College Football Playoff Preview: Alabama vs. Notre Dame

Story posted December 31, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Alex Rocco

The College Football Playoffs are upon us and we see a very unique matchup in the Rose Bowl between the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Alabama Crimson Tide

How they got here:

After a disappointing 2019 season that saw the Crimson Tide finish just No. 8 in the AP Poll, head coach Nick Saban spent the entire offseason designing his offense around quarterback Mac Jones.

Alabama enters the game first with an 11-0 record and has arguably the best offense in the nation averaging 50 points per game. The Crimson Tide also have a great defense allowing just 20 points per game.

Throughout the regular season, Alabama faced four ranked opponents in Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn and Florida. In those four games, the offense averaged around 47 points while giving up 27 points.

Alabama enters this game following a 52-46 victory over Florida in the SEC Championship. Jones was excellent throwing for 418 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith was great as well racking up 184 yards and two touchdowns on 15 catches. The player of the game was running back Najee Harris who had 245 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns.

X-Factors:

Mac Jones: Jones had many doubters entering the season but has silenced them as he has thrown for 3,739 yards, 32 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Jones has been great when facing ranked opponents, completing 74 percent of his passes while passing for 1,572 yards 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Najee Harris: Harris has arguably been the best running back in the nation. He has totaled 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns on 214 carries. Harris’ best game came against Ole Miss when he ran for 206 yards and five touchdowns.

DeVonta Smith: Smith took home AP Player of the Year and has been electric all season long, hauling in 98 catches and racking up 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. Against rival LSU, he proved why he is the nation’s best receiver as he had 8 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

Christian Barmore: Barmore has been a force on the defensive line recording six and a half tackles-for-loss and six sacks.

Dylan Moses: Moses has been all over the field as he has 68 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, three pass deflections, one sack and an interception.

Patrick Surtain II: Surtain II took home SEC Defensive Player of the Year as he has recorded 10 pass deflections and one interception this season.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 

How they got here:

After finishing No. 12 in the AP Poll last year Notre Dame looked to rebound. In the offseason, they switched into the ACC after being independent for 41 years.

Notre Dame enters the game ranked No. 4 with a 10-1 record and has a very good defense, allowing just 19 points per game while the offense has been solid averaging 35 points per game.

Throughout the regular season, Notre Dame played three games against ranked opponents - two against Clemson and one against North Carolina. In those games, the Fighting Irish average around 29 points and they allow around 30 points per game.

Notre Dame enters this game after suffering its first loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship by a score of 34-10. Clemson had its way with the Fighting Irish defense, totaling 541 yards while Notre Dame struggled to move the ball.

X-Factors:

Ian Book: Book has been solid this season passing for 2601 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has also run for 430 yards and eight touchdowns. Book has been decent against ranked teams completing 65% of his passing and passing for 808 yards, but just two touchdowns.

Kyren Williams: Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Irish after barely seeing the field in his freshman season. Williams has been great in his sophomore season rushing for 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns on 195 carries. He also has 27 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown.

Javon McKinley: McKinley has been Book’s main target this season as he has 40 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns.

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa: Tagovailoa-Amosa has been solid this season, recording five and a half tackles-for-loss and two and a half sacks.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: Owusu-Koramoah is the heart of the defense and he has been excellent this season with 56 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss three pass deflections, and one interception.

Kyle Hamilton: Hamilton has been all over the field as he has recorded 56 tackles, six pass deflections and one interception.

Prediction: Alabama 45, Notre Dame 21

 

Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at afr5646@psu.edu.