The No. 1-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish have one last test they must pass in order to prove they are the best team in college football in 2012. Unfortunately, their final exam against No. 2 Alabama is their toughest to date and will feature a handful of X-factors set to doom them.
Notre Dame hasn't finished undefeated or won the national championship since 1988 while Alabama won it all just last season.
Let's take a look at the X-factors set to challenge the Fighting Irish in the upcoming BCS National Championship Game.
By kickoff time on Jan. 7, it will have been less than a year since Alabama played LSU on the mighty stage that is the BCS National Championship Game. And while the Crimson Tide has plenty of experience playing on college football's grandest stage, Notre Dame has none.
The Fighting Irish's players have zero national championship experience, and their coach, Brian Kelly, has never led an FBS championship unit (though he did lead Grand Valley State to a pair of NCAA Division II titles). Meanwhile, Nick Saban has led three title-winning teams in the last 10 years.
If the bright lights are going to blind any one or any team this January, it will be Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Pressure to Stay Perfect
Notre Dame is the last undefeated team set to play a bowl game this winter, and that means it is the only team facing the immense pressure that comes with boasting an unblemished record.
At 12-0, the Irish's superb year can come to a screeching halt with one slip up against Alabama.
For the Crimson Tide, just like last season, an undefeated season is out of the question and therefore pressure is at a minimum. Just weeks ago it looked as if Alabama would be watching the BCS National Championship Game from their couches, so Jan. 7's title showdown is just another opportunity to add to history, not make it like in Notre Dame's case.
Alabama's Ground Attack
Just as college football fans saw in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama's dynamic running back duo of Eddie Lacy (1,182 yards, 16 touchdowns) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yards, 11 touchdowns) can change the course of a game when they run with purpose.
The Crimson Tide only ranks 20th in the nation in rush offense, averaging nearly 225 yards per game on the ground, but they are capable of rushing for 350 yards and three scores like they did against Georgia in Atlanta. The two have combined to average 6.5 yards per carry this season.
It's safe to say that both Lacy and Yeldon will challenge Notre Dame's fourth-ranked rush defense.
But with the Irish lacking a serious offensive attack, the duo could potentially team up for a championship-winning effort on Jan. 7, completing Alabama's mission to repeat and wiping out everything Notre Dame has worked for this year.
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