So, it all comes down to this.
Alabama, six years removed from a 6-7 season and another coaching change, is 60 minutes from a third national title in four seasons. That hasn't been done in the last 15 years and betting money says Alabama will do it.
As much as a 10-point favorite to beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game in Sun Life Stadium, coach Nick Saban's group carries the burden of expectations. Here's a quick guide to what it will take for the Tide to display another crystal football in Tuscaloosa.
1. Pound the ball
Sure, Alabama would like to throw the ball a little bit on Notre Dame's sometimes shaky secondary. But any Saban offensive game plan begins with the power running game.
That's how the Tide escaped the SEC title game. Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon used the massive running lanes and a worn-down Georgia defense to rush for a near-season-high 350 yards in the 32-28 win.
“I wouldn't call it old school, but this is the bread and butter, man, the bread and butter of football,” left guard Chance Warmack said. “They play smashmouth defense and we play smashmouth offense.”
2. Take your time
Alabama is among the best at controlling the pace of games. Its 31:49 possession-time average ranks 22nd nationally, thanks largely to the rushing game. But Notre Dame is even greedier with the ball.
Since the Irish take 32:34 each game, ninth in the nation, the possession issue will be at a premium. It's especially important for an Alabama defense that lives on the in-game adjustments. The dreaded three-play breaks don't allow defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and staff the time to implement his alterations.
3. Hit big play, or four
Notre Dame, it appears, will concede the short stuff if Alabama wants it. And the Tide won't be opposed to chipping away at the Irish defense little by little, but the home run must be part of the formula.
In 13 games, Alabama's offense had 69 plays that covered 20-plus yards. Notre Dame's defense allowed just 29 such plays in 12 games. And with Tide freshman Amari Cooper owning 17 such explosive plays (seven of which ended with touchdowns), the Irish will keep an extra eye (or safety) on the Miami native.
4. Pressure Golson
It's been an issue all season for the Tide, but pressuring quarterback Everett Golson into poor decisions or negative yardage will be huge Monday night. The 33 sacks (27th nationally) isn't enough to keep Saban from asking for more from the pass-rushing unit.
But be careful, Golson is slippery outside the pocket. It'll take supreme discipline from the defensive ends and outside linebackers keeping him contained.
5. Act like you've been here before
Even the second-year players have experience with this meat grinder while seniors are making their third BCS appearance. That edge should manifest itself early on against the title-game rookies from South Bend.
Saban appeared as loose as he's been in ages on Sunday morning. He even joked about successful people settling for a South Beach vacation. He smiled and joked about his sometimes contentious relationship with the media.
Those intangibles can make the difference when the heat rises.