Cashing In continues its "10 for a Title" series examining 10 crucial game elements necessary for Notre Dame if the Irish are to earn a BCS Championship victory over Alabama. Next in the series: reversing a red zone trend.

Held without points on just 12 of 58 trips to their opponents red zone, Notre Dame's march to No. 1 was nonetheless marred by a consistent, troubling reality: they put up three points (19 times) rather than seven (27) far too often.

With the notable exception of Oklahoma, a game in which Brian Kelly's Irish posted three touchdowns and three field goals by the final gun, the season's remaining taxing matchups, Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Brigham Young, Pittsburgh, and USC, saw the Irish notch two or fewer (regulation) touchdowns while compiling a combined 13 field goals.

Enter Alabama's defensive juggernaut, technically the nation's top-ranked red zone defense.

"They're not the ones to get healthy against," said Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. "Particular since they don't give up many opportunities (a college football low 27 opponent drives ventured inside the Tide's 20-yard line.)

"Unfortunately you're trying to study the opponents' tape and there isn't a lot of clips of teams getting down there. And the few clips of when teams get inside their 10, so you can really try to game plan and organize, the score was typically like 48-0 and there weren't a lot of starters on the field for Alabama. So its hard to game plan when they're up 50 points."

It's an aspect of the game plan essential to Notre Dame's chances. In their last outing, the Irish beat USC with just one touchdown in six red zone trips. USC, is not Alabama.

"You're trying to see how you can attack them and what they're going to do in certain formations," Martin said of his offense's red zone focus last month. "For us its like any other part of the field. It's execution, its staying physical, its carving out some space for our running backs and then obviously in the pass game, giving Everett (Golson) some time and for him, making sure he figures out the coverage and putting that ball in the right place."

"I don't think there'll be issues structurally for opportunities to make plays, but they're a difficult defense, like you alluded to, to make plays against."

Its also a defense with a definitive, and tweaked, red zone plan. One that understands the unique parameters of the field from 20 yards in.

"I think it's a change in your style of play," said Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. "Coach (Nick) Saban does a great job allowing us to practice red zone. It's kind of like anything, when you've got a backstop behind you (the back of the end zone) you can play a little more aggressive. They can't throw the ball over your head.

"So you have to change the style of defense you play. We work really hard on that each year to be one of the top teams in the country in red zone, and if you're going to do that, you're going to have a chance to play good defense. We really emphasize that a lot.

Smart added of their red zone plan, "Don't back up out of the end zone, because you ain't got to defend behind it."

The Tide allowed just over two red zone trips per contest, with a combined 11 of them produced by LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia, the three best opponents on Alabama's 13-game slate.

To prevail Monday night, Notre Dame likely needs to approach its weekly average of five red zone trips. Finishing two of those forays with seven points rather than three would suffice.

(Note: Click the links below for the first five game keys in our "10 for a Title" series):

#1 Hit for one score from outside the red zone

#2 Plus-One Turnovers

#3 Return of the Man?

#4 Even Steven

#5 Status Quo Top Stories