Alabama sweeps Notre Dame, 31-14, returns to National Championship Game – The Blue Pennant

#1 Alabama (11-0) vs #4 Notre Dame (10-1)

Rose Bowl
Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium
Friday January 1, 2021
4:00 p.m. (Eastern time, 10:00 p.m. in France)

The # 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and # 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish kick off the 2020-21 College Football Playoff in this first semi-final played as part of an exceptionally relocated Rose Bowl to AT&T Stadium Arlington, Texas due to health restrictions in the state of California.

Eight years after a BCS Championship Game totally dominated by the team of coach Nick Saban (victory 42-14 of Alabama), # 4 Notre Dame will try to take revenge by bringing down the favorite favorite of the season. The coach of # 4 Notre Dame, Brian Kelly (record of 1-6 against teams of the Top 5), will he finally manage to win a Big Game after his failures in 2013 (BCS Championship Game), 2016 (Fiesta Bowl) and 2018 (Cotton Bowl)?

How did they get there?

#1 Alabama (11-0)

The year 2020 will go down as one of the most chaotic in the history of sport. But in these unpredictable times, one thing hasn’t changed an inch: # 1 Alabama continues to dominate the SEC! The Crimson Tide took advantage of an exclusively intra-conference schedule to become the first program in history to win 10 games against Southeastern Conference teams in a single season.

Apart from a completely unbridled match against Ole Miss (63-48 victory) and a hanging SEC Championship Game (52-46 victory against # 7 Florida), # 1 Alabama flew through the debates from September to December winning a 15th SEC division title. West. # 5 Texas A&M (52-24 win), # 9 Georgia (41-24 win), Tennessee (48-17 win), Auburn (42-13 win) and LSU (55-17 win) didn’t weigh well heavy against a team which has won all its matches with an average difference of 30.1 points!

If the defense of the Crimson Tide has not always demonstrated the characteristic guarantees of a national champion, the attack led by the offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has turned into a veritable steamroller totally unstoppable. The proof ? QB Mac Jones (3739 yards, 76.5% efficiency, 34 TDs, 2 INTs) and WR DeVonta Smith (98 receptions, 1511 yards, 17 TDs) are both finalists for the Heisman Trophy while RB Najee Harris (1262 yards, 24 TD) would also have deserved an invitation.

# 4 Notre Dame (10-1)

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, # 4 Notre Dame was forced to temporarily join a conference for the first time in the South Bend program’s 114 years of existence. The Fighting Irish celebrated this historic first by finishing unbeaten and with a place at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings at the end of the regular season.

The senior QB Ian Book (2600 yards, 15 TDs, 2 INTs and 430 yards on the ground, 8 TDs) confirmed its status as the team’s offensive leader and the defense quickly asserted itself as one of the best in the country (18.6 points awarded by game, # 14 in the country), particularly against the run (110.5 yards allowed per game, # 15 in the country). After victories against Duke and South Florida, # 4 Notre Dame continued success (Florida State, Louisville, Pitt, Georgia Tech) until the long-awaited shock against # 1 Clemson. This evening of November 7, the Fighting Irish had their best game in several years and brought down the country’s # 1, 47-40, after an epic match concluded in double overtime.

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# 4 Notre Dame will finally complete its season with three dominant wins over Boston College, North Carolina and Syracuse, ending its regular season with a perfect 10-0 record. Firmly clinging to 2nd place in the CFP standings, the Fighting Irish preserved their place among the semi-finalists of the playoffs, despite a heavy 34-10 defeat suffered against # 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

The keys to the match

How to stop the attack on Alabama?

Since Lane Kiffin’s arrival as offensive coordinator (2014-16), the # 1 Alabama attack has abandoned its “run heavy” system for spread patterns perfectly suited to the athletic abilities of the team’s workforce. . QB Tua Tagovailoa had symbolized this offensive renewal; the offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian sublimated it by making the QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, WR DeVonta Smith and WR John Metchie III totally unstoppable.

However, this will be the defense of the Fighting Irish during this Rose Bowl. But how to succeed in stopping all these offensive playmakers from Alabama?

An aggressive 4-player pass rush on the line to destabilize QB Mac Jones, tackle with exceptional efficiency to slow RB Najee Harris and tight coverage for several seconds on receivers (to allow time for the pass rush to put pressure in Crimson Tide’s offensive backfield) will be essential elements in the defense of # 4 Notre Dame. There are probably no miraculous systems to destabilize this offensive Alabama squad. Everything will go through an execution close to perfection. However, the Fighting Irish have already demonstrated this season against the formidable playmakers of North Carolina that they were able to slow down one of the best attacks in the country. They will have to draw inspiration from this successful performance against the Tar Heels but the march will be even higher.

The battle of turnovers

The desire to completely stop the attack on Alabama is probably a utopia. Slowing it down may even be an illusion. Unless you deprive her of the ball. And this will surely be one of the objectives of the defense of the Fighting Irish.

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To achieve this, # 4 Notre Dame will have to control possession of the ball during long drives but will above all have to cause turnovers in the opposing attack. The Golden Domers own the playmakers to achieve this (DE Daelin Hayes, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or S Kyle Hamilton). However, despite taking significant risk, Alabama’s offensive squad made very few turnovers during the 2020 season (1.0 per game).

The Alabama front seven face the Notre Dame ground game

Since the match against Ole Miss, which today appears to be an aberration throughout the Crimson Tide season, the Alabama defense has regained its identity limiting 5 of its next 6 opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground . Since that game against the Rebels, # 1 Alabama has allowed only 3 TD on runs in their last 7 games.

However, the great strength of the Fighting Irish attack in 2020 will have been its ground game. Protected by one of the best offensive lines in the country (the best?), RB Kyren Williams (1061 yards on the ground, 12 TDs) was one of the revelations of the year scoring 6 games over 100 yards on the ground while QB Ian Book also benefited from the enormous job of LT Liam Eichenberg and Co. to regularly fetch the necessary yards to get the first down.

The clash between this Fighting Irish offensive line and the Crimson Tide front seven will be a determining element of this Rose Bowl.

Players to watch

QB Mac Jones, Alabama

We had quickly made a game manager. QB Mac Jones took everyone by surprise by asserting himself as one of the best gunslingers of his generation. Some will say (with reason) that he has especially benefited from a fabulous protection of his offensive line but his sense of analysis of the game and his velvet passes have wreaked havoc throughout the season which opened up to him the Top 4 route for the Heisman Trophy.

RB Najee Harris, Alabama

A simply phenomenal 2020 season: 1262 yards on the ground, 24 TD and 32 receptions, 316 yards, 3 TD in 11 games. The senior running back of the Crimson Tide carried almost alone the ground game of the program of Tuscaloosa (Alabama) until a sensational performance in the SEC Championship Game (5 TDs against Florida).

WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

He made College Football history by scoring the TD of victory in the 2018 National Championship Game, he could become the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since WR Desmond Howard in 1991 at the end of an exceptional 2020 season ( 98 receptions, 1511 yards, 17 TDs).

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QB Ian Book, Notre Dame

Sometimes criticized for the lack of consistency in its performance, it remains the metronome of the Fighting Irish attack. It seems to have taken on a new dimension in 2020 by managing to limit certain mistakes that have cost him dearly in the past. A victory for Notre Dame will necessarily go through a great match for the Fighting Irish quarterback.

RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame

Following the departure of RB Tony Jones Jr during the offseason, # 4 Notre Dame started the 2020 season with uncertainty regarding the running back position. The Fighting Irish were quickly reassured by the performance of the redshirt freshman RB Kyren Williams (1061 yards on the ground, 12 TDs) who managed 6 games more than 100 yards on the ground. Decisive against # 2 Clemson during the match on November 7, he will surely have a key role in this Rose Bowl.

LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

Defensive leader of the Fighting Irish, he won the Butkus Award which rewards each year the best linebacker of the season. An ultra-fast linebacker, he has an extraordinary instinct that has allowed him to succeed in several big plays in 2020. His matchup with QB Mac Jones and RB Najee Harris will be crucial.

X factor

The absence of Landon Dickerson (Alabama). The starting center has been a big part of Crimson Tide’s fantastic offensive season. All observers call him a stabilizer and a charismatic leader in the locker room. However, he will be absent for this Rose Bowl due to an injury suffered against # 7 Florida during the SEC Championship Game.

Historical

Two legendary programs of College Football which have ended up clashing only 7 times. The last match dates back to January 2013 during the penultimate BCS Championship Game in history. Alabama then gave a 42-14 correction to a team from Notre Dame which was then undefeated.

However, it is the Fighting Irish who lead 5-2 in the series between the two teams. In 1973, Notre Dame had won 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl to claim the title of national champion. Two years later, in the Orange Bowl, the Fighting Irish won 13-11 and deprived Alabama of a league title that stretched out their arms.

Source : Winsipedia

Wounded

#1 Alabama

Absent : C Landon Dickerson (genou), RB Trey Sanders (blessures multiples), WR Jaylen Waddle (cheville), DL LaBryan Ray (coude).
Not sure: None.
Likely: None.

# 4 Notre Dame

Absent: C Jarrett Patterson (knee), DL Jayson Ademilola (knee), WR Kevin Austin (foot), LB Paul Moala (Achilles tendon), RB Jahmir Smith (reasons unknown).
Unsure: WR Braden Lenzy (calf).
Likely: S Kyle Hamilton (ankle).

Prognosis

Alabama 41, Notre Dame 23

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