Notre Dame’s explosiveness on defense is not lost on McCarron.
“(Notre Dame) does a really good job of making big plays on the defensive side,” McCarron said. “Most of the time you’re thinking going into the game you have to win with big offensive plays. But, their defense makes a lot of big plays too.”
And then there’s Te’o.
“Manti always seems to find the ball, as do all great players on defense,” Nussmeier said. “You look at the interceptions, the tackles, he always seems to be around the ball. He has great natural instincts and is a phenomenal athlete. It’s going to be very important that we know where he is at all times.”
That has been a difficult trick off the field this post-season as Te'o jetted across the county, attending awards program after awards program on his way to becoming the most decorated college football player in history, winning the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award along with every major defense award for 2012. Te’o finished second to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manzeil in the Heisman balloting. He received the most votes ever by an exclusively defensive player.
On the field, Te’o has developed into the premier pass coverage linebacker in college, collecting seven interceptions his senior year. He didn’t have any his first three years.
Te’o and the Irish secondary will have their hands full with an Alabama passing game that averages just 214 yards passing per game, but is second in the country in passing efficiency.
Nussmeier believes the Notre Dame defense is very comparable to the top defenses in the SEC.
“This is as good a front seven as we’ve seen,” Nussmeier said. “They do a great job of jumping in and out of their odd defense and going from an odd to a four-down front. … They’re just a really, really good defense.”