"Notre Dame is the toughest front seven Alabama will face all year long."
That was just one of the numerous pregame compliments paid to the Fighting Irish defense prior to Monday night's BCS National Championship Game against the Crimson Tide. The Irish came in giving up just 92.42 yards per game on the ground—the fourth-best mark in the country.
Apparently that front seven opted for South Beach instead of Sun Life Stadium, because the one that was on the field got torched by Alabama's punishing running game of junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon in Alabama's 42-14 win.
Lacy led the way with 20 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown. He also caught two passes for 17 yards and another score. Yeldon added 108 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.
Think about that for a second. Lacy and Yeldon both ran for more yards than Notre Dame's rush defense gives up per game.
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn't get tricky. Alabama's offense operated in the same efficient manner that it did all season long, but it ran the ball and used play action.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns, but make no mistake: Had it not been for Lacy and Yeldon, he wouldn't have enjoyed that kind of success.
It was reported earlier this month that Lacy was considering opting for the NFL after the game rather than sticking around for his senior season. His performance on the game's biggest stage sent his stock soaring.
The 6'0", 220-pounder has the power to run through even the top college defenses, is light on his feet in space and has tremendous balance and vision. After earning offensive MVP honors for the BCS Championship Game, he has nothing left to prove.
Yeldon is only a freshman, and he certainly isn't ready for the NFL at this point. But you wouldn't know it based on his performance against the Irish, which featured three rushes of 10 or more yards and one devastating run through Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier suggested that Alabama could beat some NFL teams. That's outlandish and certainly not realistic. But Lacy and Yeldon certainly looked like NFL-caliber backs on Monday night.
Running behind the best offensive line in college football certainly helps, and that makes the two primary Bama backs even more dangerous. The Crimson Tide couldn't beat an NFL team, but their running game executes pretty darn close to that level.
Alabama's offense isn't the prettiest offense in this day and age of spread offenses, but it produces at the highest level possible. When Mark Ingram left, Trent Richardson took over. When he departed, Lacy took control. If he goes on to play on Sundays next season, it will be Yeldon's show.
It's a vicious cycle. Well, vicious for opposing defenses.
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