Notre Dame vs. Alabama: Louis Nix III vs Barrett Jones Is the Key Matchup

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterDecember 20, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 20:  Louis Nix III #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish talks with Manti T'eo #5 before the start of play against the BYU Cougars at Notre Dame Stadium on October 20, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated BYU 17-14.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For my money, Louis Nix III versus Barrett Jones is going to be one of the most, if not the most integral battles of the BCS championship game. This is not a matchup that is for the casual fan. This is one for the folks who love big-boy football. If you love seeing two men square up and get after one another on a play-by-play basis, Nix-Jones meeting should make you drool.

Yes, Alabama fan, I know about Barrett Jones and the All-Americans and the Outland Trophies and the Rimington Award. Spare me, because the fact of the matter is, Jones is going to have his hands full taking on this type of a challenge.

You can also spare me the "he plays against Jesse Williams everyday in practice" line. For one, that makes me think you have not seen an actual football practice at a college. For two, Louis Nix III and Jesse Williams are not exactly birds of the same feather.

Certainly, they both play the same position, but to equate the two would be akin to saying Jarvis Jones and Chase Thomas or Prince Shembo are similar players. In other words, when compared to Jesse Williams, the big-time space eater for the Crimson Tide, Louis Nix III is a different type of animal altogether.

Nix is a mover. He's got active hands, active feet and he is a nose that is capable of getting penetration, playing behind the line and making things happen. Nix does not just occupy two linemen, he sheds blocks and gets active in stopping the run. Not only does he keep Manti Te'o clean, but he also tracks down ball-carriers himself.

He has good quickness about himself, and for a guy that weighs in at over 320 pounds, he moves surprisingly well, very fluid, sideline to sideline. Throw in the way he sinks his hips and maintains a low pad level, and what you have is a guy that will be one of Barrett Jones' biggest tests as a center.

Jones is a guy who knows about passing tests. He passed the starting as a redshirt freshman test. Passed the left tackle test with flying colors. This year, he moved to center, and as evidenced by the Rimington Award, he passed that test as well.

On the field this year, Jones likely saved his best regular season showing for the last time we saw him, the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Jones moved the Dawgs' Big John Jenkins around and helped the Tide put up 350 yards on the ground against Georgia.

When Alabama has the ball in the title game, running is going to be their prime directive as the game wears on. For Notre Dame, stopping the run will be job one. That all starts with Nix and Jones. Whoever wins this battle will be the guy who is setting their team up for success.

Both of these guys are really good football players. Barrett Jones has worked his way into mythical lore because of the career he has had. Louis Nix III has become a favorite of Notre Dame fans for his play and his off-the-field antics. Both guys are going to win some of their meetings in Miami; the key is to win more of the one-on-one battles as the game progresses.

In a solo matchup, Nix would be the guy I'd give the edge to. His versatility is going to allow him to make some plays behind the line and put Barrett Jones into spots where the Irish can get big plays. However, the big caveat here is that Jones will not be going it alone against Nix. He'll have Chance Womack and Anthony Steen to help out on many plays.

Folks, this is the part of football that should get you pumped up. Sure, watching the little jitterbugs on the edge juke around is cute, but this is the type of battle that gets my football motor going. Two monsters in the trenches, getting after each other on a play-in and play-out basis. This is what football is all about.