It's a title wave as Alabama pummels Notre Dame in BCS rout

Crimson Tide wins second straight Bowl Championship Series title and third in four years with 42-14 win that exposes Fighting Irish as underqualified pretenders.

Nick Saban on Alabama's 42-14 win over Notre Dame.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The only quarterback in the stadium Monday night who knew how to defeat Alabama wasn't allowed to take a snap.

Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, watched from the stands, perhaps reminiscing about his team's upset win at Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10.

Manziel plays for Texas A&M, however, not Notre Dame.

Notre Dame's quarterback had no clue, but neither did anyone else in the Fighting Irish traveling party.

Forty-four days and nights of biblical hype for this year's Bowl Championship Series title game produced not a classic, but a football flood.

Alabama's dominating 42-14 victory over Notre Dame at Sun Life Stadium, before a crowd of 80,120, ratified greatness in Tuscaloosa as it exposed fundamental flaws in South Bend.

"For one of the first times this season, we were able to come out and play a complete game," tailback Eddie Lacy said.

Lacy was part of the crush parade, rushing for 140 yards in 20 carries.

AJ McCarron, the quarterback of last year's title team, completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards with four touchdowns.

Alabama amassed 529 yards as the offense worked behind a mammoth and overpowering line.

"We battled, we battled," Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o said. "They just did what Alabama does."

Northern Illinois, pilloried by the establishment for earning a spot in last week's Orange Bowl on the same field, might have given Alabama a better game.

Notre Dame entered the game No. 1 because it was the only eligible undefeated team, yet it was clear after only minutes that the premise the Irish had lucked into this game was overwhelmingly true.

It took only minutes after kickoff to understand that Alabama was this year's ultimate No. 1.

Why should anyone be surprised?

Alabama captured its third national title in the last four seasons. It marked the seventh straight title for the Southeastern Conference and it was the league's ninth BCS title without a defeat.

"Unbelievable accomplishment," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said afterward. "It never gets old."

It's time to start mentioning sixth-year Alabama Coach Nick Saban in the same sentence as college football's all-time greats.

Saban's title was his third at Alabama and fourth overall; he won his first nine years ago at Louisiana State.

Saban's four titles put him in company with guys like USC's John McKay as he moves closer to other icons.

Bear Bryant, considered by many the best ever, coached Alabama to six national titles.

Saban said the talk of dynasty "are words I'm not interested in."

He lacks the fuzzy-warm personality that makes other coaches more popular and it's sometimes hard to tell whether he's just won a national title or returned from the dentist's office.

"Whether I look like it or not, I'm happy as hell," Saban said.

There hasn't been a title game over so fast since 2005, when USC jumped to a 38-10 lead over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl en route to a 55-19 win. But that victory would later be vacated by the NCAA. Before that, you have to go back to the 2002 game at the Rose Bowl, when Miami led Nebraska, 34-0, at the half.

Alabama toyed with Notre Dame like a dog with a toy. It was 28-0 at the half and that wasn't even the half of it.

You knew something was up when Alabama got the ball first and drove 82 yards in five plays, scoring on Lacy's 20-yard run.

This wasn't supposed to happen to Notre Dame's defense, which entered the game allowing a nation-best 10.33 points per game.

The Crimson Tide made it 14-0 later in the first quarter on McCarron's three-yard scoring pass to tight end Michael Williams.

That put Notre Dame's defense over its weekly scoring cap with more than three quarters left to play.

That was followed by a one-yard touchdown run by T.J. Yeldon, and that was followed by McCarron's 11-yard scoring pass to Lacy with 31 seconds left in the half.

Die-hard Irish fans were left to construct perfect-storm second-half comeback plans. Maybe get back to basics, score on the first possession and try to cut the lead in half entering the fourth quarter.

That plan was immediately hijacked when Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Everett Golson's pass inside the Alabama 10.

The Crimson Tide answered with a drive that ended in McCarron's 34-yard scoring pass to Amari Cooper.

That made it 35-0, with 7:34 left in the third, and there was no comeback plan for that.

Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa as repeat conquering heroes while Notre Dame skulks back to South Bend wondering how such a wonderful 12-0 year could unravel so dramatically.

Coach Brian Kelly said his team needed a game like this to know what it takes to compete at the highest level.

"You need to know what it looks like," he said.

Notre Dame did not win its first national title since 1988. Kelly didn't join Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as Irish coaches who won national titles in their third season.

Te'o said Notre Dame laid a framework for good times to come.

"It creates fire, it creates fuel, both for the guys staying here and the guys leaving," he said.

Alabama, in the end, looked like the best team in the country.

And Notre Dame looked like the team that should have lost to Pittsburgh.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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