By Adam Hoge-
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS) This is the third in a six-part series breaking down Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Today, we’ll take a look at Notre Dame’s passing game vs Alabama’s secondary:
To say Everett Golson has to play well Monday night is an understatement. While Notre Dame has to win the defensive battle to stay in the game, the Irish offense has to score points to win it. With Alabama boasting the No. 1 run defense in the country, it’s up to Golson to make plays in the passing game.
Brian Kelly hasn’t been shy about admitting this reality. He has challenged his redshirt freshman quarterback to put the team on his back, limit his mistakes and make the big plays.
The good news is, if Alabama has a weakness on defense, it’s in the secondary. If Notre Dame can establish the run and the offensive line can give Golson time, there will be opportunities to move the ball through the air.
Junior T.J. Jones is Golson’s favorite wide receiver target, but he only has 43 catches and four touchdowns on the year. Tight end Tyler Eifert leads the team with 44 catches and needs to make himself more available in this game. At times, the Irish have struggled to find Eifert, especially in the red zone.
A big question is the health of redshirt freshman DaVaris Daniels, who missed the last two games with a broken clavicle. It appears he’ll see playing time, but how much? If he can’t go, more pressure will be on the undersized Robby Toma, a high school teammate of Manti Te’o.
An X-factor in the game could be fifth-year senior John Goodman. The 6-3, 215 pound wide receiver only has seven catches on the year, but three of them have been touchdowns. He makes his limited catches count, averaging 22.7 yards per reception.
As for Alabama’s secondary, the safeties go four-deep, but they are more effective in the run game than they are in coverage. Robert Lester, Nick Perry and Vinnie Sunseri are all playmakers, but there could be holes for Eifert to exploit in the middle.
The corners can also be effective blitzing. Deion Belue has 5.5 TFLs on the season and Dee Milliner has four TFLs. But neither player is a shutdown corner and Notre Dame’s receivers matchup well against them.
Who Has The Edge? Notre Dame. This one comes with an asterix. The Irish have the edge if they can establish the run. Otherwise, this is just an even matchup. I expect Notre Dame’s three-deep group of running backs to get enough yards to give Golson a chance to through the ball though. Once he gets in that situation, it’s up to him to play well, because opportunities will be there to complete passes, possibly a couple home runs. This game is going to come down to one or two big opportunities and Notre Dame can’t squander them.