NCF Nation: BCS Championship keys 2012

Discover BCS Championship keys: ND

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
10:30
AM ET
Three keys for Notre Dame in its matchup with Alabama in the Discover BCS National Championship:

1. Stop the run: Alabama rushed for 350 yards in its SEC title game triumph over Georgia. That won't happen against Notre Dame, which boasts the nation's No. 4 rushing defense (92.42 ypg) and has surrendered just two scores on the ground all year long. But the Tide boast a pair of 1,000-yard backs who are capable of grinding down defenses, and the Irish front seven has to win first down to keep the ground game from getting into a rhythm.

2. Let Everett Golson create: Brian Kelly said no one has benefited from the layoff more than his redshirt freshman signal-caller, and seeing what it is in store from him is the biggest X factor entering the game. Golson has kicked his turnover woes, and he has become much more evasive on the run. Can he handle whatever Nick Saban & Co. have drawn up to attack him? Kelly said his players can't be conservative and hope that the game comes to them.

3. Capitalize on red zone opportunities: Kyle Brindza set Notre Dame's single-season record for field goals this season, making 23 kicks despite not starting Week 1. But a large part of that has been because of the offense's struggles inside the 20. The Irish rank 76th nationally in red zone efficiency and have to score touchdowns when they get chances against the Tide's defense.

Alabama keys for BCS title game

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
10:30
AM ET
Sizing up the keys for Alabama on Monday night in its Discover BCS National Championship matchup with Notre Dame:

1. Make Golson a pocket passer: Alabama would like nothing more than to put the game on the shoulders of Notre Dame redshirt freshman Everett Golson and force him to be a pocket passer. Golson is completing 58.9 percent of his passes and has thrown just 11 touchdown passes this season. He’s at his best when he’s moving around and making plays, but Alabama will look to keep him in the pocket and put him in a lot of third-and-long situations. The Tide were successful in doing just that against Michigan’s Denard Robinson in the opener but struggled to contain Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and keep him from extending the play.

2. Protect the football: The only game the Crimson Tide lost this season, they turned it over three times. Not only that, but they didn’t force any turnovers themselves against Texas A&M in their 29-24 loss to the Aggies on Nov. 10. The great equalizer in this game will be if Alabama turns it over. It’s no coincidence that in the Crimson Tide’s five losses over the past four seasons, they’re minus-6 in turnover margin and turned it over at least twice in four of those five losses. If they take care of the football, they’ll be looking for a spot for another crystal trophy.

3. Striking from long distance: Notre Dame is excellent in its front seven on defense, and even with Alabama’s vaunted running game, the Crimson Tide aren’t just going to line up and run the football down the Irish’s throat the whole game. But softening up that Notre Dame defense with some big plays in the passing game (enter freshman receiver Amari Cooper) would go a long way toward opening up that running game and turning it into the ground-and-pound show we saw in the second half from Alabama in the SEC championship game.

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