By Adam Hoge-
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS) This is the fourth 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 take a look at Alabama’s passing game vs Notre Dame’s secondary:
A.J. McCarron was a pretty polarizing figure earlier this season when his name started creeping into the Heisman conversation. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t have an elite arm, but he doesn’t make mistakes and most importantly, he wins. So when he lead the Crimson Tide on a late fourth quarter drive to beat LSU, the Heisman talk took off.
It only lasted a week.
Bama lost to Texas A&M the next week and that was it. But it would be wrong to say McCarron is not a good quarterback. While Notre Dame QB Everett Golson has the higher ceiling, McCarron has the edge going into this game because, well, he won it last year. The Alabama quarterback is the nation’s most efficient passer with 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions. So while Golson might make the fancier plays Monday night, it’s probably going to be the quarterback who makes less mistakes that wins the game.
But how do he and his receivers match up against Notre Dame’s secondary? Surprisingly well, actually. Alabama isn’t known as a team that is going to beat you with the pass, but while they don’t throw it a lot, they throw it well. McCarron completes 67 percent of his passes and has good weapons to throw the ball to.
Freshman receiver Amari Cooper will be a handful for either cornerback, whether it’s KeiVarae Russell or Bennett Jackson. Cooper leads the Tide with 53 catches, 895 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 68.8 yards per game. Shutting down Cooper will be key for the Irish, but it’s doubtful they’ll be able to do so in one-on-one coverage. Alabama has an advantage because Notre Dame safeties Zeke Matta and Matthias Farley are going to be busy supporting the run. That’s where the defensive line comes in. Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Kapron Lewis-Moore have to play as well as possible. If they do that, the corners will have a better chance to stopping receivers Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christon Jones with less safety help, allowing Matta and Farley to cheat to the run.
Notre Dame will also have to worry about tight end Michael Williams, who stands 6-6, 269 and has 21 catches and three touchdowns on the season.
Who Has The Edge? Alabama. There aren’t a whole lot of clear cut advantages in this game, but this is as close to one as you’re going to get. Notre Dame’s front seven is elite, but the secondary isn’t quite there yet.