Te'o won't lift Notre Dame in BCS Championship - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Hot Reads: Bama brings more to BCS title game

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All-American guard Chance Warmack will likely get plenty of cracks at Heisman finalist linebacker Manti Te'o, and it is a battle Warmack can win. (Source: WBRC) All-American guard Chance Warmack will likely get plenty of cracks at Heisman finalist linebacker Manti Te'o, and it is a battle Warmack can win. (Source: WBRC)
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, left, and linebacker Manti Te'o can claim a major share of the credit for the team's defensive dominance this season. But they will get tested to the limit on Monday night. (Source: WBRC) Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, left, and linebacker Manti Te'o can claim a major share of the credit for the team's defensive dominance this season. But they will get tested to the limit on Monday night. (Source: WBRC)
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(RNN)This year's national championship is the best of both worlds: Your daddy's rivalry mixed with the type of play calling that even young football fans can love.

Notre Dame's spread vs. Alabama's bloody chin defense is a matchup football purists say they hate; inside, though, they're dying to see how it plays out.

But please, let's leave behind the feel-good mush that several weeks of feature stories have given us. The breakdown of this game is about talent matchups, strategy and cold, hard numbers.

OFFENSE:

Notre Dame's line has given up 16 sacks all year (seven less than Alabama), which might lead one to say, "Wow, they're pretty solid." Don't let that fool you.

They move the pocket and run the football a lot, which covers over the line's inability to protect Everett Golson against good defensive fronts. The end-to-end speed of Alabama will expose that.

Alabama isn't always fun to watch for fans with a taste for five-wide and multiple option looks, but they do what they do better than anyone else in the country. People automatically think of the three-headed monster of Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and AJ McCarron, but Amari Cooper had at least 100 receiving yards and one touchdown in three of the last four games.

And let's not forget about the Crimson Tide's offensive line, which gets more media attention than most other teams' skill players.

Advantage: Alabama.

DEFENSE:

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Fighting Irish inside linebacker Manti Te'o. I recently sang his praises as the no-brainer choice for Heisman, but after looking more closely at the game tape, it's obvious he will be a minimal factor against Alabama.

Te'o is a classic coverage linebacker and the beneficiary of a play Notre Dame loves to run out of its 3-4 front. It calls for two linebackers to slide with crossing receivers, fooling the quarterback to think they're in man coverage while Te'o stays in zone. That play alone is a major reason he is one of the nation's leaders in interceptions. However, when he comes up to play the run he gets easily handled one-on-one, and even when he is unblocked he makes some bad reads in the backfield.

A healthy dose of misdirection plays, steady pounding from the All-Americans on Alabama's interior line and an offense that keeps the ball on the ground two-thirds of the time should wipe out Notre Dame's heart and soul.

While the Crimson Tide definitely has its weaknesses on defense, Notre Dame won't effectively exploit them.

Think of it this way: Facing Notre Dame is basically like a second go-round with the Texas A&M offense, except not as dynamic, and armed with a month of film study. Notre Dame averages more than 200 rushing yards per game, and Alabama gives up less than 80.

Someone is going to get their feelings hurt, and odds are it won't be anyone wearing red.

Advantage: Alabama.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Alabama ranks 12th in the nation in kickoff return yards and 40th in punt returns.

Where is Notre Dame, you ask? Does 115th and 84th sound pretty good to ya? Yeah, not so much.

So we can pretty much forget about the Irish turning the field upside down on a game-changing play. I mean, it could happen, but so could a nuclear holocaust.

Advantage: Alabama.

COACHING:

Really? We're really going to debate this?

Advantage: Some guy whose name rhymes with Nick Saban.

INTANGIBLES:

This is Notre Dame's motivation: "Guys, we went from unranked to No. 1, and people still don't think we have a chance."

This is Alabama's motivation: "Guys, Coach Saban always talks about ripping people's hearts out of their chests, but this game he promised we can do it for real!"

Notre Dame was nearly upended by six teams this season, including some that weren't that good. That's not an accident.

If not for turnovers, Stanford would have scored early and often and kept pouring it on, and Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh??) would have earned a monumental upset. Even woeful USC gave the Irish all they could handle.

The history of a 5-1 all-time record against Alabama adds to the Irish hype for this game, but you can't put history or hype in shoulder pads.

This is Alabama, after all. Along with the prospect of winning three BCS titles in four years, the Crimson Tide is convinced it is the best team in the country, and it is correct in that assertion.

Calling a team this good an underdog is just plain dangerous. Ask Florida.

Advantage: Alabama.

Outcome: A battle of wills always falls in favor of the tougher team, and the Crimson Tide is definitely a tougher unit overall. Final score: Alabama 27, Notre Dame 16.

COTTON BOWL: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma

And who said the rivalry would die once the Aggies moved from the Big 12 to the SEC?

A pair of spread offenses in a sold-out Cowboys Stadium could make this one of the top bowl games this year, BCS or not.

And this newsflash just came down on the wire: Oklahoma can't stop anyone from running. That's a bit of a problem when you're facing Johnny Manziel, who alone makes up for nearly half of his team's 235 rushing yards per game.

Texas A&M's defense, although not what I would consider "good," played better competition than Oklahoma and has a potential first-round draft pick in Damontre Moore.

Both teams have five-game winning streaks, but Oklahoma's came against Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU. What did those guys do all season?

The Aggies beat Alabama and Mississippi State, both ranked teams, and previously lost to LSU and Florida by a combined eight points.

Advantage: Texas A&M.

BBVA COMPASS BOWL: Ole Miss vs. Pitt

OK, all seven people who care about this game can stop whining. We didn't forget you. There there, now go cheer for a team that matters.

Actually, that's a bit unfair. The Rebels could be a nine-win team rather than 6-6 if things had gone differently in close losses to Texas A&M, Vandy and LSU. They have an offense that's as exciting as any when Bo Wallace isn't sharing the ball with the other team (15 interceptions, 19 touchdowns).

The Panthers were ahead by two touchdowns before losing to Notre Dame in triple overtime, and the Irish tried to give the game away with a pair of interceptions. Speaking of which, Tino Sunseri has thrown 270 consecutive passes without a pick, the longest streak in the nation. If you actually knew that, you deserve some type of prize.

This game should (shockingly) be a good one – in a girls tussling after school sort of way.

Advantage: Pitt.

This week's unique stat: Both Texas A&M and Oklahoma were outscored by the exact same margin in the fourth quarter: 105-98. That freaky precursor means things could get wild in the final minutes of the game.

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