TRips: Three questions revisited

Revisiting three questions for back-to-back national champion Alabama following its 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

McCarron had plenty of time to operate while working behind Jones and the rest of the UA offensive line.

Other than intangibles, is there another area where Notre Dame has the advantage over Alabama?

TRips Sunday: 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.

TRips Tuesday: Say this much for the Irish, the Notre Dame marching band won the pregame. And that's a good thing because it would be a while before we'd hear Wake Up the Echos again.

Once the actual game started, it was as if we had taken a trip back in time. Not back to the 1973 Sugar Bowl, though. Instead, I went to the 2013 BCS Championship Game and the 2011 Capital One Bowl broke out.

That 21-0 blitz Alabama put on Notre Dame in a quarter and change is what happens when B1G-like competition is put in front of the Crimson Tide these days.

Defensively, CJ Mosley checked the front seven out of a blitz on one play only to blitz from a different look, leaving a pressured Golson to throw the ball away.

I'm not sure what Golson's course load at Notre Dame consists of but I'm pretty sure Chinese Arithmetic isn't a part of it. And for the most part, that's what Alabama's defensive schemes read like to the young signal caller.

Meanwhile, in ripping off scoring drives on its first three possessions of the game, Alabama's offense made a suddenly slow and out-muscled Irish defense look like that of a service academy, running through, past and around Manti Te'o and the rest of a front seven that was believed to be of SEC quality.

The Irish defense lived up to SEC standards. It's just that the standard was Tennessee's, not Alabama's.

In shredding an athletically-challenged Notre Dame defensive back seven, McCarron (20 of 28, 264 yards, four touchdowns) and the rest of the passing game showed where the biggest gap between UA and the Irish lay.

And here's the kicker: as good as McCarron was in becoming the first quarterback to win back-to-back BCS crowns, it was Eddie Lacy who completed a clean sweep of postseason MVPs, adding the BCS offensive award to the SEC Championship Game hardware he took home last month.

You want offensive balance? The Crimson Tide racked up 265 rushing yards and 264 passing yards on its way to finishing with 529 total yards.

If there was one concern for the Alabama offense at the half, it was that it might fall victim to cramps in the final 30 minutes. After running 41 plays in the opening half, you wondered if the unit might be in need of an IV at the break.

Ultimately, Notre Dame succumbed to the harsh reality that it only sees a team like UA once a year. Alabama, on the other hand, sees a team like Alabama every day.

With the red zone considered a no fly zone in this game, where will the points come from?

TRips Sunday: 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.

TRips Tuesday: Those explosive plays Nick Saban is always talking about? He got a game's worth of them from his offense in the opening quarter, as the Crimson Tide posted five plays of 20 yards or longer in its first 21 snaps.

Key stat for Notre Dame after the opening quarter: The Irish lead the nation in student-athlete graduation rate.

That fact, which was displayed on the message boards inside Sun Life Stadium, prompted the biggest cheer of the night from the Notre Dame faithful. It was a Vandy concession move that even Vandy doesn't hang its hat on anymore.

Is this the game that sees Alabama put together a complete performance?

TRips Sunday: 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 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.

TRips Tuesday: So was this a case of a Notre Dame team that had survived the likes of Pitt and BYU being exposed or was Alabama just that good?

I'll go with both.

The truth is, the Irish would have likely faced a similar fate had it been matched against a number of teams this postseason. That said, take nothing away from an Alabama team that has shouldered the burden of the "D" word for the last four months.

As a result of the work turned in by a senior class that includes Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Nico Johnson and Damion Square, the "D" word is no longer off limits.


Go ahead and say it loud and proud, Bama fans. Just understand that this isn't a four-year thing.

No, this goes back nearly 90 years, from the teams of Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas to Paul W. Bryant and Gene Stalllings and now on to Saban, who, in the same building that played host to some of his less memorable coaching moments, climbed another rung or two on the list of greatest coaches the college game has ever seen.

Last season gave Alabama fans a defense for all time. This season eliminated any questions about which college football program reigns supreme.

And here's what had some national pundits crying over the halftime hot dogs Monday night: with a wealth of talent returning for 2013, those who sided with "destiny" over "dynasty" might find themselves watching UA go for four out of five in Pasadena in a year's time.

Who knows? Maybe that kind of dynasty is Alabama's destiny.

Sunday's prediction: Alabama 24, Notre Dame 13.
Monday's score: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.

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