Tim O'Malley -- PublisherWith a 10th and final game preview forthcoming, below are nine of my 10 previously published keys to an Irish victory over the Crimson Tide. (Click links.)
Final Score: Notre Dame 23 Alabama 22
Brian Dohn -- Recruiting ReporterAs the weeks passed, the idea Notre Dame would get pounded by Alabama subsided as more and more confidence in the Irish's defense developed. The battle of Notre Dame's front seven against the Crimson Tide's offensive line will be intriguing, but this game should come down to Everett Golson's ability to scramble and also try to take advantage of a sometimes-suspect Alabama secondary.
So, can Golson and the Irish move the ball enough to score a few times and cap off a miraculous season?
Everything has gone Notre Dame's way this season, and this is how storybooks are written. Heck, let's just have Manti Te'o return an interception for a touchdown with two minutes left for the win and call it a season. And a championship.
Notre Dame 19 Alabama 12
Dave Berk -- Recruiting AnalystThis looks to be an old-fashion slugfest as two teams known for playing dominating defense look to keep the other out of the end zone. Brian Kelly has that look in his eye that he's got something up his sleeve from his past and it well could be the play that gives the Irish the championship. This will be the biggest test Bob Diaco's defense has faced and it should be expected they will give up some points.
This has been the hardest game of the past three seasons to predict and while it would be easy to say Alabama will win, I have a gut feeling the Irish pull out another close one 20-17 to end the perfect season to remember.
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorYes Irish fans, this is it - Notre Dame is about to play in the national championship game against the vaunted Crimson Tide, and I couldn't be more excited to see what this team is really, really made of. We've seen them rise above adversity; we've seen them show up prepared to play on the road in marquee matchups; we've seen them finish a season 12-0.
But there's one more game left. This will be the most difficult game this Irish team has faced this season, and this will be the most difficult game Brian Kelly has coached in his entire career.
Alabama is going for its 3rd national championship in 4 years - ND is trying to officially announce its return to the college football world (I'd argue they alraedy have, but a win here would shut up every critic out there).
As a pure college football fan, you really couldn't ask for a better matchup. Both teams have great offensive lines, terrific running back duos, some explosive playmakers at the wide receiever position. Both teams have terrific front 7s in a 3-4 scheme, both teams defensive lines get after the QB without much blitzing, and both secondaries do a terrific job agains the pass. Its the #1 scoring defense vs the #2 scoring defense.
For me, and I hate to boil it down to one player or one position, but its going to come down to the quarterback position. Both teams will get some rushing yards. Both teams will also force the opposition into clear passing situations. Can Everett Golson outplay A.J. McCarron?
For those that have read the board, I've been an Everett Golson fan since day 1 - for me, ever since he committed to ND, I just felt he had the "it" factor, something you can't see on film or put on paper, but just a feeling I had listening to him and watching him play in person throughout the year.
I firmly believe Everett Golson is going to come to play on the biggest stage of his life. Every year people talk about teams of destiny - well I believe this Notre Dame team is a team of destiny, and they will have Irish Eyes smiling come late Monday night.
Notre Dame 20 Alabama 16
KurzND - ModeratorThis is the moment Notre Dame and and her fans have been waiting for 24 long years for. For young fans like myself, the first time the Irish are contending for the national championship. The only thing standing in their way is the possible Alabama dynasty that Nick Saban has assembled by going for their 3rd national championship in four years.
This should be a fantastic match up as ND and Alabama are almost clones of one another with strong OL and DL play, dominate front sevens on defense, and strong running games.
For the ND defense, they will be facing the best offensive line in college football and a two headed monster rushing attack. From the rushing attack, Bama uses play action to attack with true freshman Amari Cooper doing the damage. ND needs to slow the Alabama rushing attack without needing a safety in the box at all times. Motta and the crew need to be on their toes because the biggest thing they need to do is prevent the deep ball because they cannot give up quick scores to Alabama.
Te'o and company must meet their greatest challenge and cannot miss tackles and have to give the IRish a positive turnover ratio. The key stat is that under Nick Saban, the Tide are 49-0 when they rush for over 150 yards.
For the Irish defense, they need to play smart. Golson will have to play his very best game of his career and must protect the ball and not put the defense in poor field situations. ND needs to take advantage and work to get favorably match ups with Eifert and Riddick. However first and foremost the Irish need to establish a run game that can consistently get 3.5-4 yards at least to help keep the Tide defense honest. Golson's legs will have to play a part in moving the chains.
Despite the accolades Alabama's defense receives and some good players like Dee Millner, the Tide defense can be had through the air. With Daniels still being a question this game would be a great time for Goodman and Toma to step in the final game of their careers. The most important thing for ND's offense, field goals against Alabama in the red zone won't cut it.
If the Irish can slow down Alabama's rush and hold them under 150, force a turnover or two, and ND converts in the red zone come Tuesday morning ND won't just be #1 in graduations rates.
Alabama Crimson Tide 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorThe Alabama offense is good at running the football, but their passing game is very much dependent on the running game setting them up for big plays, much like Stanford and Michigan State. In previous games against strong run defenses, Coach Saban has gone against the grain and come out pass-heavy, and with quarterback A J McCarron and receiver Amari Cooper, the Crimson Tide does have the weapons to make that effective, but the lack of Bama's other WR threat, Kenny Bell, allows ND to bracket Cooper as long as they do not have to commit safety help to stopping the run.
Look for Notre Dame to again play contain and allow Alabama to roam at will between the 20's, while clamping down in the red zone like they have all season. Alabama's ability to run the ball in the red zone will dictate the outcome of this game in my opinion, and THAT will be directly related to the matchup of All America center Barrett Jones versus Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix. With Jones coming off recent injury I like Nix in this matchup a lot, and I think the health of Jones through this game is vitally important for Alabama's chances.
On defense Alabama this season is not as disruptive as last year's National Championship team, but still plenty fast and big and disciplined. Everett Golson's gradually increasing role versus similarly disciplined and hard hitting defenses like Stanford and Michigan State (not to mention ND's own first team in practice) should serve him well this game and Alabama has proven vulnerable to mobile, play extending QB's from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical and Louisiana State. We may well see some option for ND as no school has torched Nick Saban's defense as much as triple option based Georgia Southern.
The key to defenses stopping the spread offense, which is designed to create both favorable one on one matchups and numerical advantages for the offense, is not only to have defenders who can match up one on one but also to have at least one who demands TWO on one scheming, like Kawaan Short of Purdue or William Gholston of Michigan State. Alabama's best threat to demand double teams is their nose tackle, Jesse Williams, from of all places, Brisbane, Australia, who is the Crimson Tide's version of Louis Nix but like Barrett Jones was also injured in their last game against Georgia.
Williams will likely have the same effect on the ND running game in the red zone as Nix will have on Alabama's, so look for Notre Dame to run traps and pulls on him as well as tunnel screens and shovel passes to mitigate his size and speed as much as possible. Even more, look for Notre Dame to try to score in the red zone via the pass or the QB run rather than try to move him off the blocks.
On special teams, Notre Dame will again put starters onto the field for this one game, much as they did last year in the Champs Sports Bowl, and I would not be surprised to see this pay big dividends with at least one big punt return and one big kickoff return in the game -- after all, Bama has next to no film to prepare for. If it comes down to a placekicking battle, and I actually think that it will, then ND has the advantage with Kyle Brindza over the two man rotation Alabama uses (one long kicker who also kicks off and one very accurate but very short range kicker).
In the end, I think the determination of Manti Te'o and Theo Riddick in particular plus the injuries which may not be fully healed to Barrett Jones and Jesse Williams will decide this game, but it is Kyle Brindza who will win it at the last second.
Notre Dame 19 Alabama 17, in a game for the ages.
BNOLAN -- ModeratorThe BIG ONE!
Whodathunkit? Admittedly, 10 or so games ago, I'd not have. Like many of you, I've been a rabid fan for four decades or so, I attended my first game in utero, I'm told.
The last nearly twenty years have been, well... underwhelming. That is the word I use in place of one that starts with cluster. I've become conditioned to allow my hopes to conservatively start to rise, only to have them obliterated in a tsunami of disappointment.
No need to recount the plethora of such events and circumstances. Or names.
I was as apprehensive as many with the hiring of Kelly, and the first couple of seasons. Part of my conditioned inability to believe. My belief, my hope, had been crushed too many times. Cynicism had set up a beach chair in my psyche and appeared to be pretty comfortable.
He is winning games, and winning me over. Which brings us to the precipice we loom over on Monday night.
Bama is very, very daunting. They are loaded with talent. Loaded. But... even though parts of me are still apt to argue with myself about it... ND is pretty darned good. Especially on D.
But can we score? I love Golson, but... he isn't Manziel. He has also had a lot of time to prepare for this momentous occasion.
We can win. But will we? It will take an Oklahoma-esque performance, either perfect or very close. Turnovers... penalties... you can't make costly mistakes against teams that aren't as good as Alabama, and certainly not against a team that is Alabama.
The matchups, the prospective schemes, yadda yadda... have been discussed and debated ad nauseum on the boards. By better tacticians than myself.
I'm going to listen to the other little talker on my shoulders, the one that whispers about hope and belief, and maybe even about a little luck and Irish magic.
Notre Dame - 23, Alabama 20
GaviND -- ModeratorWhen the 2012 college football season began, there was little doubt in my mind that, with significant growth from Everett Golson and a little luck, this Notre Dame team would wind up winning either eight or nine games.
So it seems fitting that the Irish sit at 12-0 and poised to be crowned national champions in less than 72 hours.
Only one roadblock stands in the way: Alabama.
Between the season's starting point and up until roughly 40 days ago, I was certain that Alabama would dispose of ND without much trouble if the two should ever play. Alabama had the pedigree, the best offensive line in America, an efficient quarterback and a two headed monster at running back that no one could stop...oh, and then there's the defense they keep reloading year in and year out.
But over time, we began to see the chinks in the Crimson Tide armor. For example, while Dee Millner may be one of the finest defensive backs in the country, he cannot occupy all four positions and pick up coverages lost as a mobile quarterback scrambles to extend plays.
We learned that if we pick up the tempo some, it might be enough to confuse Bama or at least take them out if their comfort zone.
To me this game comes down to Everett Golson and which version of the rookie signal caller we see. If the offensive line can give him some time and allow him to feel more comfortable, he will do some damage both with his feet and downfield with his arm.
Fortunately, my crystal ball shows him playing well and, at the end of the night, hoisting a crystal ball of his own.
ND 24 Bama 17