Alabama-Notre Dame football: What to know about more DeVonta Smith records and a Tua connection

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama football is two wins in 11 days from another national championship, its sixth under coach Nick Saban. The next step is Friday’s Rose Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal against Notre Dame at 3 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Here are three things to know going into the first meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish since the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season.

Irish crash the backfield

Notre Dame ranks 13th nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 7.82 per game. Alabama hasn’t reached that mark since 2016.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is 10th in the ACC with 11 tackles for loss, leading the Fighting Irish, and Drew White’s nine tackles in the backfield have him in the ACC’s top 20. Notre Dame can also pursue passers, as Adetokunbo Ogundeji is tied for sixth in the ACC with 6.5 sacks and Isaiah Foskey is in the top 15 with 4.5.

To whatever extent the negative-play production is credited to scheme over individual players, those elements will appear again in Alabama’s near future. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea will become head coach at Vanderbilt after the Fighting Irish’s season ends, and the Commodores are scheduled to visit Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2022. 

Ties that bind

The most obvious tie between Alabama and Notre Dame is the 42-14 unraveling of the Fighting Irish in a BCS National Championship Game, but these two iterations of those programs are tied by more than the same head coaches from that game.

Notre Dame’s starting punter, Jay Bramblett, is a Tuscaloosa native from Hillcrest High School, and defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is a cousin to former UA quarterbacks Tua and Taulia Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa-Amosa is tied for fifth on the team with six tackles for loss, fourth with 2.5 sacks and is one of six Notre Dame players to force a fumble this season.

Notre Dame running backs coach Lance Taylor is an Alabama native and former UA player. The Mt. Vernon native played wide receiver for UA from 2000-03 and served as a graduate assistant for Saban’s first UA teams in 2007 and 2008.

Smith, Jones, Harris due for more records

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith is 139 yards from tying the SEC record for career receiving yards and 269 from tying the SEC record for single-season receiving yards. Smith has gone for at least 139 receiving yards in seven of his 11 games, making it plausible that he will reach the SEC mark.

He is also 12 receptions from tying the school record for career receptions and three touchdowns from tying the SEC record for single-season receiving touchdowns.

Quarterback Mac Jones is also poised for school and SEC history. He is 227 passing yards from tying the UA school record for single-season passing yards; those 227 yards would also move him into the top five in SEC history in single-season passing yards. His average of 339.9 yards would nearly be enough to get him into the top three in SEC history.

Running back Najee Harris is three touchdowns, rushing or receiving, from tying the SEC record for career total touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns from tying the school and SEC record for single-season touchdowns, both held by Derrick Henry.

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