Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo MESPORTS SOUTH
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ARLINGTON– After one of the most chaotic and week-to-week football seasons in history four of college football’s most notorious programs – Notre Dame, Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State will meet today in the CFP semi-final to kick-off 2021.
The semi-finals will begin at 4 PM ET with the Rose Bowl live from Arlington, Texas. No that wasn’t a typo by the way. The bowl was moved from Pasadena due to the rise in COVID-19 cases along with public health restrictions out in California. So I guess we can say it’s the “Yellow Rose” Bowl today.
Nick Saban along with the No.1 Alabama Crimson Tide looks to keep their road to the championship alive, but first, they will have to topple Brian Kelly and the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this afternoon in Arlington.
Down in the Bayou this evening Dabo Swinney and the No.2 Clemson Tigers will face Ryan Day and the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes to see who will earn the final opportunity to play Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami for the National Championship.
What a road it has been for all these teams to even get to this point but they made it. So time for your CFP semi-final pre-game snapshot takes one.
NO. 1 ALABAMA (11-0) – vs. NO. 4 NOTRE DAME (10-1)
Whether you are a fan of the SEC or Nick Saban you can’t deny the dynasty that has been #BuiltByBama. This will be the 14th Crimson Tide team coached by Saban looking to add some more national championship hardware to their trophy case number six to be exact.
The Tide will be putting on an offense spectacle bringing in one of the nation’s most copious offenses perhaps even in the best of its own storied program history. It shouldn’t be any surprise with a cast that includes five first-team AP All-Americans, two Heisman finalists, an AP Player of the Year, and the SEC Offensive Player of the year. You can bet they know how to walk the walk on the offensive side of the ball not just as individuals but most importantly as a unit.
The Tide has been averaging 49.5 points per game and you can be sure to keep your eyes on these key offensive beasts for the Tide to get things going from the jump to control the ball game for Alabama. All eyes will be on quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and wideout Devonta Smith to do what they do best and force their own fast paced pressure on a Notre Dame Defense that has been standing its own ground reasonably well against its ACC counterparts.
But like any game of this magnitude especially with the storyline amidst these teams, it won’t be as simple to just pass go and collect your win for Nick Saban and his ball club. Even with his prolific star cast on offense, it is the little details we have seen that can change any ball game in an instance.
A few key points to remember the Tide’s narrowest margin of victory was just by 6 points against the Florida Gators. Alabama has lost seven fumbles which have been doubled in comparison to last season. The Irish are putting up a fight especially on defense and are a different program than the last time we saw these two collide for sure. The Notre Dame defense has been allowing fewer than 19 points a game. Their special teams have been clutch in key moments especially kicker Will Richard who is 12 for 12 for the Irish. The Tide will have to keep a close eye and operate with a tighter ship than usual especially with the way the Irish have been able to take advantage of small opportunities to get ahead this season. It won’t be easy to close on the sheer offensive spectacle by the Tide.
This afternoon Brian Kelly and the Irish are looking to finally break the cycle of not being able to come out the victor in marquee games. It has been eight years since Alabama took it to the then No.1 undefeated fighting Irish to capture their programs third then BCS title in just four seasons. Since then the Irish have struggled to break away from repeating that narrative but it seems times could finally be changing and the chip they carry could be the dawn of something much awaited for Notre Dame.
Ironically, as the Irish suite up as one of the final four teams standing it will be their first appearance in a Rose Bowl since that New Years Day back in 1925 where the historic “Four Horsemen,” took down Stanford 27-10 to win the programs first national title.
Perhaps, one of the most significant changes that have helped Notre Dame play differently this season is having the opportunity after 114 years of being an independent to play in a conference like the ACC. In case you need a refresher they went 10-0 in the regular season in Power 5 not to mention upset a then-No.1 Clemson team in a double-overtime 47-40. Granted the Tigers were without Trevor Lawerence due to COVID-19 that run they still managed to reach the ACC championship game. Which handed them their only loss of the season in a rematch against the Tigers 34-10.
Will the built-up tension along with the changes in the way they operate mentally and physically after all these missed opportunities finally be put to rest today in Arlington? It’s hard to say especially when you have the Crimson Tide a long time nemesis to get past but never say never right?
The offense for the Irish may not be as explosive as the Tide but it has been consistently good with their gunslinger, Ian Brook at the reigns to make them produce in big ways on the ground and in the air in clutch moments. Books’ has only thrown two interceptions this entire season and helped keep things rolling. Another key offensive component has been the sophomore tailback, Kyren Williams who has run for 1,061 yards this season. Look for him to help the Irish get a much-needed running game going today that will help Notre Dame to be able to balance their time in the air and down the field against a stout Alabama defensive front.
Consistency is key as they say and since their last meeting, the Irish have found a way to be and play as a more balanced football team. More importantly, their defense has been showing up in big ways and could be a strong factor in putting pressure on the Tide to help keep it closer than anticipated. Two of the key defensive targets to be watching for that will play big roles trying to shake up Mac Jones and an explosive offense will be sophomore safety, Kyle Hamilton, and linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Each has had 56 tackles this season and is tied for the team lead.
While Book has been a strong consistency for the success of the Irish he will have to put up his best game and his front line will need to be all in and then some. Despite his ability to control the game and make plays, Book was sacked a record six times during their rematch in the ACC championship rematch with the Tigers. While this may not be Alabamas best defense it has produced its still pretty damn good with 32 of their sacks coming in just the last four games. So you can bet that the defensive plan for Alabama will be designed to get an early start on piercing their protective veil piece by piece.
This is not the same Fighting Irish ball club they have been extremely consistent and are stacked with plenty of veterans to hold their own and I am pretty sure are damn tired of chasing the ghost of playoffs past. Again, it will take nearly a flawless game with calculated risks to “Turn the Tide.” to favor them. Alabama is going to come out the gate hot and ready and will take charge but it won’t be an easy task when you’re faced with a team playing consistent, gritty, and balance ball so no time to let the guard down if you’re the Crimson. As much as the reincarnation and the spirit of the “Four Horsemen” may show signs of Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death to Alabama to a degree. Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson know how to close games and are hungry to get back for their own avegence in claiming a national championship once more. On the offense alone Alabama is just too damn hard to stop. So as the Bear said,” If you want to walk the heavenly streets of gold, you gotta know the password, ‘Roll, Tide, Roll.” Alabama 45 Notre Dame, 27