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Irish offense put on red alert in title game

– The offenses for Notre Dame and Alabama are nearly mirror images of each other.

The Irish average 421.3 yards with a balanced split between their passing offense (218.8 yards per game) and rushing offense (202.5 yards per game).

The Crimson Tide averages 439.1 yards with also a near 50-50 passing (214.5 yards per game) to rushing (224.6 yards per game) split.

But the offenses stop looking as close when you look at the points the No. 1 Irish (12-0) and No. 2 Tide (12-1) produced as the teams made their march to the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.

Notre Dame averages 26.8 points, while Alabama averages 38.5. The disparity can be traced to what the teams do in the red zone.

Alabama has scored on 51 of its 57 trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line for an 89.4 percent red zone scoring percentage.

Notre Dame has scored on 46 of its 58 red zone trips for a 79.3 scoring percentage inside the 20.

“We feel as though we’ve been there and haven’t made the plays necessary,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “You can use the USC game for an example … the number of field goals that could have been touchdowns. We’re going to need to score touchdowns in that area against Alabama.”

Notre Dame settled for field goals four times inside USC’s 20-yard line in a 22-13 win Nov. 24 in Los Angeles.

And scoring three points instead of six in the red zone was a problem in more games than just the season finale.

Notre Dame scored only 27 touchdowns in the red zone, while Alabama scored 41 red zone touchdowns.

Kelly said part of the reason Alabama had more success in the red zone was because of the different experience levels of the quarterbacks.

AJ McCarron started all 12 games for the Tide last season, while Everett Golson is a first-time starter for the Irish.

“When you’re trying to look at an A.J. McCarron who’s an experienced player coming back versus Golson, you’re going to give A.J., early in the season, obviously the edge because he’s been there,” Kelly said. “Everett obviously was learning along the season, and he’s gotten better as we’ve gotten closer.

“We think we’ve addressed those through just maturity and understanding. We’ll continue to work on our red zone efficiencies and specifically spend more time in practice so he becomes more comfortable in that area of the field.”

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