The Rose Bowl has a new venue in 2020. Could Notre Dame also produce an unexpected outcome against Alabama in the College Football Playoff?
This could be the most unique Rose Bowl in memory with the playoff semifinal between Notre Dame and Alabama kicking off at AT&T Stadium instead of the actual Rose Bowl.
The change from iconic Pasadena to the cavernous stadium in Arlington will certainly make for a different kind of spectacle. Will the game provide the unexpected? That’s the big question as Jan. 1 barrels closer.
Here are some bold predictions for the Tide and the Irish.
DeVonta Smith will have 12-200-3
DeVonta Smith has played like a man possessed this season resulting in his fair share of awards and possible Heisman Trophy. With 98 receptions for 1.511 yards and 17 touchdowns, he is the unquestioned danger man for Alabama.
The Tide know it. The Irish know it. And they won’t be able to stop it.
Notre Dame hasn’t given up three passing touchdowns a game yet this season, but that will change on Friday. Smith will have himself a hat trick.
The concern for the Irish has to be around explosive plays. They have averaged one play of 40 yards or more given up in each game this season. Smith has six such catches to his name.
Kyle Hamilton will lead all players in tackles
Notre Dame’s super safety Kyle Hamilton had a scare against Clemson in the ACC title game. He suffered an ankle injury, his second of the season. With the playoff coming up quickly, the issue may have loomed large over the matchup between the Irish and the Crimson Tide.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, and college football fans, Hamilton is expected to play after a quick recovery.
He won’t just play, he’ll lead all players in tackles.
Hamilton already leads the Irish in tackles this season with 56. He’s tied with linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah despite missing the South Florida game and being limited by injury at other times.
The newly-minted All-American had 10 tackles and an interception versus Clemson. Expect him to have another big day.
Ian Book will double his interception total
Ian Book’s senior season with Notre Dame has been a success. He got his team into the playoff while throwing for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions. His reliability and ability to protect the football have been key.
That’ll all come crashing down against Alabama.
Book won’t just throw an interception. He’ll double his season-long total. Granted that requires only two picks against the Tide.
They’ll come because Book will be harried and hounded by Alabama’s pass rush. Sure, that Irish offensive line has done well this season, but the Tide is a different kind of beast. It’ll have an impact.
Najee Harris will have the highlight of the game
Najee Harris is just a monster of a running back and he’ll prove it by producing the highlight of the college football playoff.
What’ll he do? Juke someone out of their shoes, hurdle another defender, then pull the most disrespectful stiff-arm imaginable. Probably.
Whatever he does, Harris does it with the apparent intention of putting jaws on the ground. He’s done that this year to the tune of 1,262 yards and a nation-leading 24 touchdowns.
Notre Dame will cover the spread
No one in their right mind would predict Notre Dame will win this game. Alabama simply has too many advantages. However, the Irish should give Alabama a much better game than they did last time around.
Back in 2012, the Tide walloped Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship Game. A few years later, when the Irish made their first playoff appearance, they were handled easily by Clemson, 30-3.
Now, oddsmakers don’t have much faith in Notre Dame, setting the line at 19 points in favor of Alabama. This Notre Dame team is better than either of their predecessors. They have a better offensive line, a better quarterback and a better defense.
The Tide will still win this one, but they won’t cover the historic 19.5-point spread.