1. PLAY KEEP AWAY
Only one of Alabama’s games, its 52-46 SEC Championship Game victory over Florida, has been decided by less than 15 points. Only once has Bama scored less than 41 points. To prevail, Notre Dame must excel at what it does best. The Fighting Irish lead the ACC in time of possession (34 minutes per game), third-down conversions (49.7%) and have committed just 10 turnovers in 11 games. They must win those games within the game.
2. STRONG UP THE MIDDLE
Alabama has few weaknesses, but losing center Landon Dickerson to a season-ending knee injury against Florida is a major blow. Notre Dame has tallied 30 sacks and actually allows fewer points per game than Bama does (18.6 to 19.5). Still, this is the best offense the Irish have faced. To defeat it, Notre Dame must be strong up the middle, exploiting Dickerson’s absence to pressure QB Mac Jones and try to slow down the running game.
3. THE DEVONTA DIFFERENCE
The Irish rank second in the ACC in pass efficiency defense, but few teams pass as efficiently as Alabama. There’s little secret to the Crimson Tide air attack: find DeVonta Smith. The Amite native and Heisman Trophy frontrunner has 98 catches for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. Somehow, Notre Dame must find a way to keep him from breaking big plays for scores. Making Alabama settle for three points instead of six will be a victory.
4. AND THE WINNER IS …
At 10-1, with a split against Clemson to its credit, Notre Dame deserves its spot as the CFP No. 4 seed. But at plus-20, the Irish are the biggest underdog in CFP history for good reason. Alabama has been too dominant, too balanced, too potent on offense to let anyone get within arm’s length. The Crimson Tide’s defense hasn’t been stellar and Notre Dame will score, but not nearly enough. ALABAMA 48, NOTRE DAME 23.