BCS Championship

Dr. Lou examines how Irish, Crimson Tide match up

2013-01-06T23:00:00Z Dr. Lou examines how Irish, Crimson Tide match upBy BOB WIENEKE South Bend Tribune nwitimes.com
January 06, 2013 11:00 pm  • 

The statistic — the one that proclaims Notre Dame's defense the stingiest in the country with its 10.3 points per-game average — makes a strong case standing on its own.

Lou Holtz added perspective.

"Getting down there inside the 10-yard line and not scoring a touchdown is like reaching a par-5 in golf in two (shots) and then six-putting," the former Irish coach and current ESPN studio analyst said. "You get nothing out of it."

His point?

"You have to be able to score on Notre Dame when you get a chance," Holtz said.

That's the rather simplistic look at ND's matchup with Alabama in Monday night's BCS Championship game. Dr. Lou, however, didn't stop with a "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" diagnosis. In fact, Holtz provided a thorough examination of the key matchups.

nþAlabama's offense vs. Notre Dame's defense

When asked about a key matchup in this game, Holtz pounced on how ’Bama's offensive line matches up against Manti Te'o and ND's front seven.

"This Notre Dame defense is very comparable to an SEC defense," Holtz said. "They're very physical. They're very strong. They get good pressure with a four-man rush. They're very good fundamentally. I think that's going to be the key."

There is also some pretty good talent on the other side of the field, though. Holtz used "great" to describe not only Alabama's offensive line, but also its two running backs, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. He also had good things to say about quarterback AJ McCarron, the nation's top-rated passer in passer.

The key in slowing McCarron, however, comes with stopping Lacy and Yeldon. Why?

"Establishing the run allows them to play-action pass and go downfield," Holtz pointed out. "If you can't run the football, then you aren't going to have a chance to run the play-action."

Holtz believes the Crimson Tide will gain yards on the ground. It's the manner in which they do it, however, that could dictate ND's level of success or failure.

"Alabama is going to make some yards running it, but what you can't let them do is go four, five, six yards every time like what happened at Georgia," he said. "You can't let them get in a rhythm."

nþNotre Dame's offense vs. Alabama's defense

Holtz pointed out in his analysis of the ’Bama offense that, for the most part, McCarron's passes will come from the pocket, typically about six or seven yards deep and from behind the center.

That's not the case with Irish QB Everett Golson.

"Unlike McCarron, Golson can scramble, run bootlegs, present a lot of problems, and you don't know where the pocket is going to be on Golson," Holtz said.

That's where the chess match begins, particularly when Alabama decides to blitz. For instance, say Alabama calls an inside blitz and Golson is sprinting to the edge. There may be an alley for Golson to cut upfield. Cornerbacks are now asked to cover ND's receivers for perhaps twice as long as planned.

"I think that just presents an awful lot of problems," Holtz said.

Holtz also said that Alabama likes to match up according to personnel. For instance, if a team employs three wide receivers, Alabama will likely line up with five defensive backs. Tyler Eifert, ND's All-America tight end with wide receiver-like speed, could present a matchup problem. So too could Theo Riddick, a running back-turned-wide receiver-turned running back.

"Riddick's versatility gives ND an edge in that he could line up at wide receiver or running back," Holtz said.

And while ’Bama's defense ranks right behind ND in scoring defense at 10.6, it's not the same defense that muscled its way to last year's national championship. Holtz spoke at Alabama's coaching clinic in the offseason and was able to spend time with head coach Nick Saban and watch the Crimson Tide practice.

"In talking to Nick, I would agree with him in this respect — if you look at the height, weight, size and speed, this year's Alabama football team with last year's Alabama football team, you aren't going to see a lot of difference. This is a talented football team

"However, they're a young football team. Last year, they had established stars. There was an air of confidence. They knew the guy next to them. Now, because you're a younger football team, things don't happen instinctively

"I do think this extra time to prepare for one team is an asset for the University of Alabama and I think that this is an excellent football team."

Holtz agreed that because of the relative inexperience, this has been one of Saban's better coaching jobs, which is saying a lot for a guy who already has won three national titles.

But he also isn't quite buying in to the thought that ’Bama will roll.

"A lot of people don't think Notre Dame has a chance," Holtz said. "I think they match up very, very well in this football game."

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