Eddie Lacy (42) is one of two Alabama running backs to rush for 1,000 yards… (Jamie Martin / Associated…)
The Bowl Championship Series title game between Alabama and Notre Dame features two of college football's most storied programs and two of the nation's top defenses. Times staff writer Gary Klein examines the matchups between the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish.
Alabama rushing vs. Notre Dame defense
Alabama features two 1,000-yard running backs. Junior Eddie Lacy has run for 1,182 yards and 16 touchdowns, freshman T.J. Yeldon 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Each averages more than six yards a carry. All-American center Barrett Jones, All-American guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker lead an offensive line that helps Alabama average 224.6 yards rushing a game.
Notre Dame ranks sixth nationally in total defense and is fourth against the run, surrendering only 92.4 yards rushing a game. All-American inside linebacker Manti Te'o and end Stephon Tuitt anchor a unit that also features burly nose tackle Louis Nix.
Alabama passing vs. Notre Dame defense
Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron leads the nation in passing efficiency, passing for 26 touchdowns, with only three passes intercepted. The junior has completed 67% of his passes.
McCarron's favorite target is receiver Amari Cooper, who has 53 catches, nine for touchdowns. Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones have 25 and 24 catches, respectively, and Kenny Bell averages 25.4 yards per catch.
Notre Dame ranks 21st nationally against the pass. Te'o has seven interceptions. Tuitt has 12 sacks, linebacker Prince Shembo 71/2.
Notre Dame rushing vs. Alabama defense
Running back Cierre Wood, who played at Oxnard Santa Clara High, averages 74 yards rushing; Theo Riddick averages 73 for a Fighting Irish offense that averages 202.5 yards rushing a game. Quarterback Everett Golson runs for 28 yards a game behind a line led by center Braxston Cave.
All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley anchors the nation's top defense. The Crimson Tide surrenders only 246 yards a game, only 79.8 on the ground.
Notre Dame passing vs. Alabama defense
Golson has passed for 11 touchdowns, with five passes intercepted. Tight end Tyler Eifert has 44 receptions, receiver TJ Jones 43. Each has four touchdowns.
Mosley and All-American defensive back Dee Milliner lead a defense that gives up only 166.4 yards passing per game. Defensive backs Robert Lester and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix each have four interceptions, Mosley and Milliner two.
Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley has made all 11 field-goal attempts, though he has attempted none beyond 38 yards. Cade Foster is four of nine from beyond 40 yards, including three from 50 yards or farther. Shelley has made all 63 extra-point attempts.
Punter Cody Mandell has averaged 23.8 yards per kick. Cyrus Jones averages 25 yards per kickoff return, Christion Jones 10.6 per punt return.
Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza has made 23 of 31 field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder against USC.
Punter Ben Turk averaged 40.6 yards per kick. George Atkinson III has averaged 20.7 yards per kickoff return, Davonte' Neal 2.4 yards per punt return.
Brian Kelly and his staff have done a marvelous job leading Notre Dame to an unbeaten season and restoring the Fighting Irish to a national power.
But Alabama's Nick Saban has coached in three national title games — one at Louisiana State and two at Alabama — and won every time.
Prediction: Alabama 27, Notre Dame 16