In an interesting twist, Saban's fourth title came in the stadium where he had the only stumble of his coaching career, a two-year tenure with the NFL's Miami Dolphins that ended ugly, with the coach insisting he wasn't planning to leave — then bolting for Alabama just two weeks later. His tactics may have been underhanded, but it's hard to argue with the call he made.
Before a record Sun Life Stadium crowd of 80,120 that definitely included more green than crimson, Lacy ran right through Te'o and the Irish on a 20-yard touchdown run before the game was 3 minutes old, capping an 82-yard drive that was longest of the season given up by the Fighting Irish.
It would only get worse. Alabama marched right down the field on its second possession, this one a 10-play, 61-yard pounding that finished with McCarron completely faking out the defense and lofting a 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Williams, standing all alone in the back of the end zone.
On the first play of the second quarter, T.J. Yeldon powered over from the 1 to make it 21-0, the finish to another impressive drive — this one covering 80 yards — that included two long completions by McCarron. First, he went to Kevin Norwood on a 25-yard gain. Then, he hooked up with freshman Amari Cooper for a 27-yard gain to the Notre Dame 6.
By that point, it was clear to everyone that Notre Dame's hopes of winning its first national championship since 1988 were all done. But Alabama just poured it on.
"We've got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there," said Brian Kelly, the Irish's third-year coach. "Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now — a championship football team. That's back-to-back national champions. That's what it looks like. That's what you measure yourself against there. It's pretty clear across the board what we have to do."
Lacy's 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar "SEC! SEC! SEC!"
Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron's second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.
The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama's remarkable scoreless streak in the BCS title games, which stretched to 108 minute and 7 seconds — the equivalent of nearly two full games — before the Notre Dame quarterback fought his way into the end zone.
The only BCS title game that was more of a blowout was USC's 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.
About the only time Alabama stumbled was when McCarron had a miscommunication with his All-American center, Barrett Jones, in the closing seconds. The fiery McCarron shouted at Jones, who just shoved him away. But as the seconds ticked off, they were right on the same page, hugging Saban and celebrating another title.
Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season, winning two games in overtime and three other times by seven points or less. But that long-awaited championship will have to wait at least one more year.
Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards — 170 below its season average.
Kelly had vowed this was only beginning, insisting the bar has been raised in South Bend no matter what the outcome.
"We made incredible strides to get to this point," he said. "Now it's pretty clear what we've got to do to get over the top."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.