AJ McCarron threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns as No. 2 Alabama earned a dominant 42-14 victory over top-ranked Notre Dame to capture its second straight BCS National Championship.
With the win, McCarron became the first-ever quarterback to win back-to-back National Championships. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban recorded his fourth title overall and third in the last four seasons.
"People talk about how the most difficult thing is to win your first championship. Really the most difficult is to win the next one, because there's always a feeling of entitlement, and the commitment that these guys made two days after we played LSU last year in the National Championship game to be a team, to set a goal to accomplish something of significance is really special for what they were able to accomplish," Saban said.
McCarron completed an efficient 20-of-28 passes, while Eddie Lacy added 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to earn the offensive MVP award for Alabama (13-1), which captured its 11th national title.
T.J. Yeldon followed with 108 yards and a score on 21 carries, and Amari Cooper finished with 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns on six receptions in the victory.
Everett Golson completed 21-of-36 passes for 270 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Fighting Irish (12-1) were denied their first undefeated season since 1988.
Notre Dame entered the game averaging 202.5 rushing yards a game, but Theo Riddick, Golson and Cierre Wood combined to pick up just 32 on the ground against Alabama's stout defense.
DaVaris Daniels paced all receivers with 115 yards on six catches in defeat.
"Congratulations to Alabama. They were the better team today," Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o said.
Alabama received the ball first and immediately kicked off an impressive first half by picking up chunks of yards, as McCarron found Kevin Norwood deep down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain after making a play-action fake on the second play of the game.
Lacy reeled off a 10-yard run up the middle on the next play that had 15 yards tacked on for a facemask penalty. Two plays later, Lacy shrugged off a defender during a 20-yard touchdown run to hand the Crimson Tide the lead less than three minutes into the first quarter.
The 82-yard march was the longest drive Notre Dame's top-ranked scoring defense had allowed all season.
"We needed to come out and start fast, and that's always key for us, starting fast," said McCarron. "I'm just glad we got to set the tone, and it really set the tone for the rest of the game."
The Fighting Irish were held to a three-and-out on their first touch of the game when Tyler Eifert was ruled to not have full possession of a catch near the left sideline on a 3rd-and-2, and Alabama regained the ball at their own 39.
Lacy then converted a 3rd-and-1 with an 8-yard run to move the ball across midfield before McCarron converted another third down with a 7-yard strike to Marvin Shinn.
Faced with another 3rd-and-1 at the Notre Dame 23, Lacy avoided a defender in the backfield and rumbled through the Irish defense for a 20-yard gain.
On the next play, Michael Williams snuck behind the Notre Dame defense following a play-action fake by McCarron and easily hauled in a 3-yard touchdown, handing the Crimson Tide a 14-0 advantage with 6:14 left in the opening frame.
Alabama seemed to have recovered an Eifert fumble near the Notre Dame 30 on the next play from scrimmage, but a review showed his knee was down before he had the ball ripped out and the Irish retained possession.
Notre Dame would manage just one first down on the drive, though, and the Irish were forced to punt again.
McCarron found Norwood and Cooper on consecutive plays for gains of 25 and 11 yards, respectively, on the Crimson Tide's ensuing drive. Cooper then hauled in a 27-yard pass to place the ball at the Notre Dame six.
Yeldon capped the 8-play, 80-yard trek with a 1-yard push across the goal line on the first play of the second quarter.
Golson was able to connect with Daniels for a 31-yard gain on the Fighting Irish's next offensive play to move the ball inside Alabama territory for the first time, but they would manage just five more yards and Golson's deep pass attempt intended for T.J. Jones on a 4th-and-5 was broken up to turn the ball over on downs.
Notre Dame, however, was able to hold Alabama to its first punt of the game after a completed pass by McCarron that would have converted a 3rd-and-12 was called back for a holding penalty.
The teams traded punts from there until Alabama took over on offense at its own 29 with 3:43 left in the half. Yeldon ripped off a couple of 10-yard runs before McCarron found Christion Jones on a post for a gain of 27 yards, placing the ball at the Notre Dame 11.
Lacy grabbed a short pass on the next play and spun around a tackle attempt inside the 5-yard line en route to a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the half to give the Crimson Tide a 28-0 advantage at the break.
Notre Dame seemed poised to put together its first scoring drive of the game on the opening touch of the third quarter, as Golson connected with Daniels for a 21-yard gain before a 3-yard run by Riddick gave the Irish a fresh set of downs at the Alabama 36.
But two plays later, Golson had a deep pass attempt down the right sideline tipped into the air, and Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix was able to get a foot down in bounds during a leaping interception at the 3-yard line.
Alabama capitalized on the turnover with a 10-play trek Lacy kept alive with a 3-yard run to convert a 4th-and-1 at the Notre Dame 37 and McCarron capped with a 34-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Cooper on the right side of the field with 7:34 left in the third quarter.
The Fighting Irish were able to put an end to Alabama's shutout bid on the ensuing drive, a 9-play, 85-yard march ending with a 2-yard touchdown run by Golson on an option that made it a 35-7 game.
Earlier in the drive, Golson converted a 3rd-and-16 at the Notre Dame 37 with a 31-yard strike to T.J. Jones, and a roughing the passer penalty later on moved the ball into the Alabama red zone.
The Crimson Tide, however, got those points right back and ended any notion of a miraculous Notre Dame comeback with a lengthy 14-play drive that lasted nearly eight minutes, stretched into the fourth quarter and was finished with Cooper's 19-yard touchdown grab with 11:27 remaining in the contest.
Notre Dame answered with Riddick's 6-yard scoring catch on its next touch to cap the scoring.
"Alabama was the better football team, but I love the way our guys kept fighting and kept competing. They didn't quit at all," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
Notre Dame had not allowed more than 26 points in a game all season ... Alabama improved to 6-4 all-time against top-ranked teams and 5-2 against Notre Dame ... Notre Dame fell to 5-1 all-time in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns when sitting atop the national rankings ... The Crimson Tide improved to 62-3 when leading at the half under Saban ... The Fighting Irish were first team in the BCS era to reach the National Championship game after starting the season unranked. BYU is the lone team to start a season unranked and win a national title, accomplishing the feat in 1984 ... Alabama finished with 529 total yards, while the Irish ended with 302.