4 things to know about Alabama football's College Football Playoff opponent, Notre Dame
Alabama will have the oddity of playing a Rose Bowl in the state of Texas when it faces Notre Dame in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Here are four things to know about the Fighting Irish:
Ian Book has been good, but not prolific
Notre Dame’s quarterback was among the Heisman Trophy favorites in the preseason, and while he still may get some votes, he is noticeably behind the nation’s most productive quarterbacks.
Book has thrown for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns — both fewer than Alabama’s Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson, despite having more attempts than all three.
Where Book has been a step above the rest is limiting interceptions, throwing just two in 314 attempts.
In two games against Clemson, Book completed 62.6% of his passes (42-67) for 529 yards (7.8 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and no interceptions. Outside of the Tigers, Notre Dame did not face a pass defense currently ranked in the top 50 nationally in yards per attempt allowed.
Kyren Williams has been a standout running back
Notre Dame’s feature ballcarrier is one of just 10 running backs in the nation to rack up 1,000 yards on the season, running for 1,061 yards in 11 games and scoring 12 touchdowns.
Williams is part of an Irish rushing attack that has been a big part of its offense, especially for an offense with Book at the helm. The Fighting Irish's No. 2 carrier, Chris Tyree, has 480 yards, and Book has 430 of his own. Notre Dame is fourth in the ACC in both yards per carry and runs of 10 yards or more, both good enough to make the top 25 nationally; the 79 runs of 10 yards or more rank eighth nationally.
Notre Dame has just two conference wins by more than 18 points
The ACC allowed one non-conference game this season, which the Irish used to schedule South Florida and win 52-0. Notre Dame handed Pitt its most one-sided loss of the season, 45-3, and had a 45-21 win over a 1-10 Syracuse team.
In other games, Notre Dame did not show the dominance that is typical of national-championship contenders.
The Fighting Irish eked out a 12-7 win over a 4-7 Louisville team one week after a 16-point win over an underwhelming Florida State team. Boston College finished 5-5 in ACC play and fell just 14 points shy of Notre Dame in a 45-31 game on Nov. 14.
UA has consistently benefitted from its dominance of lesser opponents in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, a factor Notre Dame does not have in its corner this season.
It’s been a disciplined team
Notre Dame has committed 50 penalties for 431 yards this year, averaging 4.5 penalties per game and 39.2 penalty yards per game. The penalty yards per game is good enough to rank 13th in the nation.
By comparison, Alabama is committing fewer penalties than it did last season but still not to the pace of Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide is committing six penalties per game this season for an average of 47.5 yards per game.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson