Notre Dame has running profile Alabama football hasn't seen much in 2020

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

The record-breaking nature of Alabama football’s 2020 season is apparent in some ways and less so in others.

It is the first team in SEC history to beat 11 conference foes in the same season, and it now owns an unprecedented run of five SEC Championship Games won in the last seven seasons. It enters the College Football Playoff with three wins over top 10 teams, something no other team can claim.

Through it all, it has yet to face a 1,000-yard rusher. That will change in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1

Kyren Williams is one of 10 players to rush for 1,000 yards. He takes up a significant portion of No. 4 Notre Dame’s offense as it prepares to face the Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. With Williams, the Irish bring a rushing attack that UA has not seen in almost all of its opponents.

Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams stiff-arms Clemson safety Nolan Turner on his way to a touchdown in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I don’t think you win 10 games in this season without having some really, really good players,” UA coach Nick Saban said of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame has run on 59.3% of its offensive snaps. Only two of Alabama’s opponents have run more often: Ole Miss (59.5%) and Kentucky (63.3%). Quarterback running does not differentiate the schemes much: Ole Miss and Kentucky got rushing workloads from their quarterbacks, going for 13 and seven carries against UA, respectively. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has run eight or more times in all but one of his games.

Williams has been a constant in Notre Dame’s offense. He has at least 15 carries in all but two games — one of the exceptions being a 52-0 win over South Florida where starters made early exits — and his production has coincided with Notre Dame’s best offensive production.

Notre Dame has produced 500 or more yards of offense in four games, and Williams had at least 110 rushing yards in three of those four. The second-string running back, freshman Chris Tyree, has also been productive in limited carries. He has 480 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries, averaging more yards per carry (5.50) than Williams (5.44).

Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) breaks free for a touchdown run as Syracuse cornerback Garett Williams pursues at Notre Dame Stadium.

When tasked with an elite rushing attack, UA has stood up to the task. Notre Dame is averaging 5.13 yards per carry, and UA has only faced one rushing attack averaging that or better: Texas A&M, ranked 16th in the nation at 5.35. The Fighting Irish rank 22nd by the same metric.

Against the Crimson Tide, Texas A&M ran 30 times for 115 yards, by far its lowest rushing output . The Aggies averaged 3.83 yards per carry against Alabama and 4.38 or better against the rest of its schedule.

“I think the young players, we’ve played three or four freshmen a significant amount on defense, and I think they were a little unsure of what was expected of them,” Saban said. “I think they’ve gotten a little more confident.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson