BCS Championship 2013: Notre Dame Must Win Turnover Battle to Prevail over Tide

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 20:  Manti T'eo #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish intercepts a pass intended for Kaneakua Friel #82 of 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

Turnovers will decide the BCS National Championship between Notre Dame and Alabama.

It's doubtful that the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide will turn this game into a track meet. The teams are first and second in points allowed, respectively. Notre Dame has the slight edge by 0.4.

The Fighting Irish are going to be the heavy underdog tonight. Regardless of what Notre Dame fans might belie, the Fighting Irish are really up against the wall. The line opened up at +8.5 and has moved to +10.

Notre Dame has relied heavily on their great defense, while the offense has performed anywhere from average to very good.

The backfield of quarterback Everett Golson, and runningbacks Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood have been the engine offensively. They've had some tough tests, but they haven't faced a rush defense as good as the Tide's, which has only given up 79.8 yards per game.

When you go down the rosters and judge the respective starting lineups, it's hard not to give Alabama the advantage.

Regardless of your opinion of the SEC, the proof is in the pudding. Sure the Florida Gators lost the Sugar Bowl, but you just have to look at the streak of SEC national champions.

For the Crimson Tide to have gotten through with only one loss is a testament to their quality.

Playing a near perfect game offensively might not be enough for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish need to force the Alabama offense into turning the ball over.

Almost every key upset is sparked by turnovers. They are the ultimate leveler when it comes to knocking off the favorites.

Conversely, if Golson throws an interception or two, or Woods and/or Riddick cough up the football, they're dooming themselves to the inevitable.

Speaking of that lone Crimson Tide loss, it was---of course---the game that Johnny Manziel became a Heisman favorite, and his performance undoubtedly was a deciding factor in the outcome.

However, it was the turnovers that cost Alabama the game.

The ever-reliable quarterback A.J. McCarron threw two interceptions, and runningback T.J. Yeldon fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter.

Manziel drove the Texas A&M Aggies down a short field, hitting wide receiver Malcome Kennedy with what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.

The 2012 BCS title game is very reminiscent of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Miami Hurricanes.

Much like Alabama, Miami was the heavy favorite, loaded with potential NFL draft picks. Much like the Fighting Irish, the Buckeyes had ridden their luck all season while relying on the running game and timely passing.

The Fiesta Bowl was an ugly affair. Ohio State won, 31-24 in double-overtime, despite being out-gained by over 100 yards. The biggest keys were the five turnovers surrendered by the Hurricanes, including the interception on the goal line that ended the game.

That performance by the Buckeyes should be the blueprint for head Brian Kelly. A steady running game and timely turnovers were enough for Ohio State, and they would prove the same for Notre Dame.

Without winning the turnover battle, though, the Fighting Irish are dead in the water.