Alabama Football: Why Irish are doubly wrong about Crimson Tide

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Alabama Football: The Irish have two incorrect assumptions about beating the Alabama Crimson Tide.

For Notre Dame to beat the Alabama football team, hopes and expectations must be realized by the Irish. Notre Dame has an excellent coaching staff, led by Brian Kelly. Their task is a gameplan that keeps the Fighting Irish close enough, maybe the Crimson Tide will beat itself.

Burning time off the clock with drives ending in Notre Dame touchdowns is job No. 1. That will be harder than the Irish expect. But, doing it successfully is not enough. If the Irish get in a shootout with the Crimson Tide, they will also be vulnerable to their own mistakes determining the outcome.

Even if the Notre Dame offense has a highly productive afternoon, its defense cannot stop the Tide’s offense. Clark Lea will have job No. 2; slowing Steve Sarkisian’s explosive offense. Notre Dame fans appear to have more than hope that Lea’s defense can be successful. Fighting Irish fan talk indicates an expectation the Crimson Tide offense will not overpower the Irish defense.

Measurements of the Fighting Irish’s chances against the Crimson Tide invariably go back to 2013 and the 2012 National Championship game. Notre Dame fans see an Alabama football defense that has gone from nearly invulnerable to unthreatening. Rattling around inside that broad assumption is some truth. The 2020 Alabama football defense relies as much on speed as physical toughness. It has vulnerabilities as Ole Miss and Florida proved.

Analysis of the 2012 and 2020 Crimson Tide defenses can be accurate and also misleading. Statistically, the 2020 Alabama football defense is not as good. The same can be said for many college football defenses in this offense-centered era. The high expectations of Notre Dame fans are blind to a key point.

The Notre Dame offense includes many weapons. Measured by Scoring Offense, NCAA Statistics show the Irish as the No. 21 offense in the FBS. Covered up by that stat is the Irish compiled much of that success against some of the worst defenses in college football. Six of Notre Dame’s 10 opponents are ranked in the bottom half of FBS teams in Opponent Scoring Per Game. They are North Carolina (No. 72); Syracuse (No. 85); Georgia Tech (No. 106); Florida State (No. 111); Duke (No. 114) and South Florida (No. 125). Lousiville at No. 47, Pittsburg at No. 50 and Boston College at No. 60 were just average.

The Alabama Crimson Tide defense, at No. 18, was far better than any of the teams listed above. Statistically, the Alabama and Clemson defenses are nearly equal. The Tigers allow 19.3 points-per-game; the Crimson Tide average is 19.5.

The Notre Dame offense averaged 28.5 points in two games against Clemson. The Alabama Crimson Tide has averaged scoring  49.7 points-per-game and over 53 points-per-game in its last five contests. The closer look at the stats does not indicate the Irish can repeatedly drive down the field and outscore the Crimson Tide.

Notre Dame faithful use the North Carolina game as a major stat argument. The Irish defense held the Tar Heels to 17 points. What is forgotten is FSU, with the No. 91 Scoring Offense in the FBS, scored 26 points against the Fighting Irish in South Bend. The mediocre FSU offense putting up 26 points indicates the explosive Crimson Tide could score 60 in Texas.

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Spinning stats Notre Dame’s way will not make hopes turn into realistic expectations. The Crimson Tide will roll and roll big against the Irish.