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Irish eye another upset

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Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson leads the Fighting Irish into Monday night's BCS National Championship game against Alabama in Miami. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Tom Musick and Meghan Montemurro square off on the BCS National Championship game:

Musick: Meghan, I think I speak for most people when I say thank goodness the BCS title game finally has arrived. Out with the hype, in with the action. But here’s my question: Does Notre Dame have a legitimate chance to topple Alabama for the championship?

Montemurro: It’s only fitting that Notre Dame’s quest for its first national championship since 1988 pits the Fighting Irish against Alabama. Notre Dame’s defense ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, led by senior linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te’o, will give the Crimson Tide fits. But can the Irish offense score enough?

Notre Dame enters the game ranked 75th in the country in scoring average (26.8) and 49th in yards a game (421.3). Meanwhile, Alabama averages 38.5 points, 13th in the country, and 439.0 yards, which ranks 39th. The combination of quarterback AJ McCarron and 1,000-yard running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon has been deadly.

One of the biggest questions facing the Irish: Can quarterback Everett Golson put together an efficient performance against Alabama’s defense? I don’t think he will.

Musick: Maybe it’s foolish to believe in a redshirt freshman such as Golson, but I long have been on the record as being a fool. Golson improved his decision-making as the season went along (8 TDs, 2 INTs in October and November), and he proved all season he could make plays with his feet.

Here’s the thing about Golson and the Irish: They seem to thrive as underdogs. I kept waiting for them to lose to Michigan State or Michigan or Stanford or Oklahoma or USC, but they won every time. Who’s to say they can’t do it again versus the Crimson Tide?

Montemurro: There’s no doubt Golson became more comfortable and a better passer as the season progressed. But against Notre Dame’s best opponents – USC, Oklahoma and Stanford – Golson didn’t have much impact in the passing game. He didn’t make any killer mistakes, combining to throw one touchdown and no interceptions in the three wins, but Golson completed only 54 percent of his passes and averaged 178 passing yards.

Alabama will force Golson to beat them through the air, and I’m not confident he’ll be able to make the Crimson Tide pay if they stack the box.

Musick: You could be right about Golson. But as long as he doesn’t make any killer mistakes, as you say, I think Te’o and the rest of the Irish defense will be tough enough to keep the game close (and maybe they’ll even win).

We know Alabama can be defeated. They already have been – in Tuscaloosa, no less – by Texas A&M. And teams from the vaunted SEC are 3-3 in bowl games this season, including a pretty embarrassing loss by Florida to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

What I’m saying is I think Notre Dame can make this a compelling game. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. After today, it’s going to a long time without college football.

Montemurro: It’s true that Alabama is beatable as you noted, though “Johnny Football” [Johnny Manziel] isn’t the Irish quarterback.

Ultimately, I believe Alabama’s big stage experience under coach Nick Saban and an offense led by McCarron, a two-year starter, will result in a comfortable win for the Crimson Tide.

Write to Northwest Herald sports writer Tom Musick at tmusick@shawmedia.com. Write to Northwest Herald sports writer Meghan Montemurro at mmontemurro@shawmedia.com.

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