(The following was written by MrSEC recruiting editor, Josh Ward, and originally appeared in USA Today Sports Weekly)
1. Quarterback advantage
Everett Golson should be commended for the season he’s had as Notre Dame’s signal-caller. He’s limited mistakes and found ways to make plays in his first year as a starter. But Golson hasn’t been as productive or tested as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who’s playing in his second straight BCS Championship game. McCarron has thrown for more yards (2,669 to 2,135) than Golson this season while throwing 15 more touchdowns and two less interceptions. McCarron is no stranger to the big stage, either. He played well in last year’s title game victory over LSU before leading Alabama to this year’s SEC championship. Notre Dame’s defense is stout, but McCarron should be up for the challenge at this point in his career.
2. The little things
Alabama has an advantage in the areas that don’t receive enough attention. While the Crimson Tide ranks in the top 40 nationally in both kick and punt return yard average, Notre Dame is outside the top 80 in both categories. Think field position won’t be critical in this kind of game? Alabama has also been more successful in both kicking and punting, turnover margin and red zone scoring. These topics rarely make it to the water cooler, but they’re important factors in close games. This attention to detail has helped separate Nick Saban teams from the rest. If Alabama does what it has all year, it should make enough plays to outlast Notre Dame.
3. Alabama will win its own game
Notre Dame focuses on running the football. Alabama has a better running game. Notre Dame relies on a physical, high-energy defense. Alabama does too, just at a higher level than Notre Dame. The point is Notre Dame will try to beat Alabama at its own game, which won’t be easy. Alabama tailbacks Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon (both 1,000-yard rushers this season) have enough speed and strength to take on Notre Dame’s pounding. Will Notre Dame’s backfield be able to stand up against Alabama’s defense? Alabama’s used to this kind of test. That’s why the SEC has six straight BCS championships – with a seventh on the way.