CSNChicago.com is taking a look back at what turned out to be a memorable year in the Windy City, by counting down the 13 biggest Chicago sports stories of 2013. Check back each day to see what other storylines were good enough to make the list.
Just about everything went right for Notre Dame in 2012. That's not an exaggeration: Notre Dame won five of its games by seven points or fewer en route to an undefeated regular season.
Everett Golson turned out to be exactly what the Irish offense needed. Theo Riddick emerged as a solid weapon in his return to running back. An offensive line without much depth started the same five players all season.
Manti Te'o was spectacular and nearly won the Heisman Trophy. The guys around him — Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, to name a few — were solid. Kapron Lewis-Moore was excellent and likely didn't get the credit he deserved for his role on an elite defense.
But a week after the calendar flipped to 2013, Notre Dame got blown out by Alabama. And it began a lengthy string of misfortunes for the Irish this year.
For now, we won't focus on Brian Kelly's flirtation with the NFL, the Te'o saga, Golson's expulsion or the myriad other lowlights of 2013. In terms of importance, the BCS Championship trumps them all.
It's sort of hard to imagine Notre Dame could've won a BCS Championship in January, because the game wasn't even close. On the first play of the game, Lewis-Moore tackled Alabama running back Eddie Lacy for a gain of a single yard. The Notre Dame fans in attendance roared — hey, maybe these guys can actually play with Alabama.
Nope. The next five plays set the tone: a 29-yard completion from A.J. McCarron to Kevin Norwood, a 10-yard rush by Lacy with a 15-yard facemask assessed to Fox, an offsides penalty on Louis Nix, a two-yard run by T.J. Yeldon and then a 20-yard touchdown run by Lacy.
The Crimson Tide steamrolled Notre Dame for the next 57 or so minutes of play. It wasn't just Alabama looking like the elite team they are; Notre Dame looked awful. The Irish were overmatched, but more importantly, they were bewildered.
This was a team that had been punched in the mouth a few times during the regular season. But never, to further the boxing analogy, had the Irish encountered such a fierce early haymaker. Notre Dame didn't get up off the mat after Alabama's first touchdown.
And the Crimson Tide kept hammering away, too. Lacy (20 carries, 140 yards) stormed through feeble tackling attempts — many of which were by Te'o. Lewis-Moore blew out his ACL, and Nix injured his knee. At one point, after Lacy scored a first-half touchdown, Farley sunk his head into the navy blue grass of his team's end zone. He looked defeated. He was defeated — and so was Notre Dame.
"It was just awful," offensive lineman Chris Watt said after the game, shaking his head. "It wasn't a good game."
Nix refused to say Notre Dame was dominated in the game, though his analysis was that of a completely shell-shocked player:
"We just didn't play our ballgame, man," Nix said. "We didn't make tackles. Everything we did or had lined up should have worked. But guess what, we didn't make tackles. That's the ballgame. Go back and watch the film. Say what you want from your eye. I'm the scout on the line, we missed tackles. That's the only thing that happened. We missed tackles."
(Nix later would admit the game was a "beatdown" and that Notre Dame got "spanked" by Alabama.)
Notre Dame sunk to eight wins in 2013, and the onus is on Kelly and his staff to prove 2012 wasn't an anomaly.
Because if that 42-14 loss was Notre Dame's best shot at a title, it wasn't really a shot at all.
Top 13 stories of 2013
5. Notre Dame crushed in BCS Championship Game