Plus-One

Irisheyes.com continues its 10 days of previews with our second of 10 crucial game elements necessary for Notre Dame if the Irish are to earn a BCS Championship victory over Alabama. Next in our "10 for a Title" series: finishing plus-one in the turnover department.

Popular theory for a double-digit underdogs suggests the lesser squad needs some type of game-altering event to pull off an upset over their favored foe.

But as with Notre Dame's late-October victory as (erroneous) double-digit 'dogs at Oklahoma, the 12-0 Irish, 10-point underdogs to defending national champion Alabama, need not find a way to greatly change the game's events on January 7.

Despite what you'll hear from pre-game analysts, a defensive or special teams touchdown isn't necessary, nor do the Irish need to force multiple Crimson Tide turnovers to secure victory in Miami.

Of course, getting a mini-leg up in the always telling turnover battle wouldn't hurt.

Notre Dame, plus-nine overall in its 2012 turnover ratio, lost the single-game turnover battle just twice: vs. Stanford on October 12, and three weeks later against Pittsburgh, games the Irish won by seven and six points respectively, and with a combined four overtimes played.

It's true the Irish played with less margin for error than did Alabama this season, relying on their defense to carry the day, as Notre Dame's offense often settled for field goals -- at least two in eight of 12 games -- rather than finishing long drives with touchdowns.

But Notre Dame regularly compiles enough yardage to win football games. In fact, Alabama managed just 18 more yards per contests, 439 to 421, than did the Irish in 2012. Brian Kelly's offense can manage the game well enough to win, but it would be a tall order with a turnover deficit to overcome.

Through three seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly is 19-1 when his Irish win or tie in a game's turnover battle; 9-9 when it commits more errors than the defense forces.

Alabama was plus-13 in turnover ratio this fall, but a combined minus-five (0-2 and 0-3) in its only close regular season win (LSU) and defeat (Texas A&M), respectively. The Tide also finished at a 2-3 turnover disadvantage vs. Georgia in an SEC championship game that came down to the final play.

It's not logical to expect a team as sound and talented, as experienced on the main stage, and as well-coached as Alabama, to give away the BCS Title game through turnovers.

But a plus-one advantage for the Irish in the final turnover tally, be it 1-0 or 2-1 or even 3-2 -- the latter indicating a sloppier than expected affair -- would be a major boon for the underdogs in a contest that might not include 42 combined points on the final scoreboard.


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