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January 6, 2013

The Call: BCS Championship

Tommy Deas breaks down who holds the advantage when Alabama and Notre Dame face off in Miami for the BCS National Championship.

The Call: Alabama vs. Notre Dame: BCS National Championship


Advantage

Offense

Advantage: Alabama
Alabama has kind of quietly averaged 38.5 points per game this season and has scored 30 or more points in all games but two. The emergence of the running game, led by Eddie Lacy, in the latter part of the season is encouraging for UA, and a strong running game will only make things easier for AJ McCarron as a passer. Notre Dame isn't flashy on offense, but has a good stable of running backs led by Theo Riddick. Quarterback Everett Golson has good mobility and a big enough arm to make things happen.

Defense

Advantage: Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish has allowed only 10.3 points per game and has held opponents to around 92 rushing yards and has only given up two rushing touchdowns. The main cog in Notre Dame's defensive machine is Manti Te'o, who might be the best linebacker in the nation. Alabama's defense is better than most expected with so many players from 2011 lost to the NFL. The Crimson Tide has had trouble at times with hurry-up attacks and is vulnerable to a good passing game, but UA is still pretty salty.

Special Teams

Advantage: Even
Both teams are solid in the kicking game, but neither is spectacular. Alabama will depend on punter Cody Mandell to control field positionwith his 43.8-yard average, and Notre Dame counters with a prolific kicker in the form of Kyle Brindza, who is 23-of-31 on field goals with a long boot of 52 yards. Alabama has had special teams breakdowns, including a blocked kick returned for a touchdown against Georgia and several fumbles on punts and kickoff returns. Neither team has been spectacular in the return game.

Coaching

Advantage: Alabama
Notre Dame obviously made a very good hire in Brian Kelly, who had good runs at Cincinnati and Central Michigan before stepping into one of the nation's highest-profile coaching positions. In his third year, he has a Fighting Irish program that seemed dormant for years playing for a national championship. Alabama, of course, has Nick Saban, who has established himself as the gold standard among college coaches. Saban is angling for his fourth Bowl Championship Series national title.

Intangibles

Advantage: Alabama
The biggest factor Alabama has in its favor is that this is nothing new. The Crimson Tide won the national championship in 2009 and won it again last year, so UA's veterans have been through this process before. Even the freshmen got to experience the hype of the LSU game and have a feel for the kind of pressure this contest will bring. Notre Dame has tradition and is always in the spotlight, but this is a different level. UA will be more comfortable in this environment.


Prediction

Alabama 24, Notre Dame 14
Notre Dame has won a lot of close games, and knows how to hang in there with its tough defense. Alabama proved its mettle in hard-fought wins over LSU and Georgia and has the character to battle for 60 minutes. Look for UA to wear the Fighting Irish down in the second half.



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