Saban And Kelly Sleepless In Miami

The historical perception of Midwestern football has been defined by power. Conversely the image of Southeastern football is speed. Nick Saban has merged the two attributes to create a model many college football teams are trying to emulate. Alabama's next opponent, Notre Dame, seems to have succeeded in replicating the Tide defensive standard.

Nick Saban referenced the strengths of the Fighting Irish in his opening remarks on Wednesday at the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game Press Conference in New York City held at the NASDAQ Marketsite in Times Square. "They have a fine football team. Very physical, big, strong and similar to how we try to build our team." Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly was asked to summarize the three-year improvements of his team. "Bigger, faster, stronger. The way we wanted to construct this football team is if we got to a national championship, you're going to have to play physical football. There are no tricks. There are no gimmicks," Kelly stated. "It is going to be basic fundamental football when you get to this level."

Once a team has achieved those physical qualities, an intangible must be part of the equation to complete the process. "Have a will. You saw Alabama exert their will in the second half of the SEC Championship Game," Kelly said. "You have to have that kind of mental toughness on a football team as well." Front and center on Wednesday was an inevitable sidekick of the coaching profession, worrying. "When you talk about Alabama, there is an attention to detail in everything that they do," claimed Kelly. "You're going to have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves."

Saban professed a lack of shut eye prior to games. "For me, I never sleep well. Notre Dame is just the excuse to give me something to worry about," he said. "They are a great defensive team. They have a fantastic front seven. They are very physical and have great size. They play exceptionally well together as a team and are very well coached," Saban replied. "Offensively, I think they do a tremendous job of getting the ball to their playmakers through lots of formations, lots of motions and shifts to make sure their playmakers are getting the ball. The quarterback does a really good job of implementing the whole process. They don't beat themselves much either."

SEC teams have categorically dominated opponents outside the region with superior quickness on the interior front. Notre Dame has countered the advantage by successfully recruiting below the Mason-Dixon Line for similar personnel. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt are starters from the fertile SEC recruiting territories of Texas, Florida and Georgia respectively. The 3-4 defensive front and the backups of Notre Dame all are listed at or around 300 pounds.

Highly decorated Manti Te'o heads the Irish three-deep linebacking corps. They range from 239 pounds to 255. Alabama has predicated their offensive success on pounding the defense into submission, setting up for the play-action pass. Notre Dame ranks fourth nationally in rush defense allowing 92.42 yards per game. Only Navy (40-149), Michigan (41-161), Stanford (40-147) and Pittsburgh (33-144) have surpassed the century rushing total against the stout Irish defense. Now the question becomes, does Nick Saban intend to test the Notre Dame defensive front seven with the opening drive or will he defer placing the game in the hands of his quarterback, A.J. McCarron. Last year in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game against LSU, the then sophomore redshirt quarterback threw a season high twenty-five passes in the first half. The strategy befuddled the Tigers in the 21-0 Tide victory.

Although Brian Kelly is a native of Everett, MA, he chose to attend the chief rival of the public school, St. John's Prep in nearby Danvers. An interesting factoid came to light during Wednesday's press conference. The Everett High School mascot is the Crimson Tide and the school plays the Notre Dame Fight Song after every touchdown. School colors are crimson, white and gold with the uniform mirroring the San Francisco 49ers. The Everett High School football team just celebrated their third consecutive Massachusetts Super Bowl Championship. John Montelus, a 6-5, 295 pound offensive lineman is a 2013 class commitment to the South Bend school. Alabama has quite a following from the Massachusetts community according to Everett High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach John DiBiaso. "The kids all root for the Tide. They have it in common. You know where our heart is. Roll Tide."

The front seven showing signs of vulnerability will be at a distinct disadvantage as both teams are geared to run the football. Although the game is not in Seattle there will be sleepless nights in Miami for both Nick Saban and Brian Kelly as they approach the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game to be held at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on January 7th at 7:30 PM CT.

BamaMag Top Stories