There were some of us out there who thought that Notre Dame didn't stand a chance against Alabama in the national championship.
And even those of us didn't think it would be this bad.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly preached in his pregame interviews about the importance of playing a good first two minutes, but whatever he said clearly didn't work because in the first two minutes, the only thing we saw was that the Irish were out of their league. The Crimson Tide were too tough in every aspect—running the ball, throwing the ball, defending the rush, defending the pass.
In the end, Alabama proved that maybe there really is something to all that SEC hype—and that we really need a playoff system, stat.
Here's a look at the best and worst performances from Monday night's game.
Best: A.J. McCarron
Going up against the nation's (alleged) top defense certainly didn't intimidate Alabama's quarterback. McCarron came out ready to do damage from the outset, leading a first-possession touchdown drive and tacking 35 points on the board before Notre Dame even got a taste of the red zone.
In the end, McCarron did exactly what he needed to do and he forced the Irish to do the exact opposite of what they needed to do. He put Notre Dame in far too deep a hole to climb out of, given their mediocre offense, and he took all of the pressure off Alabama's shoulders immediately. All of that hype about whether or not Alabama could win a second straight national title, or whether it could outsmart that "stellar" ND defense—all of it was irrelevant midway through the first quarter.
And as Barrett Jones saw in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, McCarron's intensity wasn't going anywhere, even up 28 with no time left. You have to respect that
Worst: Everett Golson
We all knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier for ND fans to swallow. The Irish's quarterback was just way out of his element on Monday night, and it showed.
Golson was fine for most of the season against mediocre-slash-bad defenses. You have to give the kid credit: He came in as a redshirt freshman and led the Irish to a 12-0 regular season. But on the biggest stage, he blew it.
Granted, nothing could prepare him for Alabama's defense—the Irish simply hadn't faced anything like it in 2012—but he couldn't even give ND a chance. He finished with 270 yards, a touchdown, a rushing touchdown, a pick and minus-seven rushing yards—stats that look far better than they were because most of them were accumulated after ND was down 35 points.
All season, Golson was heralded for his poise, for his ability to keep his team above water in the game's waning minutes. This time, there was no need for that because his team was far out of it long before then.
Best: Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon
The Crimson Tide's two-headed rushing monster was going to be their key to victory on Monday night if Alabama was going to win, and Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon lived up to all expectations. They made ND's heralded defensive line look silly from the first minute on, and nobody on the Irish's side had any hope of matching what they could do.
Lacy was the star of the show, finishing with 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and Yeldon supplemented that effort with 108 yards and a touchdown of his own. Lacy's TD was particularly significant because it came on the game's opening drive—and until he reached the end zone, Notre Dame hadn't allowed a first-drive touchdown at any point this season.
These guys set the tone on Monday and made it clear from the very beginning that Notre Dame couldn't do anything to stop them.
Worst: Notre Dame's Defense
The Irish came into Monday's game with the NCAA's best defense. They came out of the game with a defense that clearly had no hope of stopping the mightiest of almighty SEC teams. In the first quarter alone, the Irish allowed more than 200 yards. They allowed 264 in the air, 265 on the ground and 529 overall, and they committed a few key penalties in the first quarter that deflated any sense of momentum they possibly had going.
Notre Dame's only hope in this game was finding a way to hold the Crimson Tide's offense at bay until they could find a way to outsmart the Crimson Tide's defense. It failed on both counts, but it failed more notably—and more resoundingly, given all the hype—on defense.
Honorable Mention: AJ McCarron's Girlfriend
Nobody emerged from Monday night's game with more newfound fame (and, potentially, a creepy elderly stalker in Brent Musburger) than Katherine Webb. Not even AJ McCarron was as famous as Miss Alabama at game's end.
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