Alabama (12-1) vs. Notre Dame (12-0), 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Alabama by 91/2
Series record: Notre Dame leads 5-1
What’s at stake: Alabama is going for its third national championship in four years and trying to become the first school to win back-to-back BCS titles. Notre Dame is seeking its first national championship since 1988. Both schools are trying to take over the lead for the most times finishing atop The Associated Press rankings, coming into the game tied at eight.
Key matchup: Notre Dame’s stifling defense, which has allowed only two rushing touchdowns all season, against Alabama’s bruising ground game. The Crimson Tide has a pair of 1,000 yards rushers in Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon, who combined for 334 yards in a 32-28 victory over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Notre Dame has surrendered only 92.4 yards per game on the ground, and just two players rushed for more than 100 yards against the Irish. LB Manti Te’o leads the team in tackles (103) and interceptions (seven).
Players to watch: Alabama WR Amari Cooper may become the Crimson Tide’s best weapon if the running game bogs downs. The dynamic freshman had 53 receptions and nine touchdowns, averaging nearly 17 yards per catch. Look for Alabama to work off play-action and take some shots down the field.
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, essentially a redshirt freshman, has developed from a timid play-caller at the start of the season to a seasoned leader who has earned the respect of his teammates. While coach Brian Kelly has scaled back some parts of his spread offense to cut down on potential mistakes, Golson has the ability to move the ball with his arm (59 percent completions, 2,135 yards passing, 11 touchdowns) and his legs (305 yards rushing, five TDs).
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