Notre Dame's hopes of winning the BCS National Championship rests on the arm and legs of sophomore quarterback Everett Golson.
Looking to end a 25-year title drought, the Fighting Irish will square off against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday night.
Restoring Notre Dame's prestige against the reigning champions is a large order for a quarterback to fill in his first season as a starter, but that's the challenge presented to Golson.
Can he step up to the plate with a substantial chunk of the nation watching, or will Alabama's potent defense prove too much for Golson to manage?
The dual-threat quarterback established a groove leading up to the big matchup. In his past five outings, Golson amassed 990 passing yards, tossing seven passing touchdowns and two interceptions.
He led the Irish to a fourth-quarter comeback against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3, avoiding a devastating upset and keeping the school's title hopes alive with a triple-overtime victory.
While his passing stats from that game weren't dazzling, he accounted for 74 rushing yards, including a game-winning quarterback sneak.
Against Stanford, one of Notre Dame's few ranked opponents who also pushed the Fighting Irish into overtime, Golson completed just half of his passes for 141 yards. The defense, however, secured the victory by holding down the fort with a pivotal goal-line stand during the extra time.
But Alabama's defense is a whole different animal, better than any unit Golson has encountered during his short career.
The Crimson Tide yield 246 yards per game, the best mark in college football. Their 10.7 points allowed per contest is second only to the Fighting Irish.
While Alabama struggled to contain Johnny Manziel when he improvised out of the pocket and kept plays alive, Golson has yet to consistently demonstrate enough big-play ability through the air to poke similar holes in Alabama's secondary.
Manziel uses his elusiveness to eat up defenses with a dangerous and precise passing attack. Golson, who completed 58.9 percent of his passes and averaged 117.9 passing yards per game this season, still serves more as a scrambling game-manager.
With weeks to prepare, Nick Saban will equip his team with a plan to pressure Golson and keep him uncomfortable in and out of the pocket.
Notre Dame can still potentially snatch a victory without an inspiring performance from Golson, but it's on the defense to make this a low-scoring affair.
After making a living on carving out tightly-contested wins throughout a resurgent season, Notre Dame will need to secure another victory in ugly fashion during a bout that will be stingy with points.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!