Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Saturday’s ACC Championship Game went about as irascible as Notre Dame will possess imagined.
In a rematch with Clemson, who the Combating Irish beat in double-further time earlier this season, Brain Kelly’s squad looked entirely overmatched from initiate to build, and with star quarterback Trevor Lawrence assist in the Tigers’ lineup, Notre Dame had no answer.
And yet, when the last College Soccer Playoff rankings possess been released Sunday morning, the Irish possess been composed precisely the build aside they’d hoped: in the tip four and in the Playoff. That’s the lawful recordsdata. The decrease than lawful recordsdata is that as a replacement of going thru Ohio Impart, which unimpressively scraped by Northwestern in the Unheard of Ten title sport, Notre Dame gets a date with No. 1 Alabama and arguably one in every of the greatest offenses in college soccer history. If Saturday’s smackdown by the hands of Lawrence and Co. is any indication of what the Crimson Tide’s offense will enact, it’s going to be a truly long afternoon on Jan. 1.
Keys To The Game
In actuality, it must be a singular key to the sport. On myth of handiest one thing will reach to a call whether or no longer this sport is aggressive or no longer: Can Notre Dame slack down one in every of the ideal-flying offenses in the nation a week after giving up 541 yards to Clemson? Thru its first 10 games, Notre Dame’s defense had been nothing in need of sizable, conserving opponents to fewer than 220 passing yards per sport, while allowing opposing quarterbacks to total lawful over 50 percent of their passes. The Irish possess been particularly lawful at preventing sizable plays, and even supposing they ranked 60th in turnovers gained, they possess been ready to attend opponents to lawful 18.6 facets per sport. But there’s a gulf of distinction between groups love Louisville, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, which scored a blended 23 facets in opposition to Notre Dame, and Alabama, which averages 29.6 facets per sport in the first half of alone.
And derive this: The Tide possess been even higher of their last three games, inserting up 39.3 first-half of facets per contest. Of their 52-46 rob over No. 7 Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama became once once more led by the three-headed monster of quarterback Mac Jones, running assist Najee Harris and big receiver DeVonta Smith, all of whom are legitimate Heisman Trophy contenders while playing in the identical offense.
Harris, who has been the greatest running assist in the nation by lawful about every statistical class, racked up 245 all-motive yards and 5 touchdowns, giving him 1,578 yards from scrimmage and 27 entire touchdowns for the season. And while the Tide enact possess senior Brian Robinson Jr. to spell him, Harris has been a singular workhorse, touching the ball 22.three times per sport, which is bigger than double any various participant on offense.
Feeding him is junior signal-caller Mac Jones, who has remodeled from being a sport manager filling in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa last season to a bona fide All-American. Jones is ending an impossible 76.5 percent of his passes, averaging almost 340 yards per sport and throwing for 32 touchdowns in opposition to lawful four interceptions. And on the field of all of that is with out Jaylen Dawdle, Alabama’s most effective huge receiver coming into this season, who has overlooked the last six games of the season with a broken ankle.
In the starting up idea to be a season-ending harm, Dawdle’s ankle has recovered extremely neatly, in step with head coach Nick Saban. As of last week, Dawdle became once out of a boot and running on a treadmill nonetheless hadn’t returned to notice. With somewhat decrease than two weeks till the nationwide semifinal, it looks unlikely the Tide would possibility re-harm, nonetheless with one other 10 days after that sooner than a that you just would mediate of nationwide championship matchup, Dawdle could perhaps well perhaps be ready to transfer in opposition to both Clemson or Ohio Impart.
If he isn’t, Alabama has been lawful splendid with DeVonta Smith as Jones’ No. 1 target. The senior wideout has build collectively one in every of the most impressive seasons by a receiver in contemporary reminiscence, and he’s completed it in handiest 11 games. His 98 catches and 1,511 yards lead the nation, and he’s 2nd in receiving touchdowns with 17. In a usual season the build aside Alabama would’ve played 12 unheard of-season games and the SEC Championship, Smith could perhaps well maybe be on tempo for 115 catches, 1,785 yards and 20 touchdowns. And he’s completed all of this in opposition to an SEC-handiest agenda with none of the identical old cupcake opponents that elite avid gamers rack up huge numbers in opposition to.
For Notre Dame offensively, quarterback Ian E book has been a terrific sport manager, throwing lawful two interceptions on bigger than 314 pass makes an are trying. But he’s struggled significantly more in opposition to lawful defenses love Clemson’s, who he achieved 71 percent of his passes in opposition to in the ACC title sport, nonetheless didn’t throw a touchdown and rushed 10 times for -35 yards.
Opposite this Alabama offense, he and the Combating Irish have to rating facets and hope their defense can slack the sport down. If E book has to throw 40-45 times lawful playing utilize-up, Notre Dame is in sizable disaster.
Prediction: There became once one straight forward most effective crew in the nation this year, and that crew resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s laborious to imagine anyone beating this crew and this offense, let alone a Notre Dame squad that purchased humbled somewhat soundly by Clemson. Too worthy Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith. The Tide rolls. Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.