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.