One More Stand

Photo Courtesy USA TODAY SPORTS

Irisheyes.com continues its "10 for a Title" series examining 10 crucial game elements necessary for Notre Dame if the Irish are to earn a BCS Championship victory over Alabama. Next in the series: Goal Line Stand #3.

Though an opportunity for a full-scale slugfest exists, its likely that Monday's BCS Championship game will include a reality that proved consistent throughout the 2012 regular season: Alabama is going to move the football.

The defending champs put up 431 yards vs. both Michigan and Texas A&M. They rolled to 512 vs. Georgia in the SEC Championship game. In six other outings they enjoyed totals between 430 and 540 total yards vs. FBS teams.

Squarely in the Crimson Tide's favor is a ridiculous 49-0 record under head coach Nick Saban when his offense rushes for at least 150 yards (they had 350 on the ground in the Georgia Dome vs. the then-No. 3 Bulldogs).

But as Bob Diaco's Irish defense has proven repeatedly this season, yards need not equal touchdowns. Notre Dame is dominant defensively in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just eight of 33 forays by foes inside the Irish 20-yard line.

ND opponents in the red zone this year and were sacked on more plays (9) than plays they scored touchdowns (eight).

Alabama will get there, multiple times, at least four and as many as eight depending on the tenor of the contest or potential overtime. In close situations have favored Alabama's offense throughout 2012. Behind a massive, athletic, veteran and cohesive offensive line, and with the benefit of two bruising running backs, the Crimson Tide turned 72 percent of its red zone forays into touchdowns, best in the nation. (Alabama was held to a field goal in just 10 of 57 ventures inside the 20-yard line and failed to produce points on just six).

The Irish defense is the best the Tide has faced. It's surrendered 300 yards or less in nine games with two more below 350, and only one -- at Oklahoma -- in excess of 375 when the Sooners gained an empty 379, one-fourth of which came on its opening two drives.

But Bama's offense is likewise the best the Irish have faced. It's the best rushing group without question, and the most balanced without a close runner-up.

Regardless of how well Diaco's unit plays for 60 minutes, the Irish will likely need one more heroic stand to finish off the best season of defensive football in South Bend since the Parseghian era.

(Note: Click the links below for the first eight game keys in our "10 for a Title" series):

#1 Hit for one score from outside the red zone

#2 Plus-One Turnovers

#3 Return of the Man?

#4 Even Steven

#5 Status Quo

#6 Cashing In

#7 Splitting the Pipes

#8 Outside Surprise

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