Blowout Loss in BCS Aside, Notre Dame Is Closer to Title Than You Think

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterMarch 26, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  Head coach Nick Saban (L) of the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Jim Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shake hands after the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Alabama won the game by a score of 42-14.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Last Friday, CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz revealed just what Brian Kelly took away from the 2013 BCS National Championship Game: "I thought watching the game there were some things there that we weren't in a position yet to even come close to," Kelly explained, "but we're a lot closer than I thought."

For a lot of people, that raises some eyebrows.

After all, the Irish got brutally beaten by the Crimson Tide to the tune of a 28-0 halftime score and a 42-14 bludgeoning when it was all said and done. Their players looked slow. Their defensive star looked average at best. Their offense was anemic.

How could Brian Kelly take away anything positive from that game, let alone the idea that the Irish are closer to a championship than he thought?

Because it is the truth, folks.

After the BCS title game, we discussed on Your Best 11 how Notre Dame will certainly be back in the hunt. With Brian Kelly's recent comments, odds are he and his staff see things in that same way.

Yes, Notre Dame got abused by Alabama. Yes, Notre Dame could not get anything going against the stout Crimson Tide defense. Yes, Alabama ran all over the Notre Dame defense.

And guess what, the Irish are still closer to being able to beat Alabama than the bulk of the college football world. While there were some personnel issues in Miami, the fact of the matter is Notre Dame's roster did not do the team in. Its play-calling, execution and all of the misses are what created the snowball that Nick Saban rode to his third title in Tuscalossa.

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco echoed that sentiment in the CSN Chicago piece:

"We had a misfit here or there, a miscommunication here or there, a missing lineman here or there. Then, we were faced defensively with a challenge that we really hadn't been faced with -- that's a bang bang bang score," Diaco explained. "So now there's a feeling of, you're exasperated, and you want to make the play. And it's all out of great intentions, but all of a sudden, your eyes are wandering, your feet are happy, your misaligned and it just starts to snowball from there, and it's hard to get it back on track."

Folks, that's not an excuse. That's what happened. Missed run fits. Missed alignments. Missed tackles. Toss in a personal foul plus Alabama throwing body shots when it had them and the Irish were deflated and clutching at straws.

It was a disaster.

But let's not confuse disaster with a flat-out terrible ballclub. There are some improvements that Brian Kelly's squad needs to make, most notably getting more athleticism to the inside linebacking spots, but as a whole, physically, the team is very close to being ready.

Mentally, and from a coaching standpoint, that's another story.

The players and the coaches watched in dismay as Saban's disciplined team took them apart and both groups were unable to get the train back on the tracks. That is something that has to get fixed between the ears before you can see it manifest itself out there on the field.

The positive thing, in that regard, is that Notre Dame now has a roster full of not only capable players, but capable players who have truly seen the mountaintop. They know what they have to get out of themselves and their teammates to get another chance to play for a title. They have coaches who understand how bright the lights are on that big stage.

Notre Dame has a damn good roster. It will fill in the holes left by players moving on and push to get better at linebacker.

However, the big gap it needs to close between itself and Alabama is the mental one. Hopefully, it'll take plenty away from the January thrashing and set itself up for success.