2021 Rose Bowl Preview: Alabama Looks to Continue Offensive Onslaught Against Notre Dame

Sports, particularly in 2020, are fluid. Situations rapidly change and the College Football Playoff has been no exception. The Rose Bowl Game was relocated from Pasadena to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, due to Southern California’s rapid rise of COVID-19 cases.

Traditionally, an SEC school would travel to New Orleans for their New Year’s Six bowl bid. However, top-seeded Alabama was rewarded for their regular-season success with a bid to the semifinal venue that permitted the largest number of fans. Notre Dame will certainly have impressive representation among the spectators at AT&T Stadium as well.

The Crimson Tide enter Friday afternoon’s contest as nearly unanimous favorites. Nick Saban’s high-powered offense, led by offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, averages a staggering 49.7 points per game, good enough for second-best in the FBS. Heisman finalists quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith lead a dynamic unit that can seemingly score at will despite the absence of elite pass-catcher Jaylen Waddle who has been sidelined with a fractured ankle sustained earlier this season.

Najee Harris, Alabama’s third-leading Heisman candidate of the season, leads a ground attack that can be as devastating as the Tide’s passing game. Harris’s versatility as a runner and pass catcher adds another level to the Tide’s offense that must be accounted for.

Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator Clark Lea has since taken the head coaching position at Vanderbilt. Lea’s defensive unit has allowed 18.6 points per game which is among the leaders in college football. With outstanding performances throughout the season, the Irish defense will have to put on another elite showing in order to give them a chance to win.

Despite being revered for their defense, Notre Dame’s offense has been impressive as well. Led by senior quarterback Ian Book, the Irish offense produce the 21st most points per game among FBS programs. Book, who is known for being able to extend the play and take care of the ball, will have to be precise and be able to make something out of nothing when the play breaks down.

Going up against Book’s Irish offense is Pete Golding’s Crimson Tide defense that allows an average of 19.5 points per game. The Tide defense, led by Dylan Moses and Christian Harris, will look to limit Book’s scrambling and end plays the instant they can.

To be frank, Notre Dame will have to play a nearly perfect game to derail Alabama’s aspirations of a fifth national championship game appearance since the College Football Playoff era began in 2014. But hey, that’s why they play the game. The Crimson Tide certainly enjoy a litany of advantages on paper, but they will have to show up and execute against an experienced Fighting Irish team.

Catch the action on ESPN at 4 PM EST.

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