ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — C.J. Mosley and his Alabama teammates have never embraced the label of defending BCS national champion. Neither has coach Nick Saban.
This is the 2012 Crimson Tide, a group already establishing that it too will be a championship contender.
"We made a great statement. But we're not the defending champs," Mosley said. "That was last year's team. That's what coach put in our heads two days after the championship game."
In what was considered the marquee matchup of college football's opening weekend, the second-ranked Tide had a dominating 41-14 victory over a Michigan team with Denard Robinson coming off an 11-win season capped by a BCS bowl victory of its own.
Alabama showed it can still dominate defensively even after three starting defenders from last year's title team were first-round NFL draft picks. The Crimson Tide manhandled the eighth-ranked Wolverines while doing quick damage to the Heisman hopes for Robinson, the dual-threat quarterback who was mostly contained.
"The whole summer and camp we talked about setting an identity for this defense," said Mosley, the junior linebacker who returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown. "Everybody was talking about 2010 and 2011. ... We came out with great intensity and great tenacity. We showed the world what the 2012 defense is going to do."
And the Crimson Tide can still run the ball after Trent Richardson was the third overall pick by the Browns. T.J. Yeldon, one of four running backs to share the load, became the first Bama freshman with a 100-yard game in his debut. He ran for 111 yards with a touchdown on 11 carries.
"It was definitely a step in the right direction. We have high hopes for this team," senior offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. "This kind of shows the nation this is not the complacent Alabama people were expecting. We're hungry and we're playing for the national championship."
Alabama is intent of avoiding another letdown like the 10-win season in 2010, the last time after a championship season.
Jones started all 14 games as a freshman on Alabama's 2009 championship team, and is among several players who were part of that title and the year that followed.
There appears to be no complacency or sense of entitlement this time.
For Michigan, which trailed 31-0 before Robinson threw a 71-yard pass to set up his 6-yard TD run just before halftime, there have to be concerns.