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Bama, Notre Dame big men respect each other

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Alabama center Barrett Jones discussed the upcoming BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame on Thursday. (Source: WSFA) Alabama center Barrett Jones discussed the upcoming BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame on Thursday. (Source: WSFA)

FORT LAUDERDALE (RNN) -Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said despite the BCS national championship hoopla, the game will come down to the same things they always do – once a few licks are passed.

Diaco dismissed the distractions of the media circus and the city of Miami while sitting on a dais by his star linebacker, Manti Te'o. He and the Fighting Irish are set to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday at Sun Life Stadium.

The game settles into itself, Diaco said, and individual battles start to develop. One player looks across the line at the guy on the other team, and there's this little communion, an understanding between warriors.

"You say, ‘You're going to try to block me and I'm going to try to whip you,'" he said. "Forget all the hype, the noise, the lights and the crowd. It's just me and you."

For this game, the coolest me vs. you battles will take place between Alabama's offensive line against Notre Dame's front seven.

Opponents have managed to get inside Notre Dame's 20-yard line just 33 times this season and have scored only eight touchdowns, two by the run. Prominent goal-line stands preserved wins against Stanford and Southern California.

Alabama has scored on 51-of-57 visits to the red zone, 41 of those scores were touchdowns.

For the Crimson Tide, it starts with Alabama center Barrett Jones, who was riding a little scooter around campus a week ago so he could keep his messed up foot propped up. He said he'll be 100 percent.

Jones suffered the injury against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game but continued to play, manhandling the Bulldogs' big nose guards and allowing the Tide to run for 350 yards.

Chance Warmack, who made All-American playing guard beside Jones, said if Barrett says he'll be OK, he'll be OK.

"I didn't even think he'd be able to walk," Warmack said. "When I saw him riding that little scooter around."

He's been his old self in practice, Warmack said.

Kaprow Lewis-Moore, the Notre Dame player who will be glaring across the line at Jones, is pretty sure Jones will be tip-top.

Jones is what makes the Alabama offensive line unique, he said. His technique is perfect, he does everything just right. And Lewis-Moore said Warmack is no slouch, either.

"They're in a class by themselves," he said, when asked to compare Alabama's offensive front to anybody else he's seen this year. "They blow big holes for those running backs to run through."

The running backs are Eddie Lacy, the bruiser who ran the ball behind Jones 18 times in the second half of the Georgia game, and T.J. Yeldon, the slashing, speed guy.

"The two running backs make them special, too," Lewis-Moore said. "They're the best we've seen. Most teams have one feature back, they have two. It's hard to prepare for that."

Diaco said part of that preparation is looking at players on the other team and asking his players, "which of those guys would you like to have for a teammate?"

There are a lot of Alabama players who would fit in the Notre Dame program, he said.

Te'o would fit just fine into Alabama's system, based on the things he said. He sounded like he was channeling Alabama coach Nick Saban, who loves to talk about doing everything just right, practicing the way you play and taking care of the little things.

Te'o said when Notre Dame was mounting all those goal line stands, they were doing the same thing they'd do if the ball were on 50-yard line. Play the same way, every play.

The same philosophy carries over to playing Alabama for the national championship.

"Keep focused, settled and calm," he said. "Do the same thing you've done for the last 12 games."

Jones called Te'o the whole package - always around the ball, he leads with his body and his heart. He's their physical and emotional leader.

Diaco said he looks at Alabama and sees what he hopes people see when they look at Notre Dame.

"They play football the way football should be played," he said. "They're a class outfit. There's no false bravado. Coach Saban blends his personality with his whole team."

Warmack said he knows who'll win the battle Saturday. He summed it up in one sentence.

"It'll come down to who makes the least mistakes," he said.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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