Balance that with the explosive rushing tandem of Eddie Lacy (1,182 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yards) and the challenge intensifies further for the Irish.
“Both backs are just tremendous runners,” Motta said. “Lacy in particular is a strong, big back and is the run-you-over type, so we’ve had to prepare for that these past six weeks. We’ll be ready.”
A glance at the national statistical rankings seems to point to a classic match-up between a smart and effective offense and a staunch and dominant defense.
The Crimson Tide rank second overall in passing efficiency, 16th overall in rushing yards per game (224) and 13th in scoring offense (38.5 points per game). Notre Dame ranks fourth in rushing yards allowed (94 per game) and 21st in pass efficiency defense. But it’s how the Irish keep opponents out of the end zone that has Alabama Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier concerned.
“The biggest thing is they lead the nation in scoring defense,” Nussmeier said Thursday. “They’re giving up 10.3 points per game and they do a great job of keeping you out of the end zone. The goal of the game is to score points.”
Earlier this season the Notre Dame defense – anchored by all-world linebacker Manti Te’o – held six consecutive opponents to under 300 yards of total offense. The Irish didn’t allow a rushing touchdown this season until Oct. 27 against No. 7 Oklahoma.
The Irish have also come up with big plays via sacks and takeaways. Te’o is second in the nation in interceptions with seven and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt is seventh in the country with 12 sacks. That ranks him just 1.5 behind ND single-season leader Justin Tuck (2003). Tuck is now an all-pro defensive end for the New York Giants and owner of two Super Bowl rings.