The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0) and #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1) kick off the New Year with the College Football Playoff’s opening game. In 2020 fashion, the Rose Bowl will not be played in iconic Pasadena due to COVID restrictions, but AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. EST and marks the 8th meeting all-time between the two schools with ND and holds a 5-2 record. Alabama is a -19.5 point favorite in the semifinal matchup, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Notre Dame Fighting Irish
With a majority of conferences transitioning to a conference-only schedule for 2020, the typically independent Irish joined the Atlantic Coast Conference to be able to play a season. The decision paid off, with Notre Dame going undefeated during the regular season. Their only loss coming in the ACC Championship game versus #2 Clemson, who they previously beat at home in double overtime.
Over 11 games, quarterback Ian Book, completed 201-of-314 passes for 2,601 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. Book added eight rushing touchdowns and 430 yards on the ground. The senior knows the offense and will need to continue to make smart decisions with the football against the Tide.
Kyren Williams is the first Irish running back to rush for 1,000 yards (1,061) since 2017. Williams accounted for 12 touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Backup Chris Tyree was no slouch either, tallying 480 yards on the ground and four scores. As a team, the Irish rushed for 2,394 yards, ranking in the top-10 in the country.
A pair of veteran wideouts Javon McKinley (40 receptions, 697 yards, three touchdowns) and Ben Skowronek (25 receptions, 398 yards, five touchdowns) led Notre Dame’s passing attack. Tight end Michael Mayer was second on the team with 35 receptions and two scores and emerged as a primary target for Book toward the end of the season.
What to Know – Alabama Crimson Tide
Another season, another spot in the CFP for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama is marking its fifth appearance in the playoff, missing the playoffs just once since its inception. The Crimson Tide were perfect in Southeastern Conference play this season, capped by a thrilling 52-46 victory over the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship.
Heisman-hopeful Mac Jones was lights out in 2020, throwing for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns in 11 games. Jones spearheaded an Alabama passing attack that ranked fifth in college football.
Najee Harris rushed 214 times for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Harris erupted in the SEC Championship game, scoring five times on two rushing and three receiving scores. The senior running back changed Alabama’s running back position, showcasing a power running style you typically see with an Alabama back but the added ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
With Jaylen Waddle sidelined due to injury, DeVonta Smith hauled in 98 passes for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns and was the first wide receiver named The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year. If the passes aren’t heading to Smith, look for John Metchie III (44 catches, 782 yards, six touchdowns) on the other side of the offense to be targeted.
The Pick is In
This Alabama team might go down as one of the most talented college football teams in recent memory. Notre Dame’s defense will be put to the test with the talent on Alabama’s offense. On the flip side, the Irish must not turn the ball over offensively and do everything they can to control the clock. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Notre Dame slows down this Tide offense.
The Pick: Alabama -19.5