On January 7th, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have the potential to dethrone the Southeastern Conference as the powerhouse of the BCS National Championship. The SEC has won the past six National Championships, two of which were won by Alabama, Notre Dame’s upcoming opponent. The only thing that stands in Notre Dame’s way from yet another national championship is Nick Saban’s sensational defense, similar to the one who took home the title in 2012. The two teams set to play are both steeped in history, but many college football fans are questioning whether or not the Fighting Irish deserve to battle Goliath for a National Championship. History has proven that the underdogs are capable of defeating the favorites, even on the world’s biggest stage (see Boise State, 2007 Fiesta Bowl), which is why the 2013 National Championship is worth watching.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The 2011 season is still fresh in the minds of Notre Dame fans across the nation, where the Fighting Irish finished the year at 8-5, lost to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, and showed little promise for the upcoming season in August. After the fourth week of football, however, Notre Dame upset Michigan State on the road, and then trounced 18th ranked Michigan in South Bend. A dominant win over Miami led to the highlight of Notre Dame’s season; an overtime win over rival Stanford, thanks to an unbelievably defiant goal line stand. 8th ranked Oklahoma could not stop the rolling Irish, who fell, at home, 30-13. After a triple overtime scare against Pitt, and two easy wins back to back, the final game on the schedule was against USC, a struggling team missing their star quarterback, Matt Barkley. Notre Dame kept the perfect season alive, and much of their surprising turnaround can be credited to their senior phenomenon, Mant Te’o. Te’o, the middle linebacker for Notre Dame, is destined to be one of the Heisman finalists in New York. This exceptional defender has proven to be an effective motivator, especially after what he was forced to endure. The death of his grandmother and girlfriend before the season began fueled the fire within him, and his stat line makes an amazing case for the Heisman Trophy over freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Though Notre Dame’s offense is nothing extraordinary, quarterback Everett Golson is capable of scoring when the game is on the line. The difference maker for Notre Dame will be their sensational defense (ranked first in the nation in terms of points allowed), and whether or not they can shut down Alabama’s respectable offense.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Alabama’s season started off as projected--dominant wins over each and every opponent. An easy win over Michigan in their first game of the season led to a hot streak that carried them through the first nine weeks of football. Mississippi State, ranked 11th at the time of their meeting, was unsuccessful in jumping out to an early lead, and Alabama went on to win the game with ease. The next game on the schedule was a modern day rivalry between Alabama and fellow SEC powerhouse LSU. Alabama’s 14-3 lead at halftime was not enough to hold off the Tigers of Louisiana, and before long, Alabama found themselves down, desperate to claw their way out. Quarterback AJ McCarron marched Alabama down the field, and eventually connected with running back TJ Yeldon for the game winning score. The following week, Alabama was caught in a similar situation, except this time, a 20 point deficit was too much to overcome, as Johnny Manziel toppled the number one team, after a Texas A&M interception sealed a victory for Manziel’s squad. Back-to-back shutouts against unranked teams were not enough for Alabama to regain their number one spot in the rankings, at one point held by Kansas State, and then eventually Notre Dame. Finally, in one of the best college football games played in the 2012 season, Alabama beat Georgia for their second consecutive SEC title. In a game that came down to the last second on the clock, Alabama’s rushing attack proved too much for the Georgia defense, and the Crimson Tide held off Georgia for a final tally of 32 points to Georgia’s 28 points. Similar to Notre Dame, Alabama’s defense has proven to be stellar once again, ranking second behind, who else, but the Fighting Irish. The passing game under AJ McCarron has been less than stellar, but Sunday’s SEC showdown proved to football fans that Alabama’s running back tandem is capable of making big plays at the right moment. Both running backs, Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon, rushed for at least 150 yards and a score, but don’t expect the same numbers against Notre Dame’s defense.
Bottom Line: Notre Dame has been underestimated throughout the duration of the season, and they finally have the chance to prove themselves when they take on the heavily favored Crimson Tide. In yet another low scoring National Championship, Notre Dame challenges Nick Saban’s defense early on in the game, but the defending champs prove to be too much by the fourth quarter.
Alabama over Notre Dame 16-10