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NOTRE DAME 6
Note: This analysis is based on every play in a game with at least one FBS team, except for the one played between Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International, for which no stats were available. Sacks count as pass attempts instead of runs, unlike the tabulations used for the official NCAA stats. Plays with intentional incomplete passes to stop the clock and kneel-downs are excluded.
Notre Dame gets the first possession and comes out throwing, often on first down. Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson and the Fighting Irish have passed on 52.1% of their first-down plays in the first quarter this year, quite a bit more than their 44.3% frequency on first down all year. Attacking Alabama's 12th-ranked pass defense, Notre Dame moves the ball effectively; the Irish have averaged 8.3 yards per pass in the first quarter. Two drives, however, stall against Alabama's second-ranked total defense, and Notre Dame must settle for field goals both times.
Alabama's offense has tended to run on first down in the first quarter (57.4% of the time), but the Crimson Tide has been remarkably effective when throwing early. Junior quarterback AJ McCarron (left) has racked up 11.0 yards per pass attempt on first downs in the first quarter, much higher than his 8.1 game average. But the Crimson Tide has averaged only 5.0 yards running on first-quarter first downs, well below its 6.2 game average. Opposing teams often have stacked the box against Alabama on first down to stop the run. Tide coach Nick Saban, given 37 days to prepare for this game, adjusts, and Alabama scores a TD on a drive in which it exclusively throws on first down.
BY THE NUMBERS
8.7 Yards Alabama has averaged per pass in the first quarter this season, compared with 8.1 over an entire game.
8.3 Yards Notre Dame has averaged per pass in the first quarter, compared with 7.0 overall.
44.7 Percentage of plays in the first quarter on which Alabama has attempted a pass, compared with 39.3% for the entire game.