Notre Dame (10-1) vs Alabama (11-0)
When: Friday, January 1st, 2021
Where: AT&T Stadium,
Time: 4:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Alabama -17.5/65.5
Since losing to the Clemson Tigers in the 2018 National Championship game, the Alabama Crimson Tide offense has been unstoppable. Alabama has scored 35 or more points in a major-college record 24 consecutive games since, going 22-2 during the stretch and will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in this year’s Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. The Tide, who have topped 50 points in each of the past three games, are 19.5-point favorites for Friday’s national semifinal with a total of 65.5. This Rose Bowl will be different than any others in the past after the game was moved from Pasadena to the Dallas area due to California’s COVID-19 protocols. Alabama topped 50 six times and averaged 49.7 points – second-best nationally – while being led by a trio of Heisman candidates including quarterback Mac Jones. He has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Notre Dame can light up the scoreboard as well, topping 40 points six times this season. But the defense could have trouble keeping up. The Irish rank 14th in scoring defense (18.6 points per game), but allowed more than 30 points in three of the last five games, including a 34-10 setback to Clemson in the ACC title game. Quarterback Ian Book has a 30-4 record as a starter for the Irish and passed for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions this season.
These teams met eight seasons ago in the BCS title game, and Alabama had no problem with the Irish, crushing them 42-14 after racing out to a 35-0 lead. The Crimson Tide outgained Notre Dame on the ground 265-32. Alabama was 8-3 ATS this season, while the Irish were just 5-6. Even with high totals set, the Tide played to the over in seven of their 11 contests this season. The winner of this game will face either No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Ohio State in the national championship game on Jan. 11.
Book ranks second in school history with 8,719 yards and 72 touchdowns behind Brady Quinn (2003-06) – 11,762 yards, 95 TD passes. Among all quarterbacks in the major conferences, Book is the only one who managed to throw at least 240 pass attempts yet has no more than two interceptions this season. Notre Dame’s rushing attack is something Alabama will have to be ready for as well. Freshman running back Kyren Williams has recorded six games with at least 100 rushing yards and runs behind a very experienced offensive line led by star left tackle Liam Eichenberg. Williams recorded 1,061 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns for an offense averaging 35.2 points, which ranks 21st nationally. The Fighting Irish finished the regular season with an average of 217.6 rushing yards per game – 20th in the nation. On defense, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had a team-best 11 tackles for loss and he was named winner of the Butkus Award on Monday as the nation’s top linebacker.
Jones finished the regular season third in the country with 339.9 passing yards per game and had help from a star receiver. DeVonta Smith had 1,511 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in 11 games. Smith has the opportunity to be first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. During last Saturday’s 52-46 win over Florida in the SEC title game, Smith (3,620 yards) passed Amari Cooper (3,463) as Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving yardage. The rushing attack is also formidable with running back Najee Harris, who led the nation with 24 rushing touchdowns. Harris also has 1,262 yards and three receiving scores. Malachi Moore has three interceptions for the Crimson Tide, who are 17th nationally in scoring defense (19.5).
Outside of last year’s LSU team, this Alabama offense is the best I’ve seen in a long time. Still, 19.5 points is a ton to lay against a really good Notre Dame team. Yes, the Irish were smacked around by Clemson last week, but they still have enough offense and a decent defense to keep this one within three touchdowns.
Pick: Notre Dame +19.5
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