Grading out the BCS Championship Game
A run unlike any college football has ever seen continued as Alabama’s Nick Saban held aloft another crystal football, giving the SEC another championship and the Crimson Tide’s second in a row, and the third in four years.
Second-ranked 'Bama dominated No. 1 Notre Dame from the get-go, rumbling 82 yards, capped by Offensive MVP Eddie Lacy’s 20-yard touchdown run en route to a 42-14 romp in Miami.
The BCS Championship Game grades:
While Brent Musburger was ogling his girlfriend in the stands, AJ McCarron delivered on the field, completing 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns. A year after coming up big in the title game against LSU, McCarron was cool, calm and efficient as ever.
Running backs: It wasn’t the 350 yards the Tide rumbled to in the SEC title game, but Lacy had 140 yards and a TD and caught another score and T.J. Yeldon ran for 108 yards and a touchdown. This came against an Irish defense that was allowing 92.4 yards on the ground coming in.
Receivers: Amari Cooper showed he’s ready to be among the nation’s elite pass-catches with six receptions for 105 yards and two scores against an Irish secondary that was simply overmatched. Tight end Michael Williams also reached the end zone.
O-line: The finale for All-Americans Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, and potentially D.J. Fluker, lived up to the billing as they manhandled an Irish defense that came in allowing 286.8 ypg, helping 'Bama to 309 yards by halftime and a whopping 529 in all.
D-line: The Tide had their troubles against mobile quarterbacks, but the front managed to keep pressure on Irish QB Everett Golson, who did provide two scores but was 2-of-8 on third downs.
Linebackers: C.J. Mosley was named defensive MVP with eight tackles, including five solo and one for loss, as 'Bama held the Irish to 32 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Secondary: Dee Milliner tipped a pass that was intercepted by HaHa Clinton-Dix but Irish WRs Davaris Daniels and TJ Jones had their success against what’s been 'Bama’s weak spot all season. The Tide also had trouble matching up with tight end Tyler Eifert.
Special teams: Cody Mandell averaged 49.3 yards on four punts and Jeremy Shelley hit on all six of his extra point attempts. Christion Jones didn’t do much in the return game but bad field position didn’t hurt the Tide.
Coaching: Bear Bryant, Frank Leahy, John McKay — and now Saban, who becomes the fourth coach to win a fourth national title, with his third at Alabama to go along with the one he won at LSU in ’03. As I recently wrote, Saban has earned a place alongside the Bear as the greatest coaches in the program’s history.
Golson made strides in helping the Irish get to Miami, and he had his moments against the nation’s top-ranked defense, throwing for 270 yards, a TD and an interception while he running for another TD — but much of that came with the game out of hand.
Running backs: With the Irish playing from behind, Theo Riddick (10 carries) and Cierre Wood (four carries), the strength of the offense, didn’t get many chances but when they did, they were largely ineffective save for Riddick’s 20-yard run in the second quarter.
Receivers: The real bright spots for the Irish, Daniels had six receptions for 115 yards, Jones had seven for 90 yards and Eifert was again strong (six receptions for 61 yards) in what should be his Irish send-off. Hard to fault this group for much except for not getting in the end zone.
Line: Golson was sacked two times and they paved the way for all of 1.7 yards per carry. Needing to establish something to keep this game close, Notre Dame did itself no favors.
Line: For all the talent along the Irish’s front, they just couldn’t hang with Alabama’s vaunted offensive line. The 265 yards the Irish allowed on the ground was more than they allowed in any two-game stretch in the regular season.
Linebackers: Manti Te’o had 103 tackles and was a Heisman Trophy finalist but after missing two tackles the entire season, he had three in the first half, struggling to get a grip on Lacy and Yeldon. The heart and soul of this D, Te’o looked off his game all night.
Secondary: A group that includes two converted WRs and an ex-RB was exposed as the Tide running game opened up the play-action pass and McCarron carved them apart. This group got by for most of the season because the front seven could stop the run. It’s luck ran out in Miami.
Special teams: A recovery of a bobbled punt return with Alabama up 7-0 could have given the Irish life. Instead, they were flagged for interference. They get a pass there, but Notre Dame had just one possession that started beyond its own 20, including one at the 8 and one on the 4-yard-line.
Coaching: In his third season, Brian Kelly took a team that opened the season unranked to the national title game. He thrived in close matchups but on the biggest stage, things simply got out of hand. You have to wonder what this kind of a setback on a monumental stage will do to the consensus that the Irish are back.