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Discover BCS National Championship Game preview

It's the big finale, the Championship Game of the NCAA Football season which will rack up huge TV ratings in the US. Unfortunately it will be well after midnight GMT by the time the game really gets going so only the diehards will be watching from the UK. Or those following James Jack's excellent tips... or both!

Follow him on Twitter @materialista27. And a reminder that if or look back at his archive of previews on his dedicated College Bowl site.

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Discover BCS National Championship Game

Monday January 7th, 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT)
Sunlife Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
(1)Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (2)Alabama Crimson Tide


The BCS National Championship Game was created as a stand-alone game in 2007, replacing the rotation which took place between the four BCS Bowls. (Fiesta, Rose, Orange, Sugar) Since its inception, it has been won by a team from the SEC with two wins each for Florida and Alabama, and one each for Auburn and LSU. The game is still held at the location of one of the BCS Bowls, currently rotating between those sites on a 4 year basis. Last year, the game was played at the site of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and next year's matchup of the top two teams in the country will take place in the Rose Bowl. The National Championship game is always the last game in the Bowl season and usually takes place a week after the Rose Bowl.

Notre Dame are back in the big time after a long hiatus and are here to attempt to clinch their first National title since the 1987 season when they were coached by Lou Holtz. One of the most storied programs in college football, they won 7 of their 11 National Championships before 1950. Since then, they haven't been nearly as impressive, but they're back in this game courtesy of an unbeaten season this far, beating 3 ranked teams in (18)Michigan, (6)Stanford and (11)Oklahoma, but avoided playing Ohio State who although post-season ineligible they were unbeaten. They didn't play against any SEC teams and although that doesn't necessarily mean they haven't been tested, they almost lost to 6-7 Pittsburgh, only sneaking past them 29-26 after 3 overtime periods. The bulk of the success is built on the defense, with Manti Te'o, the emotional leader of the team finishing second in Heisman voting and picked up 7 interceptions and 103 tackles and is destined for the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. His performance has been a symbol of how this year's Irish have played. They are the best team in the country in scoring defense, allowing only 10.3 points per game (they only allowed 10 touchdowns in total) and 4th in rushing defense giving up just 92.4 yards per game. Te'o is part of an excellent front seven including Louis Nix at DT (2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble) Stephon Tuitt at DE (11 sacks, 11 TFL, 1 fumble recovery TD) and Prince Shembo (7.5 sacks and 10.5 TFL). Their offense has been good enough to get them through games, but towards the end of the season, quarterback Everett Goldson developed into a leader and drove his team to win games coming from behind along with his 2135 passing yards and 11 TDs. Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones have combined for 1183 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns while Theo Riddick leads the rushing game with 880 yards and 5 TDs and his partner in crime Cierre Wood has 4 touchdowns for his 740 yards for a team that ranked 29th in rushing yards with 202.5 yards per game.

Alabama came into the season as the pre-season No.2 and in a nice piece of symmetry they come into this game ranked No.2 after they slipped up against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in their only loss. As a member of the SEC West, they beat Michigan in the Cowboys Classic to open the season, then beat Mississippi State, LSU and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game to secure their place in this game. Alabama have won 2 of the last 3 National Championships and are the only team to pitch a shut-out after last season's brutal beating of LSU. Although they lost to Manziel's A&M, the Tide have looked and played all season like they were coming to play in this game and once No.1 killer day Nov 17th passed, they returned to the reckoning to play tonight. Head Coach Nick Saban has the chance to win his 4th National Championship and a cool $200k bonus for winning this game. The offense is led by quarterback AJ McCarron who has passed for 2669 yards and 26 touchdowns while only giving up 3 interceptions. The rushing game is led by a two-headed monster as has become customary in Tuscaloosa and this season's pair are Eddie Lacy (1182 yards, 16TDs) and T.J Yeldon (1000 yards and 11 TDs) but the difference maker in the SEC championship game was wide receiver Amari Cooper who compiled a 985 yards and 9 touchdowns. The defensive unit is one of the best in college football, conceding just 10.7 points per game (2nd nationally) 246 yards per game (1st) and 79.8 rushing yards. (1st) The Crimson Tide have a few defensive playmakers of their own, with OLB C.J Moseley picking up 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble, while cornerback DeMarcus Millner has covered the opposition's best receivers all season and grabbed 2 interceptions and a sack and a half. By the time this game is over, there will be a lot more names you'll be familiar with on the defensive side of the ball.

FOR NOTRE DAME TO WIN
There is a very simple formula that has worked all season, smash whoever has the ball in their hands and keep doing it until you get the ball back. When you have the ball, run it until the defense tries to stop you, then toss it over the onrushing defenders. This team has kept games tight all season, winning 5 of their games by less than a score. Their defense has been stout and the offense has done just enough to get them over the line in some games, most notably the win over Pittsburgh. If they're going to pick up their first National Title since the 1987 season, they need to stop both of the Alabama running backs and AJ McCarron. The crowning jewel of this defense has been their redzone defense, and if they can limit Alabama to field goals, they may be able to bridge the gap in offenses and pull off a shock.

FOR ALABAMA TO WIN
The reason Alabama has been so successful in the last few years is their balanced and varied attack as well as their solid defense. Notre Dame haven't faced a team this year with two 1000 yard rushers and although their run defense had been excellent, the Irish have not been quite as stellar against the pass. Alabama will need to pound the ball throughout this game, running somewhere in the region of 50-60 running plays. That should suit the Crimson Tide as they have one of the best offensive lines in college football and Chance Warmack is probably the outstanding guard in this year's draft and his next-door neighbor center Barrett Jones is at worst a second round pick. If the Tide's offensive line can start to push around Louis Nix and the Irish front seven, this could be a long night and an ultimately disappointing one for anyone connected to Notre Dame football. Even if the Irish run defense is on it's game, A.J. McCarron and his receivers have to ability to pick on the Notre Dame secondary and as they have shown, most notably in the SEC Championship Game, the big play can come at any time.

VERDICT
This should be a tight game, not only because both teams only give up an average of 21 points combined, but this is the big game, the biggest some of these players will ever play in. Three of the last four National Championship games have yielded a points total under 40 and with the number 1 and 2 scoring defenses in the country I can't see why that would change. There will be a lot of running in this game and if you only enjoy watching quarterbacks throw the ball as far as they can, A) you're missing out on a great aspect of this sport and a real battle of wills and B) this game probably isn't for you. Both defenses have been excellent all season and I expect, no demand that they be even better in this game as this is for all the marbles.

The first quarter will be a feeling out process and providing both defenses are on their game, I wouldn't be surprised to see it end scoreless. Once the offenses start to string together a few first downs, I see Alabama putting together a drive into the redzone, but as Notre Dame excel and almost enjoy defending in the red zone, the Crimson Tide will have to settle for a field goal. Notre Dame will answer with a field goal of their own and that'll do us for the first half. Following the break, Alabama will look to open it up and utilize the pass and the steady arm of McCarron, looking to find Cooper and Bell and keep the ball away from Te'o. That should allow Alabama to put the first touchdown on the board, probably from outside the redzone and will give the defense a boost helping them to keep Notre Dame out of the endzone on their opening drive but perhaps giving up a field goal. Although both offenses are very talented, this is the battle both defenses will relish and we may see a lot of punts. I expect that by the time this game is over, Alabama will succeed in their running game through their strength in numbers and will eventually score a rushing touchdown. At 17-6, I believe that kind of lead is too much for Notre Dame to overcome and although I don't think Alabama will be able to keep them out of the endzone, at this point in the game, the Irish will have to go for two and although they will get it, that will be the end of the scoring.

Final: Alabama 17 * Notre Dame 14
Offensive MVP : Eddie Lacy
Defensive MVP : Louis Nix

ADVICE
Notre Dame +10
Under 40.5 points
First Scoring Play – Alabama Field Goal (7/2)
Double Result – Tie/Alabama (20/1)
First Touchdown Scorer – Amari Cooper (6/1)

DRINKING GAME
1 drink: Manti Te'o points to the sky on the sideline
2 drinks: Te'o's mormonism is mentioned
Finish it: Any Auburn fans are spotted in the crowd

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