What we learned about Notre Dame

Notre Dame's first loss was its last one, as the Irish fell 42-14 to Alabama in Monday's Discover BCS National Championship at Sun Life Stadium. Here's what we make of that finale:

1) The gap remains. This isn't specifically pointed to Notre Dame so much as it is to the rest of the non-Crimson Tide college football world. The Irish were physically manhandled, especially their defense, and it became clear early and often that this Alabama team was going to do whatever it wanted, and there was little anyone could do to stop it.

2) Everett Golson grows, and must continue to. The redshirt freshman quarterback was nothing special Monday, but he wasn't all that bad, either. Truth is, the Irish weren't winning this game even on his best day, but the experience that the 20-year-old got out of this season is priceless.

3) Defensive performance uncharacteristic. It won't do Notre Dame any good to worry about it now -- not with as many as eight starters on the way back from a unit that finished the regular season atop the nation in scoring defense -- but the missed tackles, lack of execution and all-around sloppy play Monday night was remarkable for all of the wrong reasons.

4) Yes, the Irish deserved to be there. They were the only eligible team to run the table, and the fact no teams knocked them off is not Notre Dame's problem. The Irish entered the season unranked and with 23 consecutive mostly unfulfilling years. They exit 12-1, having exceeded any and all expectations, and have plenty of talent and more on the way to suggest that this was more than a one-year wonder.