MIAMI - Alabama made a lot of history Monday night by defeating Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS championship game.
Even more history awaits.
In what is sure to be the dominant theme leading up to the 2013 college football season, Alabama has an opportunity to win three consecutive national titles and four in a five-year stretch. Neither feat has ever been accomplished in the sport, and the Crimson Tide are off to a good start with quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley deciding to come back for their senior seasons.
"That would be great right there, but I know we can't look ahead," Mosley said early Tuesday morning after receiving defensive MVP honors. "This is a great program. It's a program that turns young boys into men, and it's a program that turns young boys into champions."
Alabama's resounding victory resulted in the Crimson Tide being named Associated Press national champion for a record ninth time Tuesday, with Oregon finishing No. 2, Ohio State No. 3, Notre Dame No. 4, and Georgia and Texas A&M tied at No. 5. The final USA Today poll had Alabama followed by Oregon, Notre Dame, Georgia and Texas A&M.
The Crimson Tide join Notre Dame (1946 to '49) and Nebraska (1994 to '97) as the only programs to win three major wire-service national titles in a four-year stretch.
Alabama's latest championship came with surprising ease, as the Crimson Tide built a 28-0 halftime lead and extended it to 35-0 after their first possession of the second half. It was nothing like the close late-season calls against LSU (a 21-17 win) and Texas A&M (a 29-24 loss) and the SEC title thriller against Georgia (a 32-28 win).
Several Alabama players believe they saved the best for last.
"I would say so, because it was the biggest game of the season," freshman receiver Amari Cooper said. "We just went out there and dominated them. I think they only stopped us once or twice, so I think it's the best we played in a big game."
Said McCarron: "For a full 60 minutes? Yes. Definitely."
Alabama rushed for 265 yards and threw for 264 after averaging 224.6 rushing and 214.5 passing yards through the first 13 games. The Crimson Tide held the Irish to a season-low 32 rushing yards.
McCarron felt the key moment of the game was his 11-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Lacy that made the score 28-0 with 31 seconds left in the first half.
"The crowd was a little favored to them," he said. "They were loud in warm-ups, so we knew we had to get them out of it so we could hear each other and communicate. That touchdown before halftime kind of took the life out of them."
Coach Nick Saban said his team would take a couple of days to celebrate the victory and then it would be time to start building toward next season.
"We can do whatever we want to do as long as we keep on our path and don't get complacent," linebacker Trey DePriest said. "We didn't get complacent this year, and that's why we're where we are."
While the returning players get ready for another attempt at another crystal ball, Alabama's outgoing seniors are leaving with three rings. The Crimson Tide defeated Texas 37-21 for the BCS title after the 2009 season before slipping to a 10-3 mark in 2010, when state rival Auburn won the national championship.
Alabama reclaimed it in 2011, skunking LSU 21-0 for the prize, and then grabbed yet another Monday night.
"When you come in, you don't think you're going to win three national championships," tight end Michael Williams said. "You hope to win one, and we came in with those hopes, but it turned out to be three. They all feel the same, but this one was tougher.
"After losing all the star power we had last year, this one took more of a team effort. Once we bonded, though, we knew we had something special."