As a Michigan fan, I guess I should have seen this coming.
The UM-Alabama game was a joyless trudge through the wasteland of mediocrity where every flaw Michigan had was magnified and projected on a national stage for all to see. Think your defensive line is pretty good (it actually was)? Doesn't matter, TJ Yeldon don't care. Denard for Heisman? Dee Milliner has other ideas. It was a straight up ass kicking and there was no way around it. Midway through the second quarter we were all resigned to the truth: the game was a lost cause and even a touchdown or two would only serve to make it seem closer when you looked back at the score weeks or months later. It was never that close. It might as well have been a 500 point game. It felt like it at the time.
UM-Notre Dame was another story. Michigan was there right up until the end. The offense stumbled and misfired and threw INTERCEPTION AFTER GOD FORSAKEN INTERCEPTION WHY GOD WHY!? and yet the whole time the defense held serve, the offense got chances (and squandered them. Oh how the offense squandered those chances). It was a game, and despite everything that went wrong it felt oh so close for so long.
A week later I still burned for Michigan to get another shot at Notre Dame. That game was close. Five interceptions? In a row? That happens? It couldn't possibly happen again. Two interceptions, maybe. Three interceptions, there's an outside chance. But five interceptions in a row? I'd like to see that.
You know what I thought a week after the Bama game? I laughed, because that is all you can do after facing a team that prepared, that strong, and that much thoroughly better than your own. Laugh and be damn glad the schedule is free of that kind of torture for the foreseeable future.
So yes, in hindsight, we all should have seen this coming. Notre Dame was relying on an offense that was led by whichever of Everett Golson or Tommy Rees was having a better day (HAH!), while Alabama goes like 15 deep at running back and runs behind what is basically an NFL offensive line. Both defenses are good, but did I mention NICK SABAN HAD OVER A MONTH TO PREPARE FOR THIS GAME. That isn't fair to anyone involved, much less the human beings that were subjected to his flying death machine.
And the game basically played out a lot like the Michigan version of the game that opened the season. Alabama scored touchdowns early. A lot of them. This time on its first three possessions, taking a stranglehold on the game while not allowing Notre Dame to string together a drive of over six plays in the first half. By the time Notre Dame scored a touchdown the Tide had already put up 35 points while putting all doubt to rest as to who the best team in the country was -- and simultaneously casting doubt as to whether Notre Dame was even worth of the top five.
And so it was that Alabama won another national title, the SEC continued its reign of terror over college football, and we all got to keep making Return to Glory jokes about Notre Dame for at least another year.
Still, I can't help but feel like I should have seen this coming.