Philadelphia, PA – If there were still any lingering questions about Alabama's dominance, they were answered emphatically on Monday night, as the Crimson Tide crushed Notre Dame, 42-14 to earn its third national title in the last four years.
Despite Notre Dame coming in as the top team in the country and Alabama ranked second, the betting lines set up the Crimson Tide as prohibitive double-digit favorites. It certainly looks like the guys that crunch the numbers and set the lines know what they are doing.
There were plenty of reasons to believe Notre Dame had what it took to not only stay competitive, but pull off the upset. History was on their side. The only other teams that faced bigger deficits in terms of the line were Oklahoma against Florida State (2000) and Ohio State against Miami-Florida (2003). Not only did both underdogs cover the spread, but won their games outright, earning national titles.
However, the defending national champions (now two-time) put any thought of an upset to rest early on behind their dominant offensive line, Eddie Lacy's bruising running style and A.J. McCarron's precision passing.
Notre Dame hadn't given up a touchdown drive longer than 75 yards all season, but Alabama opened the game with an 82-yard drive, capped off by a 20-yard TD run by Eddie Lacy. It was certainly a telling drive, with the Crimson Tide taking advantage of a tight Notre Dame defense, that wasn't ready for a pass to Kevin Norwood that spanned 29 yards on the second play from scrimmage. That was followed by a 10-yard run by Lacy that turned into a 25-yard gain with a facemask penalty at the end of the play. A couple of plays later and just 2:57 into the game and Alabama was on the scoreboard.
Notre Dame went three and out on its initial drive and the Crimson Tide got right back to work. Another long drive ensued, with Lacy doing most of the work, culminating in a short TD pass from McCarron to Michael Williams. With it, a 14-0 lead set the Tide on its way.
The key matchup coming in was in the trenches. Notre Dame entered with arguably the nation's best front seven, but could the Irish penetrate the nation's most dominant offensive line?
With three All-Americans in Barrett Jones (First-Team), Chance Warmack (First-Team) and D.J. Fluker (Second-Team) headlining the offensive front, Alabama simply imposed its will in a game that was never in doubt.
After just 15:04, it was apparent that the Irish could not compete on either side of the football, especially defensively. Alabama's offensive line not only blew the Irish off the ball on running plays, but gave McCarron all day to slice up the Notre Dame secondary. After three possessions, Alabama was up by three touchdowns. The Tide added a fourth touchdown, Lacy's second, late in the second quarter to take a 28-0 lead into halftime and as a result, made the second half anti-climatic.
It was simply another dominant performance by a program that has made it a habit of doing so on the big stage.
Notre Dame had given up just 10 touchdowns all season long, but yielded six TDs to Alabama. The nation's top red zone defense was no match for the nation's top red zone offense. In all, a defense that allowed just 286.8 yards per game, allowed more than that to the Crimson Tide in the first half alone (309). In all, Alabama abused the Irish for 529 yards and scored five touchdowns on the same number of red zone opportunities.
McCarron, who became the first quarterback to win back-to-back national titles, completed 20-of-28 passes, for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Lacy (140) and fellow tailback T.J. Yeldon (108) both went over 100 yards on the ground and wideout Amari Cooper hauled in six passes, for 105 yards and two scores.
With the win, there is no debate regarding the term "dynasty" when referring to Alabama. Nick Saban has captured his third national crown in Tuscaloosa (fourth overall) and delivered the SEC its seventh straight.
The Crimson Tide are just the third team to win three titles in a four-year span, joining Notre Dame in the 1940s and Nebraska in the 1990s.
With a good portion of this team returning to Tuscaloosa next year, Alabama's reign atop the college football world doesn't look to be ending anytime soon.