These are the top-two scoring defenses in FBS with the Irish allowing 10.3 PPG and the Tide giving up 10.7 PPG. Alabama leads the country in total defense (246 YPG), while Notre Dame ranks sixth (287 YPG). Neither team has been a great wager, with the Crimson Tide going 1-4 ATS in its past five games and the Irish at 3-4 ATS in its past seven contests. But both were strong bets in non-home games, with Alabama posting a 4-2 ATS mark and Notre Dame at 5-1 ATS.
ABOUT ALABAMA (12-1, 7-1 SEC): The Crimson Tide will be happy to match muscle vs. muscle with Notre Dame's defense behind a powerhouse offensive line that averages 315 pounds per man. Alabama has a pair of 1,000-yard backs in junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon, who combined for 27 touchdowns and piled up 334 yards in the SEC title game win over Georgia. Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 26 touchdowns against only three interceptions and showed he was much more than a caretaker of the offense by leading late drives to beat LSU and Georgia. His top weapon is Amari Cooper, who has 53 receptions and nine touchdowns. Notre Dame's defense has been getting all the publicity, but the Crimson Tide have their own elite linebacker in C.J. Mosley and held 10 opponents to less than 14 points while recording four shutouts.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (12-0): Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, is the heart and soul of a defense that permitted only nine touchdowns overall and two on the ground. He has seven interceptions and played behind a stellar defensive front featuring ends Stephon Tuitt (12 sacks) and Kapron Lewis-Moore sandwiching the massive Louis Nix III. Notre Dame's running back corps of Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III combined for 2,000 yards and will test a defense that allowed a national-low 246 yards. Still, Notre Dame's offense revolves around dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson. He threw for 11 touchdowns against five interceptions and had four of of his five-highest passing totals in November. Golson also rushed for 305 yards and five scores and his ability to keep the chains moving against Alabama's defense will be vital.
Two of the most storied programs in college football history will square off for the national championship when undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame collides with No. 2 and reigning champion Alabama on Jan. 7 at Miami's Sun Life Stadium. Despite its unrivaled tradition, Notre Dame has not won a national title since 1988 and has not been atop the rankings since 1993. Alabama, meanwhile, will be chasing its third national championship in the past four years under Nick Saban, who has restored the luster to one of the few programs that can stand up to Notre Dame's legacy. The teams have met six times, with the Fighting Irish winning five.
This is the biggest spread for a national championship game since 2003, when Miami was favored by 12 over Ohio State. Florida State was an 11-point favorite over Oklahoma in the 2001 title game. In both instances, the underdog won outright.
The Tide opened as low as -7.5, but were bet up quickly and have been holding steady between 9- and 10-point favorites at most Las Vegas sports books for over a month.
The total opened as high as 42.5 at the Las Vegas Wynn, but has steadily come down. The LVH SuperBook briefly had the total at 39.5 on Friday.
Latest sports books reporting in Alabama -10, 40.5
We have been holding at 10-flat for some time now, when many others are laying 9.5, or are up to 10.5 with plus-money on the -10.5. The money for ND has been steady from the start, as has Bama money, but recently more bettors are buying the closer we get to the game as we are now almost 2/1 ND spread money to Bama. We are also about 3/1 ND SU money to Bama. So, we have many who like the Irish to cover or win, and I think we have many more bettors who will come for Bama later. I think we are going to end up cheering for Bama to cover or at least win.
Notre Dame entered the season as an afterthought but slowly climbed up the rankings behind a bruising defense - led by standout linebacker Manti Te'o - that smothered one opponent after another. The Fighting Irish allowed a nation-low 10.3 points per game and withstood a number of close calls as its offense continued to evolve. Notre Dame's formula was similar to the one that brought two championships to Alabama and third-year coach Brian Kelly readily admits he used the Crimson Tide's style of play as a blueprint to get the Irish back into the national picture.
Notable stats & trends
Alabama went 2-5 ATS vs. bowl teams this season.
Notre Dame went 5-4 ATS vs. bowl teams this season.
Alabama has 14 NFL Draft prospects. Notre Dame has 10, according to NFLDraftScouts.com.
Alabama went 1-5 ATS vs. teams with a winning record this season.
Underdog in AP No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups are 20-8-1 ATS (8-8 in bowls).
Brian Kelly is 3-2 ATS in bowl games, 1-1 ATS at Notre Dame.
Nick Saban is 7-6 ATS in bowl games, 4-1 ATS at Alabama.
Notre Dame is 2-6 ATS in its last eight bowls.
Five of Alabama’s last six bowl games have gone OVER the total.
There's something to be said for been there, done that, and Alabama's recent experience on the biggest stage cannot be overlook. Never was that more apparent than in last season's BCS championship game, when the Crimson Tide avenged their only regular season loss with a dominating defensive effort in a 21-0 victory over LSU. And while Notre Dame always plays a schedule dotted with top programs, Alabama is part of college football's best conference in the SEC, which, by the way, has won all six BCS title games since its inception in 2006.