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I think ND has some elite talent at the DT position, as good as any we've faced this year. I am actually not as high on Te'o as some folks are... I'm not saying he's not a fantastic linebacker, because he is, but the "Heisman" campaign was laughable. Te'o is in the PERFECT position to shine, which I think makes him look better than he truly is. He has elite talent up front at the DT position, with guys who are eating up 2 (sometimes 3) blocks every play, is by far their best linebacker, and surrounded by a mediocre secondary.
Those factors translate into A) Te'o being free to roam most of the game without getting blocks from the OL B) Being dropped to help out more in pass coverage than if he had solid secondary help (leading to more interceptions), and C) racks up a ton of tackles because once the OL eats up the blocks, he's far and away their best at getting to the ball. I don't know that he would stand out anywhere near as much on Bama, LSU, UGA, UF, etc.
One other thought on their D-Line, though. While they might be elite talents, I still think that the first time you run into an opposing elite talent, there will be an adjustment period and you will be slowed down. I think that Bama's OL is more prepared to deal with an elite defensive line, than Notre Dame's DL is ready for an elite OL. If ND played Bama 10 times, both lines would get better from the competition, and by the 10th game Tuitt and Nix would REALLY be tough to deal with... but in game 1, I think it will be less so. Or to put it another way, it's like a future All-Star rookie coming up from AAA and playing his first game against Major League pitching... regarldess of talent, he's likely to struggle against a whole new level of talent the first few go-arounds.
Notre Dame certainly has a good D. There's no doubt about that. However, when looking at their run D compared to Bama's, a couple of things stick out. First, despite teams attempting 80 more rushes against our defense, we gave up 72 less rushing yards on the season. It could also be argued that we faced teams that were more committed to running the ball (evidenced by the fact that our opponents tried it 80 more times than ND's did despite very little success). So despite some very impressive talent in their front seven, we are actually significantly more effective in stopping the run. Secondly, Bama's running game has been more effective than theirs as Bama gained about 500 more yards, averaged about a half yard more per carry, and rushed for 13 more TDs than ND.
So when we are assessing how the running games will match up in this one, you have to concede that Bama will bring a better (although not vastly better) running game and rush defense according to the stats. I expect Bama to run for 150 - 220 yards in this one.
As for comparing the passing offenses and defenses, Notre Dame's pass D is very comparable to Bama's. They give up about 30 more yards per game but their opponents attempted more passes, and Bama and ND have both given up 7 passing TDs on the season while Bama had one more INT but also played in one more game. As for passing offense, ND throws for slightly more yards per game but Bama averages almost 2 yards better per attempt, meaning that we don't attempt as many passes. Moreover, ND's TD to INT ratio was 13:7 while Bama's was 27:3. ND's pass efficiency was 129.11 while Bama's was 172.09 (best in the nation).
Reviewing the four areas for each team (pass D, rush D, pass O, rush O), we can reasonably establish that Bama has a moderate to small advantage in rush D, rush O, and pass O while pass D is pretty much a wash. But there is one more thing to consider, and this isn't just blind regional bias, but teams from outside of the south have often stacked up well statistically against their SEC competitor in the lead-up to the title game (OSU in 2006 and 2007 and Texas in 2009). But once the game got underway they simply couldn't handle the size and speed that elite SEC teams bring with them. I'm not so sure this game will be different than those. ND is very solid and well coached, but you can't simply dismiss the fact that they squeaked by Purdue, BYU, and Pitt by a FG in each game and struggled with a team that Bama destroyed a few weeks earlier (Michigan).
The fundamental problem with government is that nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own. - Milton Friedman
I think the problem that confronts Notre Dame is the same problem other non-SEC teams have. They cannot replicate in practice the violence in the trenches that will confront them in the game. We have played against defensive front 7s that are on Notre Dame's level. On the other hand, Notre Dame's front 7 has not played against an offense line that is in the same universe as what they will see in the national title game. And unless they are practicing against the Chicago Bear's offensive line, there is no way for Notre Dame to prepare for it.
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