BCS Championship Game
Jan. 7, 2013
Notre Dame (12-0, BCS No. 1) vs. Alabama (12-1, BCS No. 2)
Notre Dame's key player: LB Manti Te'o
Te'o is vying to have the highest finish for a pure defensive player in the Heisman Trophy race since Pittsburgh DE Hugh Green in 1980. Te'o has seven interceptions and his 103 tackles are 42 more than any other player on a very good Notre Dame defense. He will be instrumental in slowing down an Alabama running game that had an SEC Championship Game record 350 rushing yards against Georgia. His ability to cover sideline to sideline will be tested.
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Alabama's key player: C Barrett Jones
Jones is a tremendous player, an Outland Trophy winner last year who is one of three finalists for the award this year. He has started BCS Championship Games at right guard and left tackle, and will start a third at center — as long as the foot injury he played through on Saturday allows it. He will be battling with huge Irish nose tackle Louis Nix III, and also on occasion trying to cut off Te'o on the second level. His health is key, because he is the main cog on a very tough offensive line.
An early look at the matchup: This game could live up to the hype. Although Alabama, which is trying to win a second straight BCS title, was dominant early in the season, it has been beatable down the stretch. Alabama's defense hasn't looked as dominant lately as it did in the first eight games of the season. The Crimson Tide struggled a bit in the second half at LSU on defense, then Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel had a big day in a win at Alabama. The Crimson Tide gave up 394 yards and 28 points in the SEC Championship Game to Georgia. Notre Dame doesn't have an explosive offense, but quarterback Everett Golson is playing much better lately, and the Irish has a good running back tandem in Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. Notre Dame just needs to score enough to help out its defense, which led FBS in scoring defense (Alabama was second). The key for the Irish will be slowing down Alabama's run game, which has a tremendously powerful duo of tailbacks in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. This should be a low-scoring defensive struggle for the national title, and it could come down to whether Golson or Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron can make a key play or two downfield.
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