Alabama’s win over LSU in last season’s BCS National Championship Game was decided partly between the 20-yard lines: Alabama moved it well enough in that zone to set up Jeremy Shelley‘s five field goals, while LSU did not. Tonight’s Alabama-Notre Dame game could be just the opposite, decided by what both teams do in the red zone.
As Alabama tries to (no-no word coming soon) repeat as national champions, the opposite could be true with the game hinging on the action inside the 20s.
“This could be one of those games where you get in the red zone and you don’t get touchdowns, you have to settle for field goals,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “I really believe the team that gets in the red zone and gets points, I mean touchdowns, is going to be the one that wins.”
The Crimson Tide’s offense will be going up against a defense that has held its opponents to minus-5 yards when in goal-to-go situations, including minus-26 rushing yards. Alabama’s offense, however, has scored on 51 of its 57 red-zone trips, including 41 touchdowns. Alabama’s last two trips to the red zone, both in the second half of the SEC Championship Game, resulted in a touchdown.
Notre Dame’s red-zone offense has been less than explosive, however, as the Irish have come away with only 27 touchdowns on 58 trips to the red zone, a mark that ranks the Irish 119th of 124 FBS teams. In addition, there is only one quarterback in the nation who has thrown at least 20 passes in the red zone and has completed fewer than 30 percent of them. His name? Everett Golson, the redshirt freshman who will start for Notre Dame tonight.
But, Herbstreit has seen improvement in Notre Dame’s red zone offense as of late.
“I don’t look at the numbers necessarily. I look at the decision-making, and I think he’s gotten better as the year has moved on,” Herbstreit said. “I think a lot of it has to do with them running the ball better, I think that’s made him a little more confident, I think that’s given him a little more swagger.
“For them to have any chance at making this upset, not only does the defense have to play well, he’s going to have to make a lot of plays, and not just with his feet, but with his arm.”
Contributed by Brett Hudson