Skip to content

Final Questions: Notre Dame vs. Alabama

Jan 7, 2013, 2:19 PM EDT

Discover BCS National Championship - Head Coaches Press Conference Getty Images

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.  — After a wait that felt almost biblical, Notre Dame and Alabama will finally play for the BCS National Championship. After over 40 days of breaking down match-ups, digging deeper into opponents, and hypothesizing about one of college football’s dream match-ups, it’s time to play the game.

Let’s run through some final questions:

Who will win the line of scrimmage?

If there’s one battle that’ll likely tell the story of this game, it’s the war in the trenches. Can Notre Dame’s offensive line hold up against Alabama’s stout front? Can the Irish defensive line hold up against the Crimson Tide’s vaunted offensive line?

In what will likely feel like a heavyweight fight, seeing these two powerful fronts battle will be the key match-up.

Will the Irish secondary continue to limit big plays?

For a group that’s spent the entire season playing great football, there are still an awful lot of questions about Notre Dame’s secondary. But Zeke Motta, Matthias Farley, KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson have quietly gone about their business. And played really good football.

Talking to that quartet on media day, there was a quiet confidence among the group. Bennett Jackson talked about playing a physical brand of cornerback, all with his shoulder in a harness. KeiVarae Russell gave me a thousand-watt smile when asked about his interception against Marqise Lee, and his, “Oh, hell yes,” attitude.

Notre Dame will need a big game out of Motta, who will be needed in run support. And they know that the Tide will likely test the Irish secondary vertically early, hoping to bust talented freshman Amari Cooper lost. Can the back-end of the Irish defense continue to limit the big plays?

Can Notre Dame run the ball?

With their coming out party in the second half against Miami, the Irish run game has been dominant this season, racking up solid statistics against a schedule filled with teams stingy against the run. But this will be their biggest test of the year, and their toughest opponent to date.

How the Irish use their trio of talented runners will be key. But getting something out of the ground game, and keeping a balanced offensive attack, will be critical. While Theo Riddick might be the guy that takes the lions share of the carries, both Cierre Wood and George Atkinson have the ability to break long runs, and the Irish will need to break off one or two if they hope to win.

Can Everett Golson play mistake free football?

Everett Golson has seen plenty of big stages. But tonight is a different story. Golson’s evolution has been tremendous, and he’s going to need to take a big step forward against the Tide if the Irish want to be crowned national champs.

Brian Kelly is confident in his quarterback and his ability to make plays both in and out of the pocket. And Golson is going to have to find the right mix of smarts and aggression, knowing when to take chances and when to show patience. This Alabama team is the No. 1 defense in the country, and they take the ball away better than last year’s dominant outfit. Golson staying clean in the turnovers category is crucial.

Will the Irish rise to the moment?

Preparing a team for one game is a difficult proposition. Putting together a game plan for six weeks is never easy. But this team feels confident in their preparation, and Notre Dame is loose and ready to play.

But will the Irish play their best on the game’s biggest stage? That’s the million dollar question.

Latest Posts
  1. Pregame Six Pack: Another scare from Navy

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:59 PM EDT

    USA Today Sports USA Today Sports

    As Notre Dame and Navy meet for the 88th straight time, we reach a familiar time of year and a particularly scary Saturday for the Irish. As ghosts and goblins prepare to roam the streets in search of trick or treat, the Irish coaching staff receives its annual scare in the form of a triple-option offense and a football team with nothing to lose.

  2. Irish defense prepares for difficult option test

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    With a little over 48 hours until Notre Dame and Navy play, the final pieces of installation around going in before the chess match between two coaching staffs take place. For the Irish, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder gets his first chance at stopping the triple-option in over a decade.

  3. Navy Mailbag: Now Open

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  4. Niumatalolo: Navy needs to be perfect to beat Notre Dame

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Ken Niumatalolo, Emmett Merchant

    For a man that’s had more success against Notre Dame than any of his predecessors over the past two generations, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo certainly doesn’t think he’s figured out the Irish. In fact, for his Midshipmen team to win, Niumatalolo acknowledges that it takes more than just his team playing near-perfect football. He needs Notre Dame’s help as well.

  5. And in that corner… The Navy Midshipmen

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke

    With last night’s announcement had all eyes on the first announcement of the College Football Playoff rankings, the immediate concern is Navy. While we can spend the next five weeks worrying about the view from 30,000 feet, credit Brian Kelly for understanding that the Midshipmen present the most clear and present danger.

  6. Notre Dame ranked 10th in first Playoff rankings

    Oct 28, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT

    Tennessee v Georgia Getty Images

    The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday evening. And Notre Dame has some work to do. The selection committee’s first ballot has the Irish slotted in at 10th in the country, a middle-of-the-pack one-loss team according to the 12-person voting panel.

  7. Kelly on cut blocks: “Stop being crybabies”

    Oct 28, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT

    Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke

    With a week off between Florida State and Navy, Brian Kelly and his coaching staff had an extra week of preparation for Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option attack. Allowing his team to leave campus during the university’s fall break, Kelly afforded his players a chance to recharge their batteries after being on campus since June.

  8. Can Brian Kelly recapture his November magic?

    Oct 27, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Among the many reasons Charlie Weis lost his dream job coaching Notre Dame was the Irish’s stumbles in November. Even with a guaranteed 10-year contract, Jack Swarbrick couldn’t watch Notre Dame melt down in November for another year, with Weis’ final two seasons ending with Notre Dame going 1-9 after Halloween. That’s a scary movie franchise that needed killing, no matter the expense.

  9. Mailbag: Weekend reading

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Before we have an Irish-free Saturday, let’s get to some questions. For those of you wondering what you should do on a day usually committed to football, the world is your oyster. Or you could watch some of Notre Dame’s opponents do battle.

  10. VanGorder finds perfect fit at Notre Dame

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder

    When Brian VanGorder’s name surfaced as Notre Dame looked for a new defensive coordinator, there wasn’t necessarily a lot of buzz behind the hire. While VanGorder fit many of the criteria that went along with a Brian Kelly hire, the big-picture reaction wasn’t one of universal support.

  11. The good, the bad, the ugly: Bye week

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Stanford v Notre Dame Getty Images

    There is no football game this weekend. For a Notre Dame football team that just played three-straight tight games, that’s a good thing. (For Irish fans, it’s a victory as well. Go buy a pumpkin and get outside in the fall weather.) As promised, let’s look back at the first eight weeks of the season. Notre Dame sits at 6-1, with a place in the College Football Playoff still very much in play.

  12. Linebacker Tevon Coney commits to Notre Dame

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

    247Sports.com 247Sports.com

    For the second time in a week, Notre Dame’s recruiting class landed a playmaking linebacker. During a press conference streamed live on ESPN.com, Florida’s Tevon Coney pledged his commitment to the Irish, picking Notre Dame over finalists Miami and Florida.

  13. Bye week Mailbag: Now Open

    Oct 23, 2014, 12:07 AM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Drop your questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  14. Future ACC schedules come into focus

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT

    Jack Swarbrick

    With Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement in place with the ACC, Jack Swarbrick and the Irish athletic department can find some certainty in their future slates. That certainty was announced Tuesday, with dates for five ACC games in place through 2019 and matchups set through 2025.

  15. Can Notre Dame kill Pac-12’s playoff chances?

    Oct 21, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    After eight weeks, the forecast for the first College Football Playoff is coming into focus. After falling to Florida State last weekend, the Irish lost pole position. But as a one-loss team now likely competing for one of the final spots in the four-team event, Notre Dame remains one of the top dark horse candidates.

  16. Bye week breather: Brighter days ahead

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    Will Fuller, P.J. Williams Will Fuller, P.J. Williams

    At this point, it doesn’t matter that the ACC has reversed course, deciding that the pass interference penalty was on C.J. Prosise after all. And that they’ve acknowledged that the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty they missed for P.J. Williams removing his helmet should’ve set up Notre Dame with a 1st-and-goal at the 9-yard line.

    We’re moving on. (I promise.)

  17. The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Florida State

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Notre Dame at Florida State Notre Dame at Florida State

    Usually, Brian Kelly gives his team 24 hours to celebrate a win or get over a loss. That rule was likely tested — and you couldn’t blame him if it was slightly relaxed — after Saturday night’s 31-27 loss.

    “We need to give our kids a break. They’ve been going since June,” Kelly said on Sunday. “Our first bye week we kept them here to stay on top of their academics. We’re going to give them a little time off. But we’ll come back recharged, ready to go.”

  18. Kelly: Less clarity on FSU’s “blown coverage”

    Oct 19, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Notre Dame at Florida State Notre Dame at Florida State

    Upon second inspection, Brian Kelly hasn’t gained any clarity on the offensive pass interference call that took a game-winning touchdown off the board. While the head coach has moved on, with the Irish getting some much-needed time off during fall break, Kelly’s opinion on the play — now that he’s realized the penalty was on Will Fuller, not C.J. Prosise — is even more muddled.

  19. Five things we learned: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 27

    Oct 19, 2014, 2:37 AM EDT

    Jameis Winston,Everett Golson Jameis Winston,Everett Golson

    With 13 seconds left, Corey Robinson caught the 4th-down pass from Everett Golson and walked into the end zone, all but uncovered. And for a moment, it looked like Notre Dame pulled off a win for the ages.

  20. Live blog — Notre Dame vs. Florida State

    Oct 18, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    It’s finally here. Not just the biggest game of the year, but the ultimate test for this Notre Dame football team. Entering Doak Campbell Stadium against the defending national champs and Heisman Trophy winner, we’ll see if the Irish have what it takes to upset the Seminoles.