Coaches View Of How Game Will Play Out
The Game, of course, is the Monday night meeting of Alabama vs. Notre Dame at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Crimson Tide, 12-1 and ranked second in the nation, tries for its second consecutive national championship, third in four years, against the Fighting Irish, 12-0 and ranked first in the nation.
This is far and away the most anticipated game in BCS (since the 1998 season) history because it matches the two biggest names in college football. Kickoff will be at 8:30 p.m. EST (7:30 central time) with television coverage by ESPN.
So how is the game going to go?
Alabama's Nick Saban said Sunday morning said it's "the unknown that keeps you up at night as a coach; like ‘what are we not prepared for, what might happen that you haven't spent the time to get your players ready for, how well will you be able to adjust to those circumstances?'"
Nevertheless, he said, he thinks that the same long list of factors that affect the outcome of all big games will determine this winner. Those familiar factors are controlling the line of scrimmage, stopping the run, being able to run, explosive plays, turnovers, red zone efficiency, and third down efficiency.
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said, "I think the way you manage the game is something that goes into how the game is going to be played. For example, if we go in there saying we've got to outscore Alabama, the game will take that flavor. You're going to throw the ball around, there's going to be some turnovers, maybe there's going to be some big plays.
"That's nopt how we've constructed this team and that's not how we've managed the game.
"I think going into the game people can surmise the way this thing is going to play out. We want to make sure we get this thing into the fourth quarter and find a way to win the game, and that's how the game will be managed; just like the other 12 games that we've played."
The analysis from an Alabama standpoint is that the Crimson Tide has to be able to match personnel with the Irish when Notre Dame uses its fine tight end, Tyler Eifert, and/or tailback Theo Riddick at wide receiver.
Saban said those personnel mismatches "create lots of issues for the defense. They can create a lot of situations where those guys are put out in space where big people, linebacker types, may have a little more difficult time playing them."
Added to that, Saban said, is the mobility of Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. "So that's the challenge for our defense."
On the other side, Alabama will want to be able to run the football. Bama puts what is described as the nation's best offensive line against a Notre Dame front seven that is the primary reason the Irish lead the nation in scoring defense. Although the Tide has had a balanced offense, having two 1,000-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon is on Kelly's mind.
"I really think it's about who controls the line of scrimmage," he said. "People were talking about how do you b ring down Lacy, how do you bring down those backs. You don't if there are big holes. We ain't tackling them. We're not going to get them on the ground. So we've got to make sure tht we don't have big creases so we can get them moving east and west and get them on the ground.
"I think this game is going to be decided by what happens up front."
Kelly offered another thought about how the game might go.
"You have got to be aggressive in this game," he said. "If you're going to sit back and hope that it's going to come your way, you're going to miss. This is one of those games where you have to be aggressive, and you're going to make mistakes. (I'm not talking about catastrophic mistakes, throwing picks for touchdowns.) As long as you know that you're playing hard and aggressive, that's the kind of mentality."
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