While I was watching the SEC Championship between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide, I didn't see what everyone else was apparently seeing: the two best football teams in the country playing a classic game for the ages. Sure, it was a great great game, but is was played by two extremely flawed teams battling to play another extremely flawed team. College football teams are just that, flawed. They are 18-23 year olds doing their best not to piss off their screaming middle aged coaches. This goes double on January 7th.
When football talking heads discussed Alabama's offensive line "as possibly the best in college football history" after the game, I remember the Texas A&M game, where Barrett Jones continually got beat and the Tide only gained 122 yards on the ground. I'm reminded that Georgia is allowing almost 150 yards on the ground per game despite playing poor to mediocre squads like Buffalo, Missouri, Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, Old Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. And then I realized that that "historic line" has yet to see a front seven with six future NFLers: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Stephon Tuitt (the next Julius Peppers), Louis Nix, Prince Shembo and Manti Te'o.
[Nick Saban] Crimson Tide had just claimed their 23rd SEC title. In 37 days Bama will take the field against Notre Dame, where his Crimson Tide team will earn the seventh straight BCS title for the SEC.
Make no mistake, tonight was the BCS title game. If the Fighting Irish had traveled to Atlanta tonight, they would have lost by double digit to both these teams. The Irish are not stopping Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon with a full month to get healthy from the rigors of the SEC season. The Irish are not stopping Nick Saban with a month to get ready for their weak offense.
...the Tide is about to roll all over your puny excuse for a national title winning football team.
Because the SEC plays grown man football.
And Notre Dame, who would be the 7th best team in the league, flat out doesn't.
I am forced to question whether or not Clay understands how football works. That it's not Lacy or Yeldon that actually need to be stopped, per se, but the gaping holes that were opened against a soft Georgia front seven. The Irish are fourth in the country in run defense for a reason, those holes wont exist, and neither will 'Bama's running game.
Also, while watching the game, I wondered if Clay had actually seen a Notre Dame game this year, because the Irish play exactly like Alabama on both sides of the ball. On offense, it's run first, safe throws second, deep balls only when necessary. Protect the ball at all costs. The Irish are just in shotgun a little more and have a mobile QB. Oh, the Irish are also WAY more efficient. On defense, both rely on their front seven to take away the run game, making teams one dimensional, and then try to force either a takeaway or a sack. Not surprisingly, Notre Dame, with the superior front four, has one more sack in one less game, while the Tide, with the better secondary, have five more turnovers forced.
Yet, on Saturday, I also saw Bulldog running back Todd Gurley rush for over five yards a carry and two touchdowns against a supposed tough front seven. Just wait until the Tide face the Irish O-line featuring four seniors, a junior and what a recent Michigan defensive lineman told me was "the best line he ever played against." Expect a few of those faces on your TV screen on Sundays, too. I should probably mention the three backs Notre Dame have are all faster and more versatile in the aggregate than Alabama's duo. Yeldon and Lacy are unquestionably stronger and harder to take down than the Irish three-headed attack, but Alabama has not seen a hole finding, pass catching, big play-combo like the Irish possess.
Let's also talk about the middle of the field, something Aaron Murray was able to take advantage of a few times against the Tide. Cue the best tight end in the nation, Tyler Eifert. Good luck with that. He's a mismatch for an experienced NFLer, let alone a college linebacker or safety.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Irish are full of faults. A green cornerback group has been protected most of the year with quality safety play, but can be exposed when left alone. Their red zone offense has been atrocious and they do not put teams away, mostly because of Brian Kelly's extremely conservative play calling. Both will have to change for the Irish to become National Champions.
If you've noticed, I have yet to mention AJ McCarron or Everett Golson because this seems to be the only spot in which I feel the Irish are at a disadvantage, but only slightly. McCarron made one throw against Georgia. One. Other than that, he was tremendously ordinary. When I saw him make that throw, I instantly thought to myself, "well, that wouldn't have even been an option against ND." Why? A) He wouldn't of had that time B) There's no way Bob Diaco, the best Defensive Coordinator in the country, would leave his corner on an island.
But, whatever, it comes down to this: The quarterback who does not turn the ball over. Whoever does that wins**.
*There was a time in my life when I respected Clay more than any other college football writer out there. Something happened to him after Tennessee football took a nosedive into nothing.
**I am by no means saying the Irish are going to win this game, I'm just trying to inform the dullards and SEC fanboys that they should be prepared for a bloodbath. A contest of inches and not miles. Offensive possessions will be limited, the score close and one side will finally get to yell loudly on Twitter. America!
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