2020 Game #12 THE ROSE BOWL
HERE COME THE IRISH!
Happy New Year’s Day to Fighting Irish Football Fans and Welcome to the second Irish encounter in the ‘Grandaddy of them All!’
The Rose Bowl.
Like many a rose bush that is transplanted to better soil or a better location, the 2021 Rose Bowl has been transplanted to AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
By the way, does the roof of AT&T Stadium resemble the modern-day football helmet?
So, how about the game itself? I suspect that those who predict an Irish win will be equal to the number of persons inside The Rose Bowl Stadium at game time. Yes, precisely NONE!! (But, if you have read my predictions before, you will know you must read on!)
As Dragnet’s Sgt Joe Friday would say to witnesses being interviewed in his investigation together with his partner, Officer Bill Gannon, “The facts mam, just the facts!” So, here are the facts.
‘Bama has scored 73 TDs this season. The Irish have scored 49 TDs.
“Bama averaged 49.7 points per game in its 11 wins. The Irish scored that many points in only a single, solitary game!!
When reaching the “Red Zone”, ‘Bama scores a TD 76.67% of the time. By contrast, the Iris TD percentage when reaching the “Red Zone” is 58.9%. Gotta be better for the Irish!!
“Bama has a plus 10 turnover margin this season. The Irish sit at plus 7.
“Bama has two Heisman Trophy finalists in QB Mac Jones (#10) and WR DeVonte Smith (#6). The Irish have zero, none, nada, nary a one.
The Irish are a 20-point underdog! This is the largest point-spread margin for any game in the College Football Playoff era. So, “Why bother to play the game? many are asking, while many others are saying, “It could get ugly!” and that latter grouping may very well be right. But, remember “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and the eye of this beholder says those Gold-ensconced Irish helmets are a “beauty to behold” even in a big-time beatdown. So, even if that happens do not despair!
Plus, being a big-time Vegas underdog does not mean the underdog cannot win. Here are some historic examples.
1955 – Unranked Notre Dame visits #2 Oklahoma as a 19-point underdog to the Bud Wilkinson coached Sooners who were riding a 47-game win streak. Final Score Irish 7-Sooners 0.
2007 - Stanford visits #2 ranked USC as a 41-point underdog. Stanford’s record was 1-3 and started a redshirt sophomore QB in his first start. USC’s 35-game unbeaten home streak came to an end with the Cardinal 24-23 win.
2007 – This may be the “grandaddy of all upsets”. Vegas would not even post odds on the Appalachian State – Michigan game at the Big House. Michigan had paid Appalachian State $400,000 to come to Michigan to be the “sacrificial victim” in the first game of the year for both teams. Oops!! Appalachian State took the $400,000 and the win. Final score Appalachian State 34 - Michigan 32.
Lest you fear ND’s status as a winner while being a significant underdog ended with the 1955 Oklahoma win, the Irish were also a double-digit underdog in 2012 on another visit to the Sooners, a game the Irish won 31-10. And do not forget the win this year over Clemson as a 6.5 point underdog.
So, there is a reason to play the game.
Candidly, the Alabama offense is among the best, if not in fact the best, offense in college football history. To characterize it as a “juggernaut” is not an understatement.
Look at this picture. These are the two Alabama players referenced earlier as two of the Heisman Trophy finalists.
While the precise action taking place when this picture was taken is not known, since Mac Jones has thrown 17 TD passes to DaVonte Smith this season, it could have been following one of the 17.
Wow, two Heisman Finalists in the same offense!! But wait, the #5 vote getter in this year’s Heisman voting, and thus not a “finalist”, is this guy.
With the challenge of stopping (or, more accurately, limiting) these three prolific players, do the Irish have a chance?
Let’s consider these three more closely, starting with QB Mac Jones (#10). Michael McCorkle Jones is a stud. A star on the football field, he also excels off having graduated in December 2019 with a 4.0 GPA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Information Science and in December 2020 with a Masters Degree in Sports Hospitality. What do you think the chances are that one of his Masters courses taught how to be “hospitable” to a sports opponent? I would say “NO CHANCE” and if there was such a course. I would anticipate Coach Nick Saban would “suggest” to the academics that they drop that course real fast, and if they do not respond promptly, might they then need to access their AFLAC?
This is the pose Mac has been able to strike 73 times this season.
Mac has completed 76.5% of his passes this season, has averaged 11.14 yards per attempt (note, this is per attempt, not per completion), has passed for 32 TDs (3rd in the FBS), and 3,739 yards (2nd in the FBS). This amounts to an unheard of QB efficiency rating of 200.3.
This Bic Mac has 2 all beefy lines, special sauce receivers, let us be kickers, cheesy backs, “no-pickle” pocket protection, Paul Bunyan-like blockers, all on a team seasoned with fun.
Will DaVonte Smith (#6) be the first WR since ND’s Tim Brown to win the Heisman? (Okay, I know Desmond Howard snuck in there as a WR, but he does not fit this piece!!)
How about these 2020 DaVonte Smith statistics? Ninety-eight receptions with 17 TDS. How about these career DaVonte Smith statistics? Forty TDs, 3,620 receiving yards, 16.8 average yards per reception, many multiple TD games with a 4-TD game and another 5-TD game. Wow!
And that 5th place finisher in the Heisman voting.
The Irish cannot permit holes this big for Najee Harris (#22) to sprint through. With 2,262 rushing yards and 27 TDs this season, holes that big will lead to 28 or more.
Is there any “chink in the armor” for the Crimson Tide? They will be playing the first game without their starting center. Landon Dickerson was injured late in the 4th Quarter of the Tide win over Florida in the SEC Championship Game. He will be replaced by Chris Owens who started 4 2019 games at Center and this year was a Tight End on ‘Bama’s specialty package.
Dickerson’s loss is not insignificant. His loss has been described as “losing the soul of the team” and “losing the gasoline that livened the ‘Bama fire”. The Irish know what it means to lose a seasoned center with the injury to Jarrett Patterson. We have seen his loss impact the Irish in the Syracuse and Clemson #2 games. Expect some negative impact to the Alabama team, but do not expect a 20-point impact.
So, what advantages, if any, do the Irish have?
Consider the Butkus Award Winner:
Wu! Wu! Wu!
Consider the Irish TE Corps. Perhaps with more passes to Michael Mayer.
Consider the Irish will be the best defense ‘Bama will have faced this year, especially on 3rd down where the Irish rank as #9 in 3rd down defense efficiency while the ‘Bama 3rd down offense efficiency ranks #77. (Perhaps that may be because Alabama may have had few 3rd downs on offense, but, please, I am looking for the positives.)
Consider the Irish are much more physical than when they played Alabama in 2012. Thank you, Matt Balis. Thank you, Irish Players for buying in.
Consider the Irish O-Line may have an advantage over the Alabama defensive line that may help the running game to be successful. This will be attributed to Matt Balis and Jeff Quinn and the O-linemen themselves!
What do the Irish need to secure an upset win over Alabama? Limit the number of ‘Bama possessions. Finish every drive in the Red Zone. Win the turnover battle. And, play the frickin’ game of your life!!!
Plus, have the opportunity to use my favorite formation, which henceforth I will call the “Tight End Flying Wing!!”
Let’s look for lots of touches for Kyren Williams, a few for Chris Tyree and C’Bo Flemister, a couple for Avery Davis, a few to Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek and Michael Mayer, with a couple of plays for Braden Lenzy.
Will there be a 2020 Robin Weber in this Rose Bowl as there was in the Notre Dame/Alabama Sugar Bowl Game following the 1973 season? If the answer is “Yes”, George Takacs will fill the bill nicely.
So, will we see “the grandaddy of all upsets” in the “grandaddy of all Bowl Games”? While not in the empty Rose Bowl Stadium, If I were the lone soul there during the game, I would feel just as lonely as I do remotely when I say “Yes” as this is my prediction of an Irish victory!!!
IRISH – 31
‘Bama – 28
BUT, WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT BET THE RANCH ON THIS PREDICTION, EVEN WITH THE POINTS!!!
On the gridiron and at the beach the Tide will roll, both in and out. When this game is over, the Irish will have cleaned ‘Bama.
Your Irish Trivia for today.
1. Who was the opponent in the first Rose Bowl Game involving the Fighting Irish?
2. Which team won that game?
3. This 2021 Rose Bowl will be the 8th meeting between Notre Dame and Alabama on the gridiron. Can you name the Head Coach for Notre Dame in those games?
4. Can you name the ‘Bama Head Coach in those games?
5. Can you name the Irish starting QB in those games?
Your Irish Trivia Answers to Irish Trivia for Clemson Game #2.
1. Everyone knows Pat Terrell knocked down the Miami Hurricane 2-point conversion attempt to defeat that Jimmy Johnson-led team in 1988. But, do you know who knocked down a last play, #1 ranked Florida State Seminoles pass to defeat them in 1993? Shawn Wooden
2. Who was the first Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner and who was the most-recent Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner? Angelo Bertelli and Tim Brown
And as always, . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“. . . . . . and our hearts forever,
Love thee Notre Dame!”