Monday night's BCS National Championship Game was billed as a dream matchup featuring two of college football's most storied programs — each in search of a title with a different purpose. No. 1 Notre Dame was seeking a return to college football's elite, playing in its first title game since 1988. No. 2 Alabama was looking to earn its third national championship in four years.
When it was all over, Alabama (13-1) had dismantled Notre Dame 42-14 on its way to its second straight national championship and helped bolster the argument that the SEC is the nation's premier conference. Alabama is only the third team ever to win three titles in four seasons.
Running back Eddie Lacy had 20 carries for 140 yards and junior quarterback AJ McCarron was 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns to lead Alabama over Notre Dame (12-1) in front of a record 80,120 at Sun Life Stadium.
The SEC has now won seven consecutive BCS national championships.
"This team certainly exceeded every expectation we had," said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who now has four BCS national titles. "People talk about how difficult it is to win your first national championship, but really the most difficult is to win the next one. I've never been prouder of a group of young men."
Alabama tallied 529 total yards and led 28-0 at the half in a dominating performance: 153 rushing yards, 156 passing, four touchdowns.
"Alabama was the better football team tonight, but I love the way our guys kept playing," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "You need to see what it looks like; our guys now know what a national champion looks like. Now we know what we need to work on."
The Irish were allowing 92.4 rushing yards per game and had given up two rushing touchdowns all season, but that all went by the wayside quickly. Five plays into the game, Alabama had gone 82 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown run by Lacy, the game's offensive MVP. Just like that, in 2:57, the Tide was up 7-0. It was the first touchdown drive of more than 75 yards the Irish had given up all season. It was aided by two penalties against the Irish, a facemask and offsides for a total of 20 yards.
"We knew the first two minutes were critical to the success of the game," said Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. "We had a lot of opportunities and we didn't capitalize on those opportunities and Alabama did."
Entering the game, one of Notre Dame's biggest concerns was stopping the Tide's running game led by Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon, who had combined for 2,485 yards this season. Kelly said if the Irish couldn't stop the run, it would be a long night. Lacy and Yeldon combined for 248 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
The dismantling of the nation's No. 1 and only undefeated team came in all phases: missed tackles and the inability of Notre Dame's defensive backs to cover the Tide's receivers. Notre Dame consistently attempted to complete passes one-on-one against Dee Milliner, Alabama's top defensive back. And the much-anticipated battle between Alabama's offensive line and Notre Dame's front seven went to the Tide's veteran line, led by center Barrett Jones. Alabama ran at will, particularly in the first half.
"I couldn't be more proud of my guys," McCarron said. "The hard work we put in … it really paid off and this is what we do it for."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]