Notre Dame Football: How Irish Can Slow Crimson Tide in Title Tilt

Daine Pavloski@@dpavloskiAnalyst IIDecember 6, 2012

The Fighting Irish have their work cut out for them against the Alabama Crimson Tide in January
The Fighting Irish have their work cut out for them against the Alabama Crimson Tide in JanuaryHarry How/Getty Images

Notre Dame is undefeated, has a Heisman finalist on its defense and is first in all of college football in points allowed per game (10.3). It has beaten Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Stanford and USC (among other teams).

Yet somehow, the Fighting Irish are being looked at as underdogs in the National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Even Vegas has Notre Dame as a 10 point underdog in the National Title game. 

To defend all of the critics and analysts, Alabama is really good. They've suffered just one loss this season to Heisman finalist Johnny "Mr. Football" Manziel and Texas A&M.

The Crimson Tide have played great football all season, averaging over 30 points per game, with a great rushing game averaging over 220 yards on the ground per game, thanks largely to Eddie Lacy. 

So, how can Notre Dame possibly overcome the odds and beat Alabama on January 7?

It's easy. Do what Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU did. LSU and Georgia both fell to Alabama, but just barely. The Crimson Tide downed the Tigers 21-17 and beat the Bulldogs 32-28. Texas A&M was the only team to beat 'Bama all season, winning 29-24 over the then-No. 1 Crimson Tide. 

Let's look at the close wins for 'Bama.

Against LSU and Georgia, Alabama needed late-game heroics from A.J. McCarron to seal the victory. Against LSU, McCarron hit T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass that found the end zone with just 51 seconds left on the clock. Against Georgia, McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 left in the game. 

Even in its loss, Alabama's hopes relied on McCarron's arm.  He threw a pick late in the game and was stopped on the 2-yard line as he tried to rush for the game-winning touchdown. 

If Notre Dame wants to win, it needs to take a page out of Texas A&M's playbook and disrupt McCarron.

The Irish need to keep the game close, like all three teams did, and make a big play when the time comes. Players like Manti Te'o and Notre Dame's talented front seven need to keep McCarron uncomfortable in the pocket, causing him to force passes and try to make plays that aren't there. 

However, the most important thing that Notre Dame needs to do is stop the run.

Alabama has run all over its opponents this season, putting up over 220 yards per game. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon have slashed defenses around the nation, giving McCarron and the passing game room to work. McCarron has found Amari Cooper on numerous deep passes in big games. 

If Notre Dame's defense can play at a high level and allow around its season average of 92.4 rushing yards per game, it will have a good chance of shutting down the Alabama offense and sneaking out of Sun Life Stadium holding the crystal football. 

Offensively, Notre Dame and Alabama are pretty close.

They both average right around 430 total yards per game, around 215 yards passing per game and 200 yards rushing per game.

The big difference comes in points scored. Alabama is averaging over 38 points per game, while Notre Dame averages just under 27. 

For Notre Dame to win the BCS Championship, it will either need to bring Alabama down from its average, or increase its own scoring. 

Anything can happen, especially on a stage as large as the National Championship game. This one will come down to defense, and Manti Te'o and company are just the team to make it happen.