It’s not uncommon to have an opponent or two in common with a semi-final opponent, but of course nothing is in common about this college football season.
The conference-only schedules and the fact that Notre Dame is attending a conference at all is sufficient evidence of this. In the absence of those apple-to-apple comparisons, studying film becomes even more important in building Alabama-Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl (played in Texas).
Several Irish players, coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, shared their impressions of Alabama during the video conference interviews on Monday morning before the start of CT Friday at 3 p.m. in Arlington.
There was at least one comparison with a former mutual adversary who shared a style with the senior Crimson Tide. The fact that Notre Dame played Georgia in 2017 and 2019 was not lost on Rees.
“There are some similarities,” said the Notre Dame OC. “It’s not the same defense. And if you go back and obviously study what Alabama was in the past, you see a lot more similarities to what Georgia was in years 17-19. There is certainly a procrastination. I am not saying that there are none. But it’s funny that you mentioned that because when I got into the game I was expecting it, hey, it’s going to look a lot like Georgia. “
Even so, he noticed that it was by no means going to be a reflection. Notre Dame also lost both games with the Bulldogs, 20:19 in 2017 and 23:17 last fall. Quarterback Ian Book said he also sees similarities in how Alabama’s defense compares to Georgia.
Clemson is another peer that both teams have seen in recent years. Alabama last faced the Tigers in the national title game to end the 2018 season – an embarrassing 44:16 defeat. The Irish faced Clemson twice this year with 47:40 wins in extra time, followed by a 34: 10 loss in ACC title game.
“Alabama is holding it a bit longer, I don’t mean to just say, but Clemson has some pretty exotic plans,” said Notre Dame recipient Ben Skowronek. “So you never know what you’re getting down with every third. But obviously they both have great players on defense. You have many future professionals in defense. So the level of talent between a Clemson team and an Alabama team is pretty similar. “
Kelly gave the basic scouting report, saying they are following the Nick Saban model by building a large physical defense front with athletic linebackers. Patrick Surtain is “probably the best corner we’ve ever seen,” said Kelly.
Offensively, he called Alabama “electric” and noted that it “scores bushels and bushels of points”. The Irish play a little differently when they have the ball.
“I think we’re not doing the four corner offense at Princeton, but we’re trying to carry out our offense, which has traditionally been an offense against ball control,” said Kelly. “That still has to come to our minds so we can’t get into this game and change who we are, but the nice thing is that this year this year was kind of our DNA.”
Kelly also mentioned the fact that Georgia and Ole Miss got the ball running on Alabama and they were two of the three teams that stayed with the high tide.
“We want to run the ball,” said Kelly. “We have to play football. Based on who we are and how we operated this year, we need to run the ball more effectively than last time. “
The Irish ran 30 times for 44 net yards against Clemson in the rematch loss in Charlotte. That was the lowest rushing total of more than 100 meters for a floor game that took 20th place in FBS.
If Alabama averages 49.7 points per game, does that weigh on Notre Dame’s quick attack?
“I don’t think it’s a lot of pressure,” said Kyren Williams. “We just play the game and we stay true to ourselves as a criminal offense, that we can add to our defenses and give them more breathing space – more breathing space to play games.
The speed of defense in Alabama impressed recipient Skowronek. Surtain’s film stood out.
“I think it starts with his feet,” said Skowronek. “He has really good feet and can mirror routes. But when you combine that with his length and excessive athleticism, this will make him a top cornerback candidate for the upcoming NFL draft. He has all material things. I’m looking forward to going out there and going up against him on Friday. “
Rees, a backup quarterback when Notre Dame lost to Alabama in 2012, said he saw a well-trained Alabama defense.
“They’re very solid structurally,” Rees said. “Your players play with an extremely high IQ and can adapt and check if you change their appearance, which is a sign of a well-trained team. Tackle very well, just like everyone else we’ve played which shows how good they are at the basics. As for the staff, it starts for me with (Surtain) probably as good a corner as I’ve seen every year in college football, to be honest. We played them in ’12 and they had a really good corner, Dee Milliner. “
The Notre Dame team lost 42-14 in the BCS title game after entering as the top ranked team. The Irish are an underdog this time with three points as number 4 in the playoffs with low expectations from outside.
Williams, who ran back, said that was motivating.
“Not everyone in the world believes in us. And it’s okay because we don’t want anyone else to believe in us, ”he said. “As long as we have each other as a team and as a coaching staff and everyone else in the building believes in us, we know what we can do. We’re going to go out there on Friday and do what we do best and play by Notre Dame football standards.
“To be the outsider is nothing new to us. We will keep proving who we are to the world. “