As the night went on, as the game went south, as Alabama turned the biggest show in college football into a self-advertisement, the only thing left to do, whether you're a fan or not, was to wonder about Nick Saban.
Doesn't he go on the Mount Rushmore of college football coaching now?
Is it Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden … and Saban?
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Alabama won another national title Monday night, won this one going away, won it in every way possible, won it in a manner that made you notice Saban now has three championships in the last four years.
He's also won four titles in the past eight years — and he spent two of those years in a coaching time-out with the Dolphins. So it's really four titles in six years he's been in college. No one has done that.
How will they celebrate this time in Tuscaloosa? With a second statue to him?
Nine minutes was all his Alabama team needed to beat Notre Dame. Nine minutes was all it needed to go up 14-0, scoring more points by then than Notre Dame surrendered in nine games this year. The final score was Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.
If that didn't tell what Saban has built at Alabama, the rest of the night continued to do so. Quarterback A.J. McCarron threw four touchdowns and missed on just eight passes. Two backs rushed for more than 100 yards each. Its defense shut out Notre Dame until it was 35-0.
It won back-to-back titles. No college coach has a portfolio stretch like this. Throw in the era of limited scholarships, big money giving rise to more football factories and the fact Saban won titles at two schools (LSU, too) and it's the most successful run ever in college football.
Isn't it? The question Alabamans must get their minds around is they'll give ground to it being the best at Alabama. Bear Bryant holds the iconic spot Saban now navigates
Bear won six titles in 25 years.
“I don't agree with that at all,'' Saban said a few days before the game when asked if he'd achieve more than Bear with this win. “I don't think it would be fair to Bear Bryant and the tradition of excellence he created and sustained for years and years.
“There's no one I know who should be spoken of in the same circumstance.”
Whether that's a soft-shoe act to feign humility or actually how Saban feels is anyone's guess.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly effectively waved the white flag early in the second quarter. Down 21-0, he didn't just go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Alabama 39-yard line.
His quarterback, Everett Golson, threw a Hail Mary. The throw, like most Notre Dame prayers this night, was incomplete.
Thumb through the record book. Woody Hayes won five titles in 37 years at Ohio State. Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson went 51-2 over a six-year stretch. Southern Cal's John McKay won four titles in 16 years. Five of Rockne's 13 seasons at Notre Dame were undefeated
Are any of those better than Saban's past eight years?
For South Florida, this was an uneasy night. A lot of Dolphins question Saban's humanity. No one questioned his talent. This was the biggest win Saban had in Sun Life Stadium.
It was his best team here, too.
College football wanted a great game Monday to wash away some of the stench of this season. There was a rancid scandal at Penn State. Conference realignment became a structured money grab by schools.
So, finally, this was to be a reminder of what the game can provide on its fun days. Instead, it became a commercial for why Alabama is the best team in the land most any year right now.
“I think this team over-achieved,'' Saban said earlier this week.
The only thing Saban lacks to be considered college football's greatest is more years. He won't get to Bryant's 25 at Tuscaloosa. But he has a chance at the Bear's six titles.
With a young team and the nation's top-rated freshmen class this year, he'll be favored for a fifth next season.