Alabama to prove champion
Tonight is the Super Bowl of the College Football Season - the BCS National Championship Game. The highest-profile team in college football Notre Dame is playing last year's champions, Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, in front of a sold-out crowd.
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The game should be one of the best-watched sports matches of the year - bearing in mind that both sides are extremely well-supported and historically strong - and we'd advise you to watch, too.
Alex Ferguson gives his prediction on the last game of the season, which starts at 1am on Tuesday morning (or Monday night, to you and me) and is showing on ESPN America.
This year we'll see Notre Dame, who finished the season as the only unbeaten team in the league play last season's National Champions Alabama, who overcame a slight soft schedule and a home loss to two-loss Texas A&M to win the voters' hearts and book their spot after winning the SEC Championship Game at the start of December.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Notre Dame wasn't expected to get anywhere close to the National Championship Game, bearing in mind their schedule included away trips to then-No.1 USC, National Championship dark horse Oklahoma, as well as Stanford, Michigan and Michigan State. However, after Notre Dame beat all of those (and seven others) there was no argument: Notre Dame was the rightful No.1. The most storied program in college football was in the National Championship Game.
On Alabama's side, things were slightly less predictable. After brutalizing all and sundry until the start of November, Alabama went to LSU and only just squeezed by their rivals in an emotional night in Death Valley. The game after was Johnny Manziel and two-loss Texas A&M. Alabama didn't show for the first quarter and quickly found themselves 21-0. They never recovered. However, God seemed to want a Southeastern Conference school in the National Championship Game, because Oregon and Kansas State lost the week after, vaulting Alabama back into the National Championship spot. They beat Georgia in one of the best games college football has ever seen in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game.
WHY NOTRE DAME WILL WIN
There is no better leader on the field than Manti Te'o. In the week before the Michigan State game, Te'o lost his girlfriend and his grandmother to cancer. For those of you who's been there, one's hard enough. Well, imagine two. Anyway, Te'o said that he wanted to play for his Notre Dame family, and the Irish beat Michigan State and Te'o was the star. In fact, Te'o has been the star all season long, grabbing 103 tackles, including 5 ½ tackles for loss, 1 ½ sack, and seven interceptions. Lately, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's been making some mistakes with throwing the ball, and Te'o's going to take advantage of a harassed quarterback. The Irish only gave up an average of 26.8 points per game, and only 421.5 yards per game. They are going to exceptionally tough for Alabama to get through - even with its excellent offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama's defense struggled with a quarterback who was good at running. Well, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a quarterback in Everett Golson who does just that. He threw for over 2,100 yards, 11 TDs and only 5 INTs this season, and he's been absolutely clutch. Alabama will not be able to handle him. Sure, Golson's no Johnny Manziel, but Alabama isn't built to handle a quick option quarterback. Golson ran for 300 yards and 5 TDs for the Irish. And if Golson has problems, then Tommy Rees has come back from some pre-season trouble to perform excellently in the fourth quarter.
WHY ALABAMA WILL WIN
Alabama is coached by the best coach in college football in Nick Saban. If you don't think that the Crimson Tide will be prepared for Golson, Te'o or anything that's going to be thrown at them, you've got another thing coming. If Brian Kelly's got a tendency, then Nick Saban and his coaches will have found it and will have plans to exploit it.
On one side of the ball, they've got two of the best running backs in college football in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. One of the biggest reasons why they are so good is that they've got the best offensive line in college football. If they do what they did in the LSU game and completely dominate the line of scrimmage, then Notre Dame will be unable to stop the running backs- especially in the latter stages of the game.
AJ McCarron is their quarterback leader, and it was his arm at the end of the SEC Championship Game that came good - he hit Amari Cooper with just 1 ½ minutes left to give the Crimson Tide the lead that eventually led to the title chance. He's composed, can play under pressure, and give him a minute or so to drive a team down the field, and he's going to punish you. He threw for 2,669 and 26 TDs last season, and until his poor game against A&M, he was a Heisman Candidate.
On the other side of the ball is the Crimson Tide's monstrous defence. They gave up just 10.7 points per game. That's just over TEN. That's not even TWO TOUCHDOWNS. Notre Dame's offense might have been clutch, but it was pretty terrible all season long. Think the Irish's D is going to be able to keep Alabama's from scoring a more than two touchdowns? Think again.
HOW SKY BET'S SEEING IT
Straight-up, Alabama's a strong favourite with Sky Bet at 2/7. Notre Dame's 11/4 to win.
For those who like a handicap, Alabama's a 9.5 point favourite to win. The over/under is 40.5 points. In other words, we believe it's going to be a pretty low-scorer.
We think Alabama's going to win the National Championship Game, and they beat the handicap.
Why? Alabama has such a great offensive line (we say this presuming that they are all healthy) that Notre Dame's going to struggle to put pressure on McCarron, Lacy or Yeldon. And on the other side of the ball, we don't trust Golson to be as 'clutch' as Fighting Irish fans are hoping that he will be, and we trust Rees and the Irish's receiving squad even less - there's a reason why they were 75th in the country in points scored. Especially against Nick Saban's defence, which he keeps on their toes until the final play of the game.