Three questions for second-ranked Alabama (12-1) as it heads into Monday's meeting (7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN) with No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) in the BCS National Championship Game.
AJ McCarron will look to build on his MVP performance in this game a season ago.
Other than intangibles, is there another area where Notre Dame has the advantage over Alabama?
We've heard plenty of reasons why the Irish will take down the Crimson Tide at Sun Life Stadium. For the most part, though, they haven't involved actual, on-the-field matchups.
In siding with Notre Dame, astrology has been the method of choice for some prognosticators. Instead of looking at the teams player for player, there's a sense that perhaps the stars are aligned perfectly for an Irish victory.
Some of the sound reasoning I've heard and read in recent days:
*Irish starting quarterback Everett Golson hails from the state of South Carolina, which also produced the Irish's last national championship quarterback, Tony Rice.
*The 1973 Sugar Bowl.
*Florida lost to Louisville, so ...
*Alabama's team hotel.
*It's Notre Dame's time.
But what about Alabama's intangibles, the ones that would seem to be a good bit more relevant to what will unfold tomorrow night than those of their opponent?
*Alabama's starting quarterback is AJ McCarron, who shares the same name as the Crimson Tide's last national championship quarterback.
*The 2010 and 2012 BCS National Championship Games.
*An Alabama senior class that hasn't lost a postseason or neutral site game. Ever.
There's only one intangible that will matter much tomorrow night: poise. Both teams will be prepared and motivated to play. How each deals with the magnitude of the moment will go a long way in determining the winner.
Alabama has the more talented football team from top to bottom. But that doesn't mean Notre Dame won't play the better game Monday night. If it does, something that happened 35 years ago won't have anything to do with it.
With the red zone considered a no fly zone in this game, where will the points come from?
There's been a lot of talk about the red zone efficiency of the Alabama and Notre Dame defenses and rightfully so. Irish opponents have scored touchdowns on just 24 percent of their trips inside the Notre Dame 20. Meanwhile, the Alabama defense has surrendered touchdowns at a 48 percent clip.
And that's why the Crimson Tide offense's ability to convert inside the 20, while also striking for big plays, is probably the biggest advantage it has over the Irish.
Alabama has scored touchdowns on 41 of 57 trips (72 percent) inside the 20 this season. The Crimson Tide has also posted 22 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer.
By comparison, the Notre Dame offense has scored touchdowns on 27 of 58 trips (47 percent) inside the 20 and has just seven scores of 20 yards or longer.
While both offenses could find the sledding rough in the red zone Monday night, Alabama's ability to score from anywhere on the field -- and Notre Dame's inability to do the same -- might very well be the difference in the game.
Is this the game that sees Alabama put together a complete performance?
Considering that the Crimson Tide didn't put forth wire-to-wire performances in its biggest games (LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia) to date, it's somewhat amazing that it will play for a national title tomorrow night.
The 2009 team had the Florida game. The 2011 squad had Arkansas.
Heading into college football's final night of the season, this Alabama team has yet to play a complete game against elite competition.
Perhaps that's because this isn't Nick Saban's most complete team. It isn't as across-the-board dominant defensively as the 2009 and 2011 units were. Offensively, it hasn't been as sure-handed with the football in big games as it was in 2011.
But that doesn't mean this edition of the Crimson Tide isn't capable of putting it all together against the Irish, completing a four-year run for the ages in the process.
Prediction: Alabama 24, Notre Dame 13.
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