Rocky’s V: Things Notre Dame has to do to win versus Alabama

01/05/2013

Saying that our Rocky Boiman has a rooting interest in Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game is like saying that a quarterback has a “rooting interest” in getting good protection from his offensive line. There is no doubt how the former Notre Dame captain who serves as an NCAA Football analyst and sideline reporter for Westwood One wants this one to turn out. So we asked him how his Irish can get it done in his final Rocky’s V post of the season:

As we lead up to the BCS Championship Game, I will don my Fighting Irish cap and so I give to you my “Five Things” that Notre Dame must do against Alabama to win the crystal football.

I. Move Tyler Eifert around

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert is no question the most explosive receiving threat that the Irish have. At 6’6” with wide receiver speed, he is a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. To me, the defensive backfield for Alabama is the most suspect part of their entire team, except for their All-American corner Dee Milliner. The Irish can’t allow Milliner to be locked up with Eifert all game which is what Alabama will try to do any chance they get. Therefore, Notre Dame must put Eifert in multiple positions: out wide, in the slot, motioning from the backfield, etc., to exploit mismatches in the Alabama secondary.

II. Hand the offensive reigns to QB Everett Golson

Head coach Brian Kelly has been justifiably conservative most of the year with sophomore QB Everett Golson, who is in his first season under center for Notre Dame. But Golson has gotten better every week, with the Oklahoma game being a real confidence-builder. I’m thinking (and hoping) that this six-week layoff between Notre Dame’s last game and the title game will have been a time when Golson really delved into all the intricacies of Brian Kelly’s offense. The past six weeks have been the equivalent of a full spring practice for the Irish and how much work Golson put in during that time will be critical in him taking the next step versus the Crimson Tide.

III. Keep the defensive line fresh

The battle between the Alabama O-line and the Notre Dame D-line is guaranteed to be epic. The Irish have been stalwarts at stopping the run and getting off the field on third down and the defensive line has been the reason for it. The thing I love about Notre Dame’s D-line is their depth, something Irish fans haven’t seen in decades. The starters (Nix, Tuitt, and Lewis-Moore) are absolute beasts, but backups Kona Schwenke and Sheldon Day are very capable and are especially strong against the run. The Irish have to keep throwing fresh bodies at this star-laden Alabama O-line and wear them down.

IV. Force Turnovers

With a secondary decimated with multiple season-ending injuries, the Irish have a surprisingly high amount of interceptions (16) and have forced 23 overall turnovers this year. The bad news is Alabama has turned the ball over only 15 total times this year and quarterback AJ McCarron has thrown only three INTs. However, in Alabama’s only loss this season to Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide turned it over three times, with McCarron throwing two of his three picks this season against the Aggies. Notre Dame must limit scoring opportunities for Alabama’s potent offense and there is no better way of doing that than creating turnovers.

V. Irish offensive line must emerge

For six weeks, Notre Dame has had to listen to how dominant Alabama’s offensive line is. I would imagine that has really irked the front five for the Irish and they’ll want to come out and show the world who the best line on that field is. While not laden with as many “stars” as Alabama, ND’s line has blocked well enough to have RB Cierre Wood rush for 6.7 yards per carry, while Theo Riddick picked up 880 yards on the ground. Now is the time to elevate your game even more, big boys.

Enjoy the game, everyone. And thanks for reading Rocky’s V this season!

— Rocky Boiman

Rocky Boiman is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion wrote about five topics that captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter.

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