Impact Players

Breaking down five critical players for Alabama versus Notre Dame in Rose Bowl matchup

William Anderson (No. 31) and Jaylen Moody (No. 42) of Alabama celebrate a big play versus Texas A&M
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics/SEC Media Portal

The media will be in a frenzy on Monday, as press conferences and interviews for the Rose Bowl kick off.

After missing out on the College Football Playoff in 2019, the University of Alabama has returned to the big stage as champions of the Southeastern Conference.

The Crimson Tide was the lone SEC program to go undefeated through a conference-only schedule and it averaged 49.7 points per game.

With Notre Dame carrying one loss, the Fighting Irish grabbed the fourth and final seed in the CFP and will rematch the Tide at AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas) on Jan. 1, 2021.

In the first meeting between Nick Saban and Brian Kelly, Alabama’s head coach earned a 42-14 win in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game (2012 season).

RELATED: Comparing this Notre Dame team to the 2012 group that faced Alabama in 2013 BCS title game

Despite the Irish being much improved, the Tide is on a mission for a national title.

Saban is looking to surpass the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant and Alabama is in search of its 18th national championship in school history.

When it comes to highlighting players, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has five marquee names prepared to battle Notre Dame on Friday.

1. Chris Owens, Offensive Line

Alabama will not have its Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner and Rimington finalist, Landon Dickerson, at center against the Fighting Irish. Dickerson suffered a knee injury versus Florida in the SEC title game, and it proved to be serious as the North Carolina native sustained ‘significant’ ligament damage. With him out, Chris Owens is next in line to operate the controls.

He has experience at the position, but will he bring the same communication and dominance as Dickerson?

Alabama has confidence in Owens.

Should he handle the pressure from Notre Dame’s defensive front and establishes the Tide’s rushing attack, he will be fine. The team also has Darrian Dalcourt and Emil Ekiyor, however, it is rolling with Owens.

2. Najee Harris, Running Back

Pro Football Focus had Najee Harris listed as its No. 3 running back, in terms of rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft.

He can show the NFL scouts how dominant he is with a strong performance against a defensive front that includes Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Drew White, Kurt Hinish, Daelin Hayes, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Isaiah Foskey, Bo Bauer and Adetokunbo Ogundeji of Notre Dame.

Harris was the Most Valuable Player of the SEC Championship Game, totaling 178 yards rushing, 67 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

He leads the NCAA for rushing yards (24) and tallies 1,262 yards on 214 carries.

RELATED: Najee Harris is No. 3 among running backs for 2021 NFL Draft, according to Pro Football Focus

During the CFP era, standouts like Derrick Henry, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough have provided dominant performances for the Tide. Harris has collected five 100-yard rushing games and nine 100-yard games from scrimmage, while averaging 114.7 yards per game. He also is responsible for 32 catches, including three for touchdowns as a receiver.

3. Christian Harris, Inside Linebacker

He has been Alabama’s most consistent inside linebacker.

After starting in 2019 for an injured Joshua McMillon, Christian Harris has gotten better with confidence, communication and playing his assignment on defense. The sophomore will be tasked with watching Ian Book and stopping the rushing attack of Kyren Williams for Notre Dame. With the Fighting Irish not having a multitude of playmakers on the outside, it gives Harris an opportunity to showcase his lateral quickness and run down plays. He will also get a chance to pressure Book and create sacks.

The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder has 68 total tackles, including seven for loss and 4.5 sacks.

4. Will Anderson, Outside Linebacker

Notre Dame has a formidable offensive unit, but it is about to be tested.

Christian Barmore is a surging pass rusher on Alabama’s defensive line, and Christopher Allen carries six sacks at strong-side linebacker.

The two will draw a lot of attention, which means William Anderson looks to harass Ian Book all game long.

RELATED: Alabama once had three Heisman QB candidates on its roster at the same time

Since recording his first career sack versus Auburn, the freshman has totaled at least two sacks each in meetings against LSU, Arkansas and Florida. He leads the SEC and the Tide in sacks (seven) and 10.5 tackles for loss through 11 games.

5. Malachi Moore, Defensive Back

Minkah Fitzpatrick got burned by Hunter Renfrow of Clemson in the 2016 CFP National Championship Game, but he responded in becoming an All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner at safety for Alabama.

Malachi Moore is compared to Fitzpatrick and expects to bounce back after a tough performance against Kadarius Toney of Florida.

Despite giving up a score to the explosive wide receiver, it was the lone touchdown Moore had allowed all year. The 6-foot, 182-pounder has been special for the Tide’s defense in accounting for 44 tackles, four tackles for loss, six pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions (team-high) and one touchdown.

He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and made second-team All-SEC too.

Moore is set to lock up anyone that plays in the slot for the Irish this week.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith

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