Alabama did smack Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game, but the both teams have bright futures ahead.
Nick Saban's bunch certainly looked stronger when the two teams met in Miami. The Fighting Irish had no match for Bama's speedy athletes, and they just got bullied in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Even scarier than the Crimson Tide's dominance against Notre Dame, however, is how set they are for a run at a three-peat in 2014.
Granted, Alabama is losing some key contributors from this championship team.
Chief among the departures are Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, who were the driving force behind the Crimson Tide's punishing offensive line.
Warmack is as powerful, agile and technically sound as any college guard can be; he'll be the rare interior offensive lineman to go in the top half of the first half of the NFL Draft. Jones is not the pro prospect Warmack is, but the center and senior captain was the orchestrator of Bama's O-line and the heart and soul of this football team.
Junior running back Eddie Lacy and right tackle D.J. Fluker may declare early, and cornerback Dee Milliner certainly will. When you tack on Jesse Williams graduating and leaving a void at nose tackle, it's clear Bama is losing some serious talent on both sides of the ball.
However, don't sleep on Saban's ability to develop talent. As great as the departing players are, he has replacements waiting in the wings.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley are both returning, and Saban has plenty of rising sophomore talent in T.J. Yeldon at running back and Amari Cooper at wideout. There are maulers waiting for their shot on the offensive line, and the defense should be as suffocating as ever.
According to rivals.com, Saban is bringing in the fifth-best recruiting class in the nation in 2013, giving him even more riches moving forward.
The top recruiting class? That belongs to Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish will cope with major losses of their own, none bigger than Manti Te'o. As poorly as he played against Bama, the senior linebacker has unparalleled instincts and intelligence for a college player.
He was the undisputed leader of Notre Dame's defense, and he will be missed.
In addition to Te'o, Notre Dame is likely to lose defensive tackle Louis Nix, tight end Tyler Eifert and running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Woods. That's the Fighting Irish's best two defenders, their two top rushers and their leading receiver.
Notre Dame's saving grace is the continued development of Everett Golson. The dynamic quarterback made huge strides in 2012, and as the undisputed starter entering the spring, he should only be more polished when Notre Dame returns to the field for the 2013 season.
With that kind of talent at QB and plenty of returning players on the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame should leverage its recruiting successes to reload in the short term as well as the long term.
As great as these two teams were in 2012, they are both built for sustained excellence. Expect to see both Alabama and Notre Dame in the national title hunt next season.
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