The national championship hangover causes major headaches for the team's head coach, pain for the losing fanbase and can make players very moody when it comes to their performance. We have seen it hit many teams over the years like a ton of bricks—most recently LSU—and there is a chance it will do the same to Notre Dame next season.
Will the Irish suffer some of these symptoms during the 2013 season? I highly doubt it.
First, we have to find a real definition of what this hangover actually is.
No, it isn't what most college kids experience at one point or another after consuming too much alcohol. It is what Alabama head coach Nick Saban calls the "success flu." Players get comfortable with where they are at in life and think because they appeared in a championship game last year that it will magically continue to happen.
Guys begin to relax, don't take practices as seriously and seem to lose that hunger to succeed. In other words, they tend to forget just how hard it was to be in the position that they were just in.
According to Eric Prisbell of USA Today, Saban nipped this sickness in the bud two days after his team won the national title back in 2012. He said:
This team is not the national championship team. Some of you guys played on that team. … Nobody can take away what you did, but are you going to focus on what you did or about what you are going to do?
The motivational tactic of course worked for his team, but wasn't able to work for LSU coach Les Miles after being embarrassed by Saban in the title game. He gave a similar speech to his players (via Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com), but they obviously didn't get the message. This is something that is touched on by coaches across the country, but very few teams are disciplined enough to take it seriously.
There have been eight different schools that have played in the last five national championships. Some would say that it is hard to reach the big game once, let alone twice. This is true, but many of those programs had enough talent to make another run, yet fell flat on their faces in the process.
So why will Notre Dame be one of the few to shake the illness?
It's because the Irish haven't accomplished anything yet.
Sure, an undefeated regular season and a trip to the national championship is nothing to sneeze at, but the way it was done shows that there is a great deal of improvement that can be made. A national championship-caliber team doesn't need three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh or a late drive to knock off Purdue.
This was a fairly young team that will return a great deal of its starters and can drastically improve on its success from a year ago, as head coach Brian Kelly told Mike Griffith of MLive.com:
It's easy to look at all he the positives; first of all, it sets a bar for your entire program. We all now know what we have to do to move from where we are, which is a 12-0 football team, pretty darned good football team, but not good enough.
These aren't exactly the same types of things being said about other teams that have participated in the big game recently. Miles couldn't tell his LSU players that they weren't good enough, especially knowing that his squad had beaten Alabama earlier in the regular season. Chip Kelly couldn't tell his Ducks that they didn't belong when they had run the table and were first in the country in scoring offense.
Notre Dame is a team that is in a different position than the rest. It hadn't been a big-time contender in years past. Even with the undefeated record, many weren't ready to peg Notre Dame as a serious title contender, and they laughed at the way it limped into the championship matchup.
You can go down the list of national championships and see that the top two teams, in most years, were truly better than the rest of the pack. With Notre Dame, although the story and the record were wonderful, people are always going to have those doubts in the back of their minds.
Whether it is right or not, the Irish will still be a team that is fighting for respect next year. They will not have it given to them like many previous national championship runner-ups.
That is how to snap out of the national championship hangover. Notre Dame won't need any speeches from the head coach or any dates circled on the calendar to get up for the 2013 season. The humiliation against Alabama was enough to keep this team focused heading into next year, and motivation is the key to avoiding a hangover.
Some teams experience hangovers more often than others, but the amount of success usually has to do with how often they come around. For Notre Dame, this shouldn't be an issue because the team is just getting started on its potential championship run.