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Can Everett Golson beat Alabama?

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Despite irrational SEC banter and the opinions of complete homers, Notre Dame belongs in the national championship game as a direct result of their stellar regular season. Marching through the schedule unscathed takes coaching, leadership, talent and luck, and Notre Dame had all four in their back pocket.

The Irish are built like an SEC team on offense, with a power running game as their base and a quarterback in Everett Golson who can manage the game and make timely plays through the air or with his legs. Golson, in his dual-threat nature, matches up better against Alabama than does a traditional pocket passer, and history proves that. Golson has limited turnovers and has been effective implementing Notre Dame’s plan to win all season.

But can Golson transform from being a game manager to an impact player?

Many compare Notre Dame’s offense to Florida and Golson to Jeff Driskel. The Irish have the advantage in both instances. The freshman signal caller has thrown for 2,135 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s completed 58.9 percent of his passes and rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers don’t leap off the page and smack you in the face, but Notre Dame doesn’t require that out of him.

We look at quarterbacks who have beaten Alabama during their ‘dynasty’. Tim Tebow, Cameron Newton and Johnny Manziel are the three who come to mind, but there are seven different Tide killers in total. Six of the seven are known for their running ability, but six of the seven made explosive plays and throws against Bama’s third level to win the game. The only anomaly was of course the regular season game against LSU in 2011.

Year

Team

Player

C/Att

Yds

TDs

Rush

TDs

Score

2008

Florida

Tim Tebow

14/22

216

3

17 for 57 yds

0

31-20

2008

Utah

Brian Johnson

27/41

336

3

4 for -15 yds

0

31-17

2010

S. Carolina

Stephen Garcia

17/20

201

3

7 for 11 yds

0

35-21

2010

LSU

Jordan Jefferson

10/13

141

1

7 for 27 yds

0

24-21

2010

Auburn

Cam Newton

13/20

216

3

22 for 39 yds

1

28-27

2011

LSU

Jordan Jefferson

6/10

67

0

11 for 43 yds

0

9-6

2012

Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel

24/31

253

2

18 for 92 yds

0

29-24

Bama has made the way to attack their defense very obvious, as the secondary is the weakest link. Manziel made plays down the field, as did Zach Mettenberger.

The average completion percentage of the seven quarterbacks who beat Alabama was 70.7 percent, throwing for 204 yards with two touchdowns. Golson had only three games where he threw for two touchdowns or more against Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest and no games where he completed 70 percent of his passes. In his last four games, however, Golson completed 74 of 122 passes (60.7 percent) for 990 yards and seven of his 11 touchdowns, meaning he’s playing his best football now.

Brian Kelly has kept the offense rather simple for Golson for the better part of 2012 because he knew he could beat teams with his defense. It’s the same mindset of SEC coaches.

The one common theme among all three teams that had success against Nick Saban’s defense in 2012 – LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia – made plays down the field in the passing game and went more up-tempo than other offenses, knowing teams had more success not allowing Bama to substitute for favorable matchups.

Kelly has stated Notre Dame will pick their spots to go to the hurry up. This should be an asset to Golson.

“There’s a time and place for (an up-tempo pace),” Kelly said of the looming battle. “Are we going to be exclusively in a tempo? No. I’d like to pick our spots. Part of our offense will reflect more of that, at times, during the game. It won’t always be that way.

“Moving (Alabama’s defensive) personnel in and out of the game, we’d like (certain players) to match up against some of our guys that we think there would be a matchup problem with when we have multiple tight ends on the field.”

We’re going to find out whether Everett Golson can transform into being an impact player versus a game manager. History shows he must take his game to the next level in order to beat Nick Saban and the Tide’s defense.

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports





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