Well, three crowns in a four-season span make a case even if a coach demurs. Even if a coach reacts outwardly to beating Notre Dame in the championship game as if he had just beaten FAU in September.
Give the devil his due, Miami — and Saban is that to so many among us, of course. He is Nick Satan, still, for the way he lied before bolting the Dolphins for Alabama six years ago. Hold your grudges if you must, South Florida. Don’t forget, or forgive. Despise him. Keep calling him Satan. Whatever.
You need not like him, and his dourness alone can make that a challenge.
You’d better respect him, though — the coach, at least, if not the man.
If you don’t, well, that’s on you now, because Saban has done everything to vault himself into any sane discussion of greatest college coaches, ever, past or present. Four national titles in a 10-year timeline (he also won at Lousiana State in 2003) will do that.
Alabama’s dynasty is the fulcrum of an even larger one: the Southeastern Conference’s remarkable seventh consecutive national title. Remember, though, who is grand marshaling his league’s ongoing parade.
It was 28-0 by the half, effectively over, the Tide a 10-point favorite and showing why despite being ranked No. 2 to ND’s No.1. Previously unbeaten Notre Dame hadn’t allowed that many points in any one game all season.
(Amazon.com had emailed congrats to both team’s fans the day before the game — oops! — getting a jump on merchandise sales. They were half right, just a tad early.)
“This game’s not over and our players got to understand that,” Saban said leaving the field at the half, being generous.
Poor Irish coach Brian Kelly. He’d said a few days ago, of the whirlwind of a title game: “Feels like I’m in a dunk tank.” Must have kept feeling like that Monday night.
Alabama dominated because the QB McCarron had his way with Kelly’s defense and because game MVP Eddie Lacy ran through and around it. (McCarron didn’t grow up a Bama fan and dates an Auburn girl. I bet they forgive him.)
Mostly the Tide won because their defense played with an evident chip. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was the Heisman runner-up who collected all the awards hardware this season. But Alabama’s was the best defense on the field by a ton.
That is why the Crimson Tide won a record 10th national title in the sport’s modern polls era (since 1936) and left Notre Dame in second place with eight. Those numbers and these programs’ storied histories make both sets of fans think nights like this are a birthright. Increasingly, you can see why the Roll Tide crowd thinks so.
Most games are forgettable; even most championship games don’t have much shelf life in the mind. This one was different because of the matchup, but not, alas, because of the game that resulted.
The turning point
Saban had said, “In games like this there’s always a turning point where somebody has to take the game.” Except there wasn’t that Monday night. It was all Bama too soon. From Eddie Lacy’s 20-yard scoring run that made it 7-0 three minutes in, all of the turning points kept turning to the Tide.
None of Notre Dame’s old ghosts — Knute Rockne, the Gipper, the Four Horsemen, “Rudy,” the Golden Dome — could rescue the 2012 team from Bama’s grip.
Saban, always mindful of what he clinically calls his team’s “psychological disposition,” had showed his guys video of Michael Jordan talking about taking game-winning shots. The lesson conveyed: “Can you focus only on the next shot?”
Monday night, Alabama had that one shot. At a championship, at a dynasty, maybe at something close to immortality in its sport.
And Nick Saban saw to it:
Alabama’s aim was true.