Alabama Crimson Tide: DaVaris Daniels

Editor's note: Every day from now until kickoff in Miami, TideNation will break down the matchups position-by-position. Today we'll look at the battle of the wide receivers and tight ends.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTrue freshman Amari Cooper has become Alabama's best big-play wide receiver.
Alabama: First it was Chris Black who went down with a shoulder injury, then it was DeAndrew White who tore up his knee, followed by Kenny Bell who broke his leg against Auburn. Inconsistency plagued the Alabama receiving corps through no fault of its own. Even the starters couldn't stay healthy for stretches of the season. Kevin Norwood, Christion Jones and Amari Cooper all nursed injuries at one point or another.

Freshmen like Marvin Shinn and Cyrus Jones have been pressed into service and delivered mixed results. The coaching staff even toyed with the idea of bringing Black back for the final two games of the season.

"We haven't had a lot of continuity at receiver," coach Nick Saban said. "We've got guys playing different positions, Amari Cooper was out the LSU game, Kevin was out the last game. We have a lot of different circumstances going on."

Throughout it all, Cooper has emerged as the go-to target. The freshman who enters the title game with 53 catches for 894 yards is close to breaking Julio Jones' records for receptions and yards for a rookie receiver. He's dazzled with highlight reel touchdowns, most recently connecting with AJ McCarron for the game-winning score in the SEC championship game.

But continuity has been an issue, and not just at receiver. Michael Williams has been a constant at tight end, though he's failed to produce much in the passing game. The senior is fourth on the team with 21 receptions and three touchdowns. His counterparts -- Brian Vogler and Kelly Johnson -- have combined for just six catches and no touchdowns.

Notre Dame: In many ways, the Notre Dame passing game is the opposite of Alabama's. Unlike UA, the Fighting Irish have a first-year starter at quarterback who doesn't take many shots downfield. The result has been plenty of passes to his tight end and not so many to his receivers.

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Talkin' Tide, Irish with TideNation

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
12:36
PM ET
Notre Dame and Alabama are squaring off Jan. 7 in the Discover BCS National Championship, in case you haven't heard. With the matchup more than a month away, TideNation's Alex Scarborough and Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna go back and forth on a number of topics between the Tide and Irish.

AS: The other day Nick Saban called Notre Dame's front seven possibly the best in college football. How do you think it stacks up and what is it about the Irish defense that makes it special?

MF: One of the most overlooked pieces of Notre Dame's defense has been nose guard Louis Nix. He is a junior who came in overweight two years ago, dropped roughly 40 pounds, and then was told last year that he might not see 20 snaps a game. Injuries turned him into nearly a full-time starter last year, and he has taken his game to another level this year. His numbers -- five tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble -- simply do not do him justice. He regularly takes on two blockers at a time, freeing up athletic end Stephon Tuitt (12 sacks) and allowing the Irish linebackers to make more plays. The biggest question for me -- especially after the SEC title game -- is how much pressure can these guys get on AJ McCarron? Is this offensive line invincible?

AS: The offensive line is about as invincible as it gets in one respect -- the running game. When Alabama commits to handing the ball off the Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, there's not much a defense can do. The job Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and Co. do pushing the line of scrimmage is remarkable. But in another respect, the line is somewhat vulnerable. Georgia showed it's not very difficult to get pressure on the backfield. It's why Alabama committed to the running game like it did in Atlanta. There wasn't much of a choice with Jarvis Jones harassing McCarron.

If there's a spot to attack Alabama's defense, it's the passing game. Georgia hit the Tide up for big play after big play on Saturday. Does Notre Dame have enough with Everett Golson to stretch the field and keep the defense honest?

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