Notre Dame Football: Where Do the Irish Go After BCS Championship Mauling?
With less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter of Monday evening's BCS Championship Game, fans began to stream for the exits with the Alabama Crimson Tide holding an astounding 35-0 lead over the blatantly outmatched Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Those fans didn't miss much for the remaining 20 minutes of regulation, as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 42-14 victory, effectively claiming its third national championship in the last four seasons.
Amidst Alabama's on-field celebration was Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, who had a towel draped over his head to hide the tears flowing from his weary eyes. Riddick's feelings of sorrow and agony were shared by Irish fans on a humid night at Sun Life Stadium that no one envisioned transpiring.
Sure, the Irish were 10-point underdogs, but a four-touchdown mauling was never expected from the college football world.
In the 24 hours leading up to its matchup with Nick Saban's dominant squad, I predicted Notre Dame to escape the Tide, 21-20. It was a fair selection, and one that I certainly thought could go either way.
How radically wrong I was.
Alabama was simply the overwhelmingly better team. That should be the only lesson learned from the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
The question now begging to be asked is: Where does Notre Dame go now?
First and foremost, give Notre Dame credit.
The Irish began the season unranked, and it was widely believed that an 8-4 finish to the 2012 regular season would have been worth celebrating, for their schedule appeared daunting in August.
If anything, the Irish are ahead of schedule.
Their participation in the BCS National Championship Game proves that head coach Brian Kelly indeed has brought the program "back."
Is Notre Dame back among the nation's elite?
His next challenge is to transform it into an annual contender in the national championship race.
In order to do that, Kelly will need to follow the blueprint laid out by Alabama head coach Nick Saban. The now legendary coach has won four national championships in his career by building staggering depth on both the offensive and defensive lines and constructing a rock-solid defense.
Saban's idea of how to build a winning machine was evident against the Irish.
Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 248 of the Tide's 265 rushing yards behind one of the best offensive lines in the history of college football.
Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and Co. appeared like a tidal wave, rolling over the Irish front seven from start to finish.
And while Notre Dame only recorded 19 rushing attempts, the Tide front seven held the Irish to 32 net rushing yards, which resulted in an abysmal average of 1.7 yards per carry.
The most telling part of Alabama's pure domination of the Irish was an unrelenting attack that had its foot on the gas for a full 60 minutes. The Tide put its foot on Notre Dame's throat and didn't ease off until the final horn had sounded.
If Notre Dame wishes to play the role of enforcer as Alabama did on Monday evening, Brian Kelly and his staff need to continue to recruit the best available offensive and defensive linemen the nation's high schools have to offer.
Taking a look at the Irish's 2013 recruiting class, Kelly and his staff are on the fast track to developing depth similar to Alabama's along the line of scrimmage.
Five of the Irish's current 23 commitments are offensive linemen, all of whom are of the 4- and 5-star variety, per 247sports.com.
They also boast two commitments along the defensive line in 4-star defensive end Isaac Rochell and 3-star athlete Jacob Matuska.
Obviously, the type of depth needed to become an annual title contender won't be apparent on the Irish roster next season, or even two seasons down the road, but it will be if Kelly and his staff continue their red-hot efforts on the recruiting trail.
Recruiting is the name of the game, and it is a process that takes time to come to fruition.
But, remember, good things come to those who wait.
Take joy in the fact that Notre Dame is now "back."
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