Thursday, January 7, 2010

Roll Tide

I'm always excited and yet saddened for the BCS National Championship game: you always go in expecting to see a great game (hopefully this year is no exception), but it also means that no matter what happens, it's the last college football game for almost nine full months. I know, it bums me out too (although if it nine months of not having to watch the Gopher offense, then maybe it's not so bad). So what will we see in Pasadena tonight? Will we get a classic like the 2006 game when Texas upset USC, or a blowout stinker like when Ohio State played LSU...or when Ohio State played Florida...well, you get the idea.

Since the conference title games were played in early December, you know, when Bama crushed the #1 team in the country, and when Texas barely- and I mean BARELY- survived against an all-defense no-offense Nebraska team. It was not so much because of those results themselves, but what those results meant when factored into the whole season. Sure, both teams are 13-0, and sure, both teams didn't have the most daunting of schedules, but Alabama rose to the occassion in all of their tough games, whereas Texas struggled.

The Longhorns were third in the country in scoring offense with an average of 40 points per game, and had the 15th best offense in the country averaging 432.8 yards per game. But here's why I'm worried the national title game could get ugly in a hurry:
The Horns played only two top 30 defenses all season (Bama faced six)- Nebraska (7th), and Oklahoma (8th): Their averages in those games are a little less rosey, as they averaged just 14.5 points and 235.5 yards of offense. Seriously. While Bama doesn't have a defender as good as Nebraska's Ndkamong Suh, they DO have the nation's second best defense, and a pair of corners better than anything Texas has seen all season. Not to mention Bama's 80+ blitzes available to them, Colt McCoy will be lucky to live through four quarters at the Rose Bowl, let alone move the chains and score touchdowns.

Now sure, Texas has had a month to prepare for what Bama is going to bring, but the Horns just don't have many weapons, they can't run the ball, and as the stats show against Oklahoma and Nebraska, their line is shaky at best.

However, thankfully there's plenty of reasons to think Texas has a chance tonight, most of which I culled from's Andy Staples, who had to pen an article today on why Texas has a chance. Upon seeing the headline, I laughed and felt bad for Andy, who defintitely drew the short end of the stick, as senior college football writer Stewart Mandel got the easiest assignment of his career in telling us why Bama wins tonight. But after reading Staples' five reasons, I have to say, I've been swayed: I'm not going to go so far as predicting a Longhorns upset, but I do think we'll get a close, low-scoring defensive battle, probably similar to the Big 12 title game.

Considering the following:
- In the BCS Era, anytime we get a heavy underdog, they seem to win. Ohio State over Miami in 2003. Texas over USC in 2006. Florida beating Ohio State in 2007.

- Bama might have the #2 defense, but don't forget Texas is #3. How do the Horns beat OKlahoma and Nebraska with such dismal offensive performances? Because their defense is unreal. Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas will be wreaking havoc on a Crimson Tide offense that had by far the best game of their season against Florida, but otherwise have been solid but not spectacular. Yes, the Bama running game will be the best Texas has seen all year, but Greg McElroy stunk in the middle of the season, and if Texas can find ways to pressure him, we could see the mid-season McElroy instead of the guy who had the game of his life against the Gators.

- The Heisman Curse. Like the Madden Cover and SI Cover curses, maybe this exists and maybe it doesn't, but you can't discount the fact Heisman winners have not had a great record in a game like this.

- Turnovers. I know, I know, saying turnovers could decide the game is like saying whoever scores more will win. Obvious, but I still feel the need to bring it up. Texas led the county in takeaways, while Alabama led in fewest giveaways. As they say, something has to give, right? If the Longhorns can force an opportunistic fumble, or pressure McElroy into throwing picks, the Horns have a chance.

As I said, I don't have the stones to pick the upset, but I do think Bama wins a tight, low-scoring ball game 20-17. Whatever happens, I just hope the game is close, and I'll take solace in knowing the offense's can't look any worse than Minnesota's.

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