Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Irish Need BCS Success to Legitimize Return to Elite

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  Head coach Jim Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches from the sidelines against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The BCS National Title Game illustrated that Notre Dame still has work to do if it wants to be considered among the elite of college football.

In losing to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Fighting Irish lost their fourth consecutive BCS bowl game.

It would be one thing if Notre Dame continued to come up just short. However, the Irish have lost those four games by an average of 25 points.

Monday night was much of the same story. Aside from the margin of victory—28 points—the Golden Domers were outplayed in every aspect of the football game.

While coming into the game Notre Dame had the fourth-best rush defense in the country, the Irish had no answer for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon on the ground. The two combined for 248 yards.

They might be the most polarizing school in the country, but there's no getting around the fact that Notre Dame deserved to play in the national title game. Considering they were the only team to finish the regular season undefeated, the Irish earned their trip to Miami.

The success the school has had this season led many fans to talk about the Irish's almost unparalleled tradition and how this game would return Notre Dame back to the upper echelon of college football.

Talk of the latter is premature until Notre Dame is able to win a BCS game.

It's not as if this is a knee-jerk reaction after one game. The Irish were outplayed, much like they were against the LSU Tigers in 2007, the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2006 and the Oregon State Beavers in 2001.

In each of those losses, the school was throttled. You can't look at the box scores and say that Notre Dame was close at all. The Irish were out-gained by at least 200 yards in each of those losses.

The school is riding its illustrious history. The results on the field haven't warranted the kind of attention and benefit of the doubt that the school receives when it comes to its chances in a BCS game.

Mark Schlabach of ESPN summed it up well on Twitter. During the title game, he tweeted:

Had anybody mentioned Notre Dame will fit right in with the rest of the ACC? #NDvsBAMA

— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) January 8, 2013

That's where the Irish are right now. People can talk about how overrated the SEC is, but on this night, Alabama proved that Notre Dame would have had a very rough time trying to make it through the conference slate relatively unscathed.

And the SEC has proven for the last seven seasons now that no conference can match up with the conference's elite.

This is not to say that Notre Dame can never reach the top again, or deserve to reach the summit. But until it proves itself in the BCS, Notre Dame needs to remain on the periphery of the elite.