Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Irish must play clean game

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

If Notre Dame wants to beat Alabama and win a national title, the Irish must protect the ball.

Notre Dame's turnaround from an 8-5 season in 2011 to a berth in the BCS Championship Game this year is one of the biggest surprises in college football. A key factor in the Irish success has been mistake-free play, which Notre Dame will have to continue to defeat Alabama and win the national championship.

Last season, Notre Dame started out of the gate 0-2, turning the ball over 10 times in losses to South Florida and Michigan. The Fighting Irish went on to give the ball away 29 times and finish the season with a -1.15 turnover margin, which ranked 118th in the country.

This year, it's a different story. Notre Dame has just 14 turnovers and a margin of 0.75, ranking 23rd in the nation. The Irish must protect the football against 'Bama in what is expected to be a close, low-scoring game. Alabama is ranked No. 13 with a 1.00 turnover margin, and Brian Kelly's team can't afford to count on any Crimson Tide mistakes.

To win its first BCS title, Notre Dame needs to play a smart, clean game. If that doesn't happen, the Irish's chances against the Tide won't be good.

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