“SEC! SEC! SEC!” Three letters that are probably making most Notre Dame fans cringe today. The Southeastern Conference established their dominance yet again in the BCS Championship Game with a 42-14 rout by Alabama against the Irish. The Crimson Tide dominated from the opening kick. The “big uglies” up front let by All-American center Barrett Jones dominated the Irish front seven on the opening drive which led to an Eddie Lacy touchdown and the rout was on. Although the Irish did not catch a couple breaks early with a completion to Tyler Eifert down the sideline that was called incomplete and a questionable kick catch interference call on the very next snap, the Irish were flat everywhere. Missed tackles, blown coverages and flat-out just being overpowered by Alabama.
Things may not look bright now for the Notre Dame program, but the future does. Rivals.com has the Irish ranked #1 in their 2013 recruiting rankings. Three “five-star” recruits in Greg Bryant, Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield could be the leaders of a new rise to elite status for the Irish in the years to come. The ground work has been laid for this program to take the steps to winning more than just 12 games in one magical season. With the future outlook, this could become the standard in South Bend once again. Although the Irish lose key Seniors in Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Kapron Lewis Moore, the Irish can and will compete next season. Notre Dame’s schedule for next season includes a trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan, back-to-back match-ups at home against Michigan State and Oklahoma, a neutral site meeting with Arizona State, USC at home and big road games against Pittsburgh and Pac-12 Champion Stanford.
Although Monday night showed that Notre Dame has more work to do to be in the class of an Alabama and Nick Saban, the Notre Dame program is on the rise. The excitement that was brought back to the program this season will carry over to next season. True blooded Irish believers know that this is only the beginning. For Notre Dame to compete with Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and the rest of the SEC, they have to continue to recruit well and get better, faster and stronger. That is what makes Alabama “Alabama”; player progression.
The Irish have finally found their guy in Brian Kelly. Can he bring a championship to South Bend? Absolutely. But last night showed that he still has work to do to compete with college football’s best conference. Taking this loss and turning it into motivation will be huge for the Irish next season. This team can compete to be in the BCS again next season. Most projections had them in the 2013 Preseason top five in the polls. Notre Dame is ALMOST back, but not quite yet.