ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-1) vs. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (12-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Alabama -9.5 & 40.5
Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -9.5 & 42
The 2012 college football season concludes on Monday night when Notre Dame tries to complete an undefeated season against an Alabama team seeking its third championship in the past four years.
These are the top-two scoring defenses in FBS with the Irish allowing 10.3 PPG and the Tide giving up 10.7 PPG. Alabama leads the country in total defense (246 YPG), while Notre Dame ranks sixth (287 YPG). Neither team has been a great wager, with the Crimson Tide going 1-4 ATS in its past five games and the Irish at 3-4 ATS in its past seven contests. But both were strong bets in non-home games, with Alabama posting a 4-2 ATS mark and Notre Dame at 5-1 ATS. Alabama beat LSU last year because of its incredible defense, and although this Crimson Tide stop-unit is not nearly as talented as last year’s crew, they’re still plenty good enough to shut down a lackluster Notre Dame offense that ranks tied for 76th in the nation in scoring (26.8 PPG). Alabama’s offense is also strong, ranking 15th in the country at 38.5 PPG. Irish QB Everett Golson just doesn’t have the arm to bring his team back from a deficit against a quality opponent with a 49.6% completion pct., 2 TD and 2 INT combined against USC, Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan and Michigan State. However, Notre Dame’s defense is outstanding and it will keep this game low-scoring against what should be a very vanilla, run-heavy offense from the Crimson Tide in this game.
Tide QB AJ McCarron leads the nation in passing efficiency, completing 67% of his passes for 9.3 YPA, 26 TD and just 3 INT. In last year’s title game, he played mistake-free football against a talented LSU team, completing 23-of-34 passes (68%) for 234 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT. But this year, he has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 12 of 13 games. Freshman WR Amari Cooper is his go-to receiver with a team-high 53 catches, 895 yards and 9 TD. Cooper has gained 423 yards and 4 TD over the past four games, helping his team win the SEC Championship with eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown with 3:15 remaining. But Alabama remains a run-oriented offense at 225 YPG (19th in nation) on 5.6 yards per carry. Both Eddie Lacy (1,182 rush yds, 16 TD) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 rush yds, 11 TD) have been outstanding this season. Lacy has rushed for 586 yards (7.8 YPC) and 9 TD over the past five games, while Yeldon has four 100-yard efforts, including 153 (6.1 YPC) of the team’s 350 rushing yards in the SEC title game win over Georgia. Alabama’s top-ranked rushing defense (79.8 YPG) has surrendered 116 rushing YPG in the past five contests, but has allowed just 3.1 yards per carry during this stretch and a meager 2.5 YPC for the season. The passing defense has given up just 7 TD while compiling 17 INT for the year.
Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship in 24 years, when it finished the 1988 season undefeated. QB Everett Golson has averaged just 194 passing YPG with 11 TD and 5 INT this season, but he’s been stronger since November with 248 passing YPG, 7 TD and 2 INT in four games. Senior TE Tyler Eifert leads Notre Dame in receptions (44) and receiving yards (624), but has just one touchdown in his past five games combined. The Fighting Irish’s ground game is also paced by seniors, Theo Riddick (880 rush yds, 5 TD) and Cierre Wood (740 rush yds, 4 TD). Riddick is coming off a career-high 146 rushing yards in a 22-13 win at USC and hopes to have his number called for more than the eight carries he’s gotten in each of the two bowls he’s played in, gaining 68 yards on 16 carries (4.3 YPC). Wood rushed for 81 yards (6.8 YPC) and a touchdown in the 2010 Sun Bowl, but was held to 60 yards on 18 carries (3.3 YPC) in last year’s Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. This duo is a big reason why the Irish rank 11th in FBS in time of possession (32:34). On defense, Notre Dame has not allowed more than 17 points in a regulation game this season, including five times of limiting opponents to six points or less. The Irish are very stingy against the run (92 YPG, 4th in FBS) and have compiled 2.83 sacks per game (15th in nation). These numbers are even more impressive because they don’t force too many turnovers, totaling just six takeaways over the past five games combined. Heisman Trophy finalist LB Manti Te’o finished the season with 103 tackles (52 solo) and seven interceptions, while sophomore DL Stephon Tuitt has 12 sacks and 13 Tackles For Loss.