 points per contest this season.
Manti Te'o's instincts to stuff the run and shell the intermediate level will also be key. Having recorded seven picks on the year, isolating any underneath routes will minimize A.J. McCarron's passing options.
Provided the Irish fill running lanes and blitz outside, forcing 'Bama into a pass-oriented approach will steer the Tide from trying to slam the trenches. The game will be won at the scrimmage line, because it's where each team has won throughout 2012.
Notre Dame simply faces its toughest challenge yet in Alabama.
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