#1 Alabama vs #4 Notre Dame: College Football Playoff Semifinal Preview

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Notre Dame, and this applies to the Oklahoma Sooners as well, have become the Washington Generals of the top tier. While that can be taken as a pejorative, hey, at least they’re getting into the top tier, which is more than you can for 125 or so other college football programs.

The ACC title game, which ND lost 34-10 (a late, meaningless touchdown window dressed the final score) means it’s now three times in the BCS/College Football Playoff era that the Fighting Irish have played a postseason game where there was so much more at stake than in your typical bowl game.

College Football Playoff Semifinal
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Jan. 1: 4 p.m. on ESPN and the ESPN App

All three ended in disaster. Will the fourth time, finally be the charm? Well, the betting world doesn’t see it that way, as Alabama is favored by about 20 points in a rematch of the 2012 BCS National Championship game that they won by 28.  Odds, point spreads, totals, over/unders, the kind of stuff you get into at https://realfootball365.com/ is front and center in the talk surrounding this game.

And that means we need to flashback to Miami, very early 2013, when the Crimson Tide dominated ND, a game that ended in a 42-14 final score. Like last week’s ACC title blowout in Charlotte, it was a game in which garbage time scores made the official final tally more favorable to the Fighting Irish.

However, it’s something to think about here- if you can get Notre Dame +19, or +21, or whatever, you might want to take it, because betting lines do not discriminate against the period of the game when the issue is still in doubt versus the mop-up/garbage time.

You could see Bama bash this one away early, and then start to ease up, rest their starters etc. in prep of the national title game, which will almost certainly see Clemson on the other side. (Alabama vs. Clemson, oh wow, how new and different and exciting. Yey! So interesting and unique. Yeah, Huzzah! Can’t wait for that!)

In this scenario, ND could easily cover the spread. All in all, in these three big games (2012 national title, 2018 Cotton Bowl Semifinal and 2020 ACC title game), Notre Dame has been outscored, in total, 106-27.

Is it any wonder no one believes in them here? The ACC title game wounds are still fresh here and the 2018 Cotton Bowl has much of the same roster, so these two contests are very relevant to this one.

As for the 2012 title game, not so much. That’s more about perception than anything tangible.

All-ACC and All-American running back Kyren Williams finds the disrespect of his team motivating.

“Not everybody in the world believes in us, but being an underdog is nothing new to us,” Williams said Monday during the playoff media availability.

“So we’re going to out on Friday and do what we do.”

He’s got the right attitude and the right idea. The same question was put to another Notre Dame skill position player, and he responded by saying he didn’t even know what the spread was on this game. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, he even went so far as to say that he doesn’t know what “the spread” means.

Uhm, yeah, okay, sure, buddy. You’ve played sports all of your life, but you don’t know what “the spread” means, got it!

But again, don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Notre Dame won’t cover a three touchdown spread. Alabama’s defense isn’t as great as you might think it is-

Florida exposed that in the SEC title game. Two guys on that side of the ball, for the Crimson Tide, who are as good as it gets are cornerback Patrick Surtain II and linebacker Dylan Moses.

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Both have sky high NFL Draft stock, and they’ll pose major problems for the Irish. Perhaps the only chance here is for the Irish to get into a shootout with the Tide? Hope to outscore them, and count on Alabama making some mistakes?

Well, that’s a long shot at best too, because that side of the ball literally, brings half of the Heisman trophy finalists to Arlington in QB Mac Jones and WR DeVonta Smith. Either are deserving of the award, as both have absolutely shattered numerous Tide and SEC passing and receiving records.

For the first time in awhile, we’re going to see a pass-first Alabama juggernaut.

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College Football Playoff Semifinal: #1 Alabama 31, #4 Notre Dame 13

In the words of U2 “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” The Irish deserved to be here, but that’s an issue totally independent of the result in this game. While Notre Dame will likely get blown out yet again, it doesn’t diminish the very accomplished regular season that they achieved.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of  “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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