Tonight all of the hype, prestige, and wonder will come to an end. In just over four hours from now, this year's BCS National Championship Game will begin.
Here is what's at stake for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame:
1. Their first championship since 1988
2. Their first BCS bowl game victory
3. Their first bowl win since 2010
4. They can prevent Alabama from making history of their own
The fourth one is probably the most important. All year the naysayers have said everything from Notre Dame is not a serious contender, to Alabama will put the Irish in their place. I've heard it all.
Tonight, the Irish have a chance to throw all of that out the window. Here is what they will need to do to accomplish those tasks I listed above:
Everything starts with the offensive line. Mike Golic Jr. and company will be going up against one of the best defenses in the country. If they can protect Everett Golsen and clear a path for the running game, they will be on the right track.
They need to run the ball early and often. When you have a roster full of top-notch running backs, and a quarterback who can beat you with his feet, you'd be stupid not to use the run game. If the Irish can have success running the ball, it'll make things a lot easier.
Notre Dame has one of the best tight ends in the country with Tyler Eifert. He is the team's leading receiver and the biggest down field threat. Brian Kelly will need everything he can get from him in order to have a chance of winning this game.
The most important piece of the Irish offense is quarterback Everett Golsen. He is one of the best dual-threat QB's in the nation, and the Fighting Irish will need him to use all of his athletic ability to beat the Crimson Tide.
The Fighting Irish defensive line will be under the biggest microscope tonight. Barret Jones leads an Alabama offensive line that is considered the best in all of college football. Notre Dame has proven they can pressure quarterbacks with just a three-man rush. If they are to give their team a chance to win, they need to break through 'Bama's protection, pressure Alabama signal caller A.J. McCarron, and stuff their run game.
If the d-line is not successful, it will be a long night for Notre Dame. Manti Te'o is the anchor, leader, and the best player on the defensive side of the ball for Notre Dame. He needs to have the game of his life, bottom line. Te'o will need to dig down deep and leave it all on the field if the Irish are to win this evening.
The Fighting Irish will also need a damn near flawless performance from their secondary. Alabama can throw the ball when they need too and they will do it every chance they get.
Overall, the Irish will need a full team effort. They need to be physical, they can't make any mistakes, and they need to be fundamentally sound. If Notre Dame cannot complete these tasks, they will not win tonight.