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Five Rose Bowl predictions
Notre Dame controls the pace early. The Fighting Irish rank eighth in the nation in time of possession (33:56) and will try to keep the ball out of Mac Jones’ hands with lengthy, balanced drives. Though Notre Dame ranks 11th in third-down conversion rate (49 percent), Alabama’s defense ranks 69th in opponent’s third-down conversion rate (40.6 percent).
Both ground games excel. Behind one of the nation’s best offensive lines, Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams will bounce back from one of his worst games of the season and Ian Book will add at least 45 yards rushing against a largely untested Crimson Tide run defense. Nevertheless, with DeVonta Smith keeping Notre Dame’s secondary honest, Najee Harris will find room to run and score at least two touchdowns for the fourth straight game.
DeVonta Smith gets help. The Heisman favorite will surpass 100 yards receiving and reach the end zone, but teammate John Metchie III will put up even bigger numbers. With defensive coordinator Clark Lea throwing constant double-coverage at Smith, Mac Jones won’t force too many balls to his favorite target, instead connecting with Metchie for a pair of deep scores.
Ian Book folds late. The fifth-year senior has been among the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, throwing just two interceptions all season. Book, who badly struggled in the 2018 playoff, will match that number in this semifinal. Book will start strong, but the quarterback who has leaned on his run game and defense most of the season isn’t built to go blow-for-blow with the nation’s best offense. As Alabama’s lead increases, Book’s desperation will, too, with Crimson Tide freshman safety Malachi Moore ending any hopes of a comeback with a late pick.
Alabama advances. The gap in talent isn’t as large as the massive point spread suggests. Notre Dame is one of the nation’s four best teams, and Alabama isn’t invincible, as Florida’s six-point loss in the SEC Championship just showed. Nevertheless, Notre Dame doesn’t possess the explosive aerial arsenal necessary to exploit the Crimson Tide’s greatest weakness. For the fifth time in six years, Nick Saban will return to the national championship game.
Alabama 41, Notre Dame 23.