Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Biggest Takeaways from Tide's Dominant BCS Title Win
With two consecutive BCS National Championships and three in the past four years, it's become abundantly clear that the Alabama Crimson Tide are the biggest dynasty in mainstream sports today.
If anyone had questioned it before, Nick Saban's bunch put those thoughts to bed on Monday night. The Tide's dominant 42-14 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish wasn't a football game. It was an exercise in futility, where the Irish kept trying to gain momentum, only for Alabama to simply swat them away for two halves of football.
Nevertheless, for those who watched all 60 minutes of action, there were some notable takeaways, both in the long- and short-term. With that in mind, let's take a look at the biggest things we can carry away from Alabama's dominant victory on Monday night.
Two Teams, Two Completely Different Talent Levels
You can credit Nick Saban for implementing a quick-strike first drive that sent Notre Dame's defense reeling all you want, but the most obvious takeaway from Monday was that Alabama simply had too much talent.
Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker consistently drove the Irish front seven off the ball with shocking ease. Heading into the game, Notre Dame led the nation in points against and was consistently mentioned alongside Alabama among the best units in college football.
By the end of the first half, Alabama had made the Irish look like a junior varsity team. Star defensive end Stephon Tuitt continually failed to get pressure on A.J. McCarron, Manti Te'o missed tackles that he had made all season and matters got even worse when Kapron Lewis-Moore hurt his knee.
Where the Tide could have simply plugged in another stalwart, as they did all night with an efficient rotation of defensive linemen, Notre Dame just didn't have enough top talent to match up. All told, the BCS National Championship game showed that there is a very real difference between a rebuilding program and one that's already been built into a juggernaut.
Brian Kelly deserves some criticism for his team getting embarrassed that badly, but in reality, the Irish never really had a chance.
Manti Te'o's Draft Stock Took a Noticeable Hit on Monday
It may be the biggest fallacy in professional sports, but we learn every year just how much performances in big games matter for draft prospects.
A huge March Madness run can turn a borderline first-round pick in the NBA in the same way a mammoth bowl performance can make a player an instant star. Just ask BYU's Kyle Van Noy how he's feeling about his draft stock at the moment.
However, the opposite is just as true. After a performance on Monday that could nicely be deemed as disappointing, it seems Manti Te'o is about to find that out the hard way.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up finished the game with 10 total tackles, which is certainly a respectable total. But none of those came in the backfield and Te'o was seen consistently out of position and uncharacteristically missing tackles (he only had two during the regular season) on Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
Fair or not, his draft stock took a massive hit on Monday. Once considered a virtual lock to be drafted inside the top 10, Te'o now has pundits like NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah defending his first-round worthiness.
There is still plenty of time between now and April to help reingratiate himself with scouts, but Te'o almost unquestionably cost himself millions of dollars on the national stage. In a game where he was facing the thing to NFL talent he's seen in college and looked lost for much of Monday night's game.
Everyone has bad games. It happens. Te'o will just find out that they matter more when on the national stage.
A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper Could Be Great in 2013 (On One Condition)
As long as Saban is running the program in Tuscaloosa, the Tide will never be a spread-it-out style of offense. They'll stick to their bread and butter mix of run and pass, with the power ground game being the team's calling card.
However, Alabama fans have gotten a glimpse lately about just how special the connection between McCarron and Cooper could be in 2013. The lethal duo struck for an average of 6.3 receptions for 114 yards per game over the Tide's final three contests and five touchdowns over that span.
Cooper is only going to get better. He's been nothing short of special since waltzing onto campus and has the type of big-play ability the Tide have longed for since Julio Jones started playing on Sundays.
For this duo to truly stick out in 2013, the onus will fall on McCarron to get better.
If he wasn't already this past season, McCarron will unquestionably be the leader of Alabama's offense next. He's returning for a senior campaign that's likely seeing at least three new offensive linemen in front of them, as long-time stalwarts Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack have run their course eligibility-wise and D.J. Fluker is expected to enter the NFL draft.
That means McCarron will not only have to be better from a leadership standpoint, but also from a simple skills standpoint. He's not going to always have a day-and-a-half to throw the ball anymore. Reads are going to have to be quicker, passes sharper and adjustments smarter.
He can no longer have games like the SEC Championship against Georgia, where Saban essentially turned him into a football delivery boy for the running backs. In his press conference on Tuesday, Saban made it very clear that he had faith in his quarterback, per Bryan D. Fischer of Pac-12 Digital:
Saban: “I think AJ (McCarron) could maybe be the best quarterback in the country next year.”— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) January 8, 2013
One might venture to say McCarron will have difficulty being the best quarterback in his conference with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel returning and all. But if we learned one thing on Monday night, it's to never doubt the belief of Nick Saban.
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