When the dust settles and the smoke clears from the six-month barrage that is the college football season, only one team can truly celebrate.
Monday night, that team was once again the Alabama Crimson Tide as the Tide crushed Notre Dame, 42-14, to win back-to-back BCS National Championships, their third in the last four years.
The Tide seemed to take the fight out of the Irish early and never let up.
The ending was fitting for this particular Alabama team. This bunch was chosen as the second-best team in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division behind LSU at the beginning of the season. The loss of talent on the defensive side of the ball and the early departure of a Heisman finalist running-back left major holes and major questions.
Even head coach Nick Saban admitted this was his least talented team of the Tide’s recent national championship runs.
But once the lights were on, it was clear the Tide was in a class of its own.
“We came with the mindset of trying to be legendary,” freshman receiver Amari Cooper said.
Alabama is now in that rare air of winning three national championships in four years. Not since Nebraska’s run in the 1990s has this been accomplished. Some teams struggle to make the game, others win a championship and regress, but Alabama continues to churn out championships – turning Tuscaloosa into Title Town.
“For a program that has been criticized for clinging too tightly to the good old days, I’m sure those days were good, but Alabama people should recognize that these days for them are better,” ESPN studio host and Alabama graduate Rece Davis said.
That’s not a shot at the great Paul “Bear” Bryant and his legacy, it’s only the truth— In this day of college football, Alabama’s run is nothing short of spectacular. 2009 and 2011 were expected, but this wasn’t. No one thought Alabama was four touchdowns better than Notre Dame.
Alabama’s offense epitomized balance. The Tide’s attack racked up 529 yards of total offense, 265 rushing and 264 passing. Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon took turns battering what was supposed to be a vaunted Notre Dame front seven. Quarterback AJ McCarron shredded the Irish secondary for four touchdowns. It could have been six if not for a few missed opportunities to Cooper.
Notre Dame’s defense forgot the No. 1 fundamental of tackle football: tackle. Heisman candidate Manti Te’o whiffed on a few attempts to bring down the Tide’s dominant duo of backs. With Te’o struggling, the rest of the Irish stood no chance.
“We’ve got to get physically stronger, continue to close the gap there and just overall you need to see what it looks like,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly of the difference between the Irish and the Tide.
The Irish got a look at it all night. In a scene similar to the SEC Championship Game, Alabama lined up and ran right at the Irish defense, welcoming contact. Only this time, there was no back and forth action necessary.
Defensively, Alabama stifled Notre Dame all game. The Irish abandoned the running game early, finishing with 32 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Everett Golson never found his rhythm throwing the ball and was constantly under pressure. Everywhere Golson turned there was a Tide defender. Linebackers and defensive lineman made open field tackles on Golson and the Irish’s skill players, showing the speed difference between the SEC and the rest of college football.
But Notre Dame fans shouldn’t be discouraged. The SEC does this to everyone. The league beats up one another each week, making one another look vulnerable and exposing weaknesses. That’s fool’s gold.
Anyone who watches the SEC knows there could be at least one team in the title game every year, even with the play-off.
Alabama shows no signs of slowing down and are, in fact, getting stronger. With the return of key veterans such as AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley, Alabama will be in the mix at the end of next season. The return of such players only gives Alabama time to look ahead and recruit or nurture the next crop of champions.
“We have such a great culture here from top to bottom,” offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. “Everybody buys in from day one, and that is why we are successful.”