MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The only football team in Miami Monday night that could compete with Alabama was the Miami Dolphins. Even they may have had a hard time with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, the NFL’s unofficial 33d team and the official best college football team in the land.
For beating these guys alone, Johnny Manziel deserved the stiff-arm statue and maybe a Nobel Prize for physics.
The Crimson Tide showed just how big the gap is between the Southeastern Conference and the rest of college football with a 42-14 annihilation of 12-0 Notre Dame, which saw a season of renaissance reduced to rubble in front of 80,120 at Sun Life Stadium.
Alabama grounded, pounded, and passed its way to a second straight national title and third in four seasons. They’re the first team in the BCS era to repeat as national champions and the first consensus back-to-back champions since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995.
The Luck of the Irish was no match for the brute force of ’Bama in the BCS national championship game.
Forget the Four Horsemen, Alabama had five Clydesdales up front in Cyrus Kouandjio, Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones, Anthony Steen, and D.J. Fluker. They cleared the way for Alabama to rush for 265 yards on 45 carries and for quarterback A.J. McCarron (20 of 28) to throw for 264 yards and four touchdowns without taking a single sack or hit.
Alabama’s Big Uglies were a thing of beauty.
This was old-fashioned football that would have made Paul “Bear” Bryant smile and had to warm the heart of John “Hog” Hannah.
“I think this may be the best offensive line — and I don’t like to make comparisons — that we’ve ever had or been associated with,” said Saban. “We had a really good group that included Flozelle Adams earlier in my career when I was Michigan State. But this group has a lot of experience. They play with a lot of consistency. The power, the toughness, how physical they are I think is probably a pretty unique quality.”
Alabama and its NFL-issue offensive line pushed the Golden Domers around like they were on rollerblades. Notre Dame had surrendered two rushing touchdowns all season. They allowed that many in the first 15 minutes and 4 seconds of the game.
“When we watched film, we saw Boston College push them around,” said Fluker, ’Bama’s mastodon right tackle. “We knew if they could do it. We could do it.”
In a Wikipedia world, Alabama is a set of encyclopedias — heavy, complete and efficient.
You can take all of your new-age hyperdrive no-huddle offenses and your basketball-on-grass spread schemes. That’s wrapping paper. If you can’t block the guy in front of you or defeat the guy trying to block you all you’ve got is an empty box masquerading as a shiny package. At its core that is what football is a turf war, and the Crimson Tide had weapons of mass destruction.
Alabama scored on its first three drives and led 21-0, when freshman running back T.J. Yeldon plowed in from the 1-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. It was like Alabama was playing some directional state university and not the No. 1 team in the country with nation’s top-ranked scoring defense (10.3 points per game, coming in).
It was 28-0 at halftime, and 35-0 in the third quarter after McCarron tossed a 34-yard TD pass to Miami homeboy Amari Cooper, the first of Cooper’s two TD receptions.
The Fighting Irish would have needed Rudy, Knute Rockne, Joe Montana, Rocket Ismail, the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, and Peyton Manning to get back into this one.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly proved prophetic when he said the day before the game that he thought it would be determined by which team controlled the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t his team.
Alabama had deeds for the line scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alabama yielded no ground. The tone was set early when ’Bama linebacker C.J. Mosley suplexed Fighting Irish rushing leader Theo Riddick for no gain in the first quarter. Notre Dame ran 19 times for 32 yards.
The SEC has become like the old East German Olympic team, bigger, faster, stronger. Alabama became the seventh straight team from the SEC to win the BCS crown. SEC schools are 9-1 in the BCS title game. The only loss was Alabama’s win in the All-SEC title game last year against Louisiana State.
It didn’t take long for the Crimson Tide to shake off 37 days of the rust and grind Notre Dame’s defense into gold dust.
Alabama took the opening kickoff and marched 82 yards in five plays. Eddie Lacy, the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive player with 20 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 17 yards and a score, burst through a huge hole for a 20-yard touchdown run.
Coming into the game, opponents had averaged 3.2 yards per rush against the Irish. The most rushing yards Notre Dame had allowed all season were 161 to Michigan, on 41 carries.
The Crimson Tide had 153 yards rushing in the first half on just 23 carries. Both Lacy and Yeldon (21 carries for 108 yards) went over 100 yards for the game. In their last two games, the national title tilt and the SEC championship against Georgia, Alabama rushed for 615 yards.
“Everybody knows about Alabama’s offensive line,” said Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. “They’re very big, very athletic and very strong. They just did what Alabama does.”
All week long Alabama had avoided the D-word — dynasty.
The D-world on the lips of those who watched Alabama on Monday night was dominance, and it started up front.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.