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Big League Clu previews the best college football game of the year!

Howdy, everyone! I hope you all had a great holiday season, celebrated and enjoyed ringing in the new year by watching a slew of college bowl games. There were a ton of great matchups this college bowl season, and you know that I was most certainly watching them. I decided to start 2013 off the right way, by breaking down college football’s most coveted game to date. For those of you who don’t know, it puts two schools who have won a combined 18 national championships (since the Poll era started in 1936) against one another. Of course I am talking about the #1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the defending national champions, #2 Alabama Crimson Tide. So let’s take a quick look at how these schools have been preparing for one another as they finally get ready to square off in a matchup for the ages.

When and Where: 1/7/13 @ Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL – 8:30 PM

#1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

This beastly man is a big key to Irish success. (Matt Cashore/US PRESSWIRE)
This beastly man is a big key to Irish success. (Matt Cashore/US PRESSWIRE)

Conference: FBS Independent

Record: 12-0

Last National Championship: 1988

Will the Irish go undefeated?

It’s been a long time coming for Notre Dame (24 years to be exact) since the last time the Irish played for a national championship under the great Lou Holtz. You better believe that every Irish fan and booster will be watching this game. Notre Dame, perhaps the most storied program in all of college football, must go through an Alabama team that is on the verge of becoming a college football dynasty if the Irish want to be undefeated national champions. Head coach Brian Kelly has done a phenomenal job of turning this team around. Just a couple of years ago, ND was in a tailspin under Charlie Weis and Co., who struggled to deliver success at Notre Dame (**Jobu’s Note: He struggled to deliver anything other than sandwiches into his gullet). The Irish are led defensively by Heisman runner-up, Maxwell Award winner (most outstanding player) and Bernardik Trophy winner (best defensive player) Manti Te’o, who I feel is single handedly responsible for the success at South Bend this year. The senior linebacker had seven interceptions, along with his Bobby Boucher like 103 tackles for the Irish in 2012. He has shown why he is the leader of the number one ranked Irish defense.

Lou Holtz is carried away after the 1988 championship. (Rob Schumacher/AP)
Lou Holtz is carried away after the 1988 championship. (Rob Schumacher/AP)

Notre Dame’s defense led the country with 10.3 points allowed per game, and they were also ranked sixth with just 288.1 yards allowed per contest. Their defense comes at opponents with a ton of pressure all day long. Along with Te’o, are ferocious playmakers like Stephon Tuitt (12 sacks and 13 TFLs), Nose Tackle Louis Nix, III, and Prince Shembo (Prince!), who also contributed with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses. Notre Dame, or Notre Lame as Commissioner Jobu likes to refer to them as, is one of the only teams in the nation with the defensive ability to match up against an offense as powerful as Alabama’s.

The Notre Dame offense hasn’t always been the best, but they give this Fighting Irish team a chance to score points and win games, even though it hasn’t always been pretty (just look at the Pitt/ND game). They are led by a very unique rushing attack that starts with QB Everett Golson (2,135 passing yards, 305 rushing yards and 16 total TDs), and extends to their two running backs. Overall, the ND rushing attack ranked 29th in the nation with 202 yards per game. The wideouts aren’t too bad either, but don’t overlook the Irish offensive line. This group has allowed ND to be successful at scoring points when they need to. I know the phrase is cliché, but it all starts up front with the O-line.

Key Players: RB Theo Riddick (880 yards, 6 total TDs), RB Cierre Wood (740, 4 TDs), TE Tyler Eifert (44 catches, 624 yards and 4 scores), WR TJ Jones (43 catches, 559 yards and 4 TDs), and LB: Manti Te’o (BEAST)

#2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Can Nick Saban build an Alabama dynasty? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Can Nick Saban build an Alabama dynasty? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Conference: SEC – 2012 Champion

Record: 12-1 (7-1 in SEC)

Last National Championship: 2011

Can Alabama become the Latest College Football Dynasty?

Must be a great time to be an Alabama fan, right? They have won two national championships in the past three years and now they’re looking for their second in a row and third in the last 4 years, which would make a very good argument that Head coach Nick Saban has become the best coach in college football and also created the latest dynasty in college football. Am I right? As good as Notre Dame has been on defense, Alabama has been right with them. The Tide is ranked second to Notre Dame with 10.7 points allowed per game, and first with just 246 yards allowed. Their defense recorded 34 sacks, 81 tackles for losses and they boast one of the deepest secondaries in the country. At the beginning of the year, many questioned whether or not they had what it took to compete for another national championship because of the influx of inexperienced young players who were stepping in to those roles left by last year’s talented seniors. They silenced those critics pretty quickly.

Alabama’s 38.5 points per game is good enough for 15th in the nation (FBS), and they have a very dangerous rushing attack. That attack boasts two 1,000-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy (1,182 yards, 16 TDs) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yards, 11 scores). The two have combined for 27 rushing TDs on the season. Their offense has, as a whole, thrashed opponents, as they went over 400 yards in total offense ten times this year, and even over 500 yards on four occasions. I would be lying if I said that the Notre Dame defense won’t have their work cut out for them in this game.

Will McCarron somehow get past the Irish defense? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Will McCarron somehow get past the Irish defense? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

For certain, Nick Saban has created a mold for every college coach in the country. Last season, Alabama persevered after an in-conference loss to LSU appeared to derail their national championship hopes. Instead of giving up, they stayed on course, won some key games and stayed atop the BCS ranking to earn a shot at the title in a rematch against LSU, where they overwhelmed the Tigers 21-0 for their second national championship in three years. This team is almost the same in every way. They lost a key conference game to Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M (in Alabama too). They appeared to be out of contention for another championship, but as luck would have it, they got some help from Baylor (who beat Kansas State), Stanford (who beat Oregon) and of course won the SEC title game against Georgia to get into the national title game for the third time in four years. Now it will be up to this Crimson tide team to want it more than the Irish.

Key Players: QB AJ McCarron (2,669 yards, 26 TDs), WR Amari Cooper (895 yards, 9 TDs), DB Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (4 INTs), DB Robert Lester (4 INTs)

Who Will Be Crowned the National Champion?

Can Brian Kelly lead the Irish to the title? (US Presswire)
Can Brian Kelly lead the Irish to the title? (US Presswire)

That’s the question everyone is asking. Who wins it all? Both programs have good offenses, but clearly Alabama has the advantage there. It will all come down to what each team’s defense can do. Notre Dame has a ton of leaders on the defensive side of the ball and they boast the best defensive player in college football in Manti Te’o. Alabama has a strong defensive line who plays tough and puts a lot of pressure on opposing QBs, often leading to turnovers. I do believe that the Irish defense has the ability to shut down Alabama’s rushing attack, as they’ve done it all season long against teams like Oklahoma and USC. Therfore, they will remain undefeated and win the national title. They are too good of a story this season to lose now, especially since it has been a long time coming for Irish fans. I am almost certain that if they win, South Bend will be going bananas. Alabama, you need not to worry though, as I’m sure the Tide will be back again next season.

**Jobu’s Note 2: The opinions of Big League Clu in no way reflect my own, because I hate Notre Dame. Go Crimson Tide!

About Big League Clu

Clu Haywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair. When he sneezes, he looks like a party favor. Also, he's been known to hit the ball "too high" and alleges to have illegitimately fathered Jake Tayor's non-existent children. You can also find him on Twitter @bigleagueclu