Alabama and running back Eddie Lacy ran all over Notre Dame Monday night, opening a 35-point lead on their way to back-to-back national titles.(Photo: Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports)
Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Alabama spent the past month downplaying talk of a college football dynasty, but it took just a few minutes Monday night to prove once again that Nick Saban's program is operating on a completely different level.
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Alabama won its third national title in the last four years at Sun Life Stadium, humiliating previously No. 1-ranked Notre Dame 42-14 in a BCS national championship game that never seemed competitive. The matchup of college football's biggest brand names fizzled practically from the kickoff. Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and built a 35-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
"I don't think words like dynasty are words that I'm interested in," Saban said. " We're interested in accomplishment and consistency and performance.
"I would say that regardless of the result that this team achieved, that they exceeded every expectation we had for them. ... They were able to repeat. That is hard to do. That is very, very hard to do. It takes special people with a special character and a special will."
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In the process, the Crimson Tide (13-1) secured a seventh consecutive national title for the Southeastern Conference and earned head coach Nick Saban his fourth overall (his first, in 2003, came with LSU), putting him within range of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant's six.
This one might have been the most impressive. Alabama lost five starters on offense and seven on defense from the team that beat LSU in last year's championship, but Saban regrouped with just one slip-up: a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M and eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel on Nov. 10.
By Monday, however, that performance was a distant memory. Alabama began the game with an 82-yard touchdown drive - the longest given up by Notre Dame's defense all season - and marched 202 yards on just 22 plays in the first quarter. The Crimson Tide made it 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter and scored again 31 seconds before halftime on Eddie Lacy's 11-yard catch-and-spin touchdown.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by Alabama's physicality and speed, unable to stop either Lacy (140 yards, the offensive player of the game) or quarterback A.J. McCarron, who threw for four touchdowns and completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards. The Fighting Irish (12-1) built an offensive game plan to test Alabama's secondary but gained just 124 yards in the first half and only crossed midfield once.
The Tide players seemed almost to take the title in stride. Asked if the program could be called a dynasty now, McCarron laughed a bit and said, "Everybody's got their own opinions. You can label us what you want. I just know this team has worked hard to get to the point where we're at. I couldn't be more proud of these guys."
These guys were so overwhelming that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, runnerup in the Heisman voting, was virtually invisible. Said Te'o,"It definitely sucks, to be honest."
For the Fighting Irish, who hadn't won a national title since 1988, it was a stark reminder that they're still playing catch-up to college football's elite.
"We're going to learn from it," said coach Brian Kelly. "And we'll be better coaches for it, too."
And for Alabama, which will return the core of its defense and several skill players next season, it was confirmation this run of greatness isn't slowing down.
Saban didn't want to talk about that, or how he would savor what his now a historic coaching resume.
"I'm really , really happy with the team win we have," he said, actually smiling. "We have a lot of great players and they did a great job. I'm proud of these guys. I'm happy for them. I want to win the game for them. It's their legacy."