Tide on the spot

BamaMag.com reporter Laken Litman stops by to discuss three Alabama starters that must be on their game in order for the Crimson Tide to beat Notre Dame.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron

Though he finished the regular season as the nation's most efficient quarterback, AJ McCarron wasn't as sharp against the last three ranked opponents Alabama faced. Against LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia, McCarron threw as many touchdowns as he did interceptions (three). Against a defense like Notre Dame's, especially with Manti Te'o having seven interceptions on the season, McCarron cannot afford to make mistakes in the passing game.

That final stretch of the season was rough for Alabama, especially with all the nagging injuries players, like McCarron, were nursing, so this break before the national championship will do his body good.

McCarron is an effective and patient quarterback protected by one of the country's best offensive lines. He's made some clutch plays this season and will have to focus and take what the defense gives him in order for the offense to have success.

Right tackle D.J. Fluker

It's been said almost all season long that the weak point on Alabama's offensive line is the right side, which consists of tackle D.J. Fluker and guard Anthony Steen. But ever since the LSU game, when Fluker blocked the heck out of one of the nation's best pass rushers Barkevious Mingo, he's been a force on the right, opening up rushing lanes for backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Against Georgia, there was one series where Alabama ran inside zone several plays in a row. Fluker and Steen would mash up against UGA linemen, allowing Eddie Lacy to explode through the gap and get into the second level of the defense. Plays like that worked all night and Alabama was able to rush for 350 yards.

Fluker, who is one of the largest players on the Crimson Tide's roster standing at 6-6, 335, has improved his pass protection greatly in this last half of the season and will play with a chip on his shoulder against Notre Dame to prove that the right side is not weak, and to show that he is ready for the NFL.

Cornerback Deion Belue

There's no doubting Deion Belue's talent. He's fast and has good ball skills and started off the season showing off those qualities, tallying two interceptions in Alabama's first five games.

But in the second half of the season, his production has drastically diminished and he's been exposed. Against Georgia, wide receiver Tavarres King took advantage of Belue, tallying five of his seven receptions against him. At times, Belue looks lost and is often a second or two behind the play, allowing speedy receivers to zip right past him.

Smart quarterbacks don't look in cornerback Dee Milliner's direction, which puts more pressure on Belue to make plays, but he hasn't had an interception or broken up a pass in the last five games. Perhaps the amount of time the Tide has between the regular season and the national championship will be good for him.

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