When No. 1 Notre Dame lines up on offense Monday night in the BCS championship, the team on the other side of the ball will look a little familiar.
Fighting Irish players and coaches said Friday that the defense for No. 2 Alabama and their own have some similarities, including that both teams are known for giving opponents plenty of different looks.
"They're pretty diverse on defense," Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "They use their three-down and four-down packages, much like our defense uses our three-down and four-down packages."
Alabama calls its base defense a 3-4, though the Crimson Tide are in that formation about once every five plays in the estimation of coach Nick Saban. Since arriving in South Florida earlier this week, Notre Dame players said the long gap between games — the Irish have not played since Nov. 24 — hasn't so much hurt rhythm as it gave them time to prepare for what's coming in the title game.
Quarterback Everett Golson may have been the biggest beneficiary of all that extra preparation time.
"They have a great defense, and like I said earlier, they play their responsibilities," Golson said. "So it's going to be hard for us to kind of exploit their defense. But I'm sure just my ability to improvise, and the guys' around me ability to improvise, we'll work something out."
This much was clear: There's a great respect for the Alabama defense, with good reason.
While Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense by a fraction of a point over Alabama, the Crimson Tide gave up the fewest yards per game of any team in the country.
"Very big," Irish running back Theo Riddick said. "Very athletic."
Not to mention very good.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said it's clear to the Crimson Tide that Golson has gotten immeasurably better since the start of the season. Still, even Golson knows he'll have to be at his best against a championship-proven defense in the title matchup.
"Like we've said time and time again, Alabama has a great defense, and there's many things that they do, talking about switching out from three-down to four-down, just simple things like that that you have to prepare for or you have to have it instituted," Golson said. "But for me, it's definitely going to be a great opportunity to compete for this national championship, so I'm looking forward to it."