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Key players to watch in Alabama vs. Notre Dame

The Rose Bowl matchup of Notre Dame and Alabama will feature no shortage of superstar talent on both sides of the ball, a group headlined by the Heisman Trophy favorite Devonta Smith.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Despite the lopsided point spread for the Rose Bowl matchup of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Alabama Crimson Tide — the line falls between 19 and 20 points depending on location — the game will feature no shortage of superstar talent on both sides of the ball. For some, the contest will serve as their sendoff before leaving for the NFL.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Offense

While earlier versions of the Nick Saban Football Machine™ funneled most of its offensive star power to the offensive line and backfield, the current iteration has no shortage of top-shelf talent in each position. Still, wide receiver and Heisman Trophy finalist DeVonta Smith shines brightest among this absurdly talented group with triggerman Mac Jones, another Heisman candidate, not too far behind.

Defense

Life isn’t fair and resistance is futile. To confirm that grim worldview, look no further than the embarrassment of riches Alabama also features on defense. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II earned consensus All-American honors this season as well as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year award and will almost certainly become a first-round draft choice later this year. The Crimson Tide also have senior linebacker Dylan Moses, a first-team All-SEC selection this season.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Offense

Despite innumerable hurdles, Ian Book made 2020 by far his finest season. The senior quarterback delivered an impressive 15:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio while adding eight scores as a runner, as many as he had in his three previous years combined. And while Book doesn’t have an All-American receiver at his disposal, he does have one of the nation’s finest offensive linemen, left tackle Liam Eichenberg.

Defense

A year after becoming a freshman starter and one of the best newcomers in the nation, safety Kyle Hamilton grew into a third-team All-American and first-team All-ACC honoree. Elsewhere in the secondary, graduate transfer Nick McCloud will most likely match up with Alabama’s Smith throughout the game.