Doan's Final Thoughts: Bama's nightmare
Posted Jan 7, 2013

Bart Doan's Final Thoughts before the 2013 BCS championship

Fiutak: Great matchup, okay teams
Cirminiello: Golson, Golson, Golson
Zemek: Trenches, trenches, trenches
Harrison: Is there really an SEC dominance?
Johnson: It’s 2002 Ohio State
Doan: Matchup nightmare for Alabama

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

Notre Dame is a matchup nightmare for Alabama

Brace thyselves. Notre Dame will be crowned BCS champions later tonight. It is true. Now...since we have one another’s attention...

Really though, they will. Talking heads will tell you what they’re told to say, but this isn’t a great matchup for Alabama. In fact, it’s a rather sordid one. The reason being is a guy that probably no one is thinking will hinge on who wins the game: Everett Golson. Truth is, the freshman quarterback hasn’t been a game changer, but since his two interception derp-fest against Michigan in September, he’s been much more efficient. Especially the last month. And while he’s not Mike Vick or RG3, he did have seven TD passes and only two interceptions. And he ran more efficiently. Where the first six games of the season he had only one game above a three-yard-per-carry average, he did it four times the last five games.

And if anything irritates Alabama, it’s the two things the Irish have: a strong front seven to keep it close, and a quarterback who can extend plays. The three really close games they played (LSU, loss to TAMU, Georgia) all saw elements of those there. LSU had the defense to be an inferior team and stay close. Georgia and TAMU, while not perfect at quarterback, had both playing well enough to keep the Bama defense from just relying on the first and second read to dominate the game.

Golson’s feet will need to keep plays alive so the stingy Alabama coverage is forced to improvise because plays are breaking down and extending. As for the defense, breathe with me now, but Notre Dame has the best front seven in the game. The Irish lead the nation in scoring defense, in part because their front seven is so good, it doesn’t allow a young secondary that was thought to be a weak spot to be exposed. It’s a lot tougher throwing against a team that doesn’t have to send an extra man than otherwise.

If you look at recent Alabama losses in the Nick Saban era, that element continues to pop up, with the exception really of Georgia. Why is that? Mostly because, schematically, Saban is brilliant at recruiting and playing to his strengths. I think Bama has unquestionably the best offensive line in college football. AJ McCarron is a lot closer to elite than he was last year, but still, Bama beats teams by road grating them into submission and controlling the clock, allowing play action to suck you in and make their receivers, who don’t always have great separation this year, simply beat man coverage.

The Irish are more in the mold of LSU, who was an inferior team this season but hung around long enough because of a defense that forced AJ McCarron to feel pressure and throw into more coverage.

After that, for the Irish, it’s simply not turning the ball over (which they’ve been better at than early in the year) and defending that last Alabama push late in the game. LSU couldn’t get it done. TAMU let by 98 yards but not the last two. What will the Irish do?

This is the best defense Alabama will have faced this year. Recent history suggests because of that alone, it will be a close game. As far as 2012 goes, bet against Notre Dame at your own risk. Touchdown Jesus pushed a field goal at Oregon, fed Kansas State some bad shrimp before a game against Baylor, and time after time has seen this team sneak out of sure defeat. So, 20-17, Irish. It’s better to be lucky than good...but it’s best being both.