Thursday, January 7, 2010

BCS Title Game preview

By Rick Morris

Tonight's BCS Title Game, the first to be held as a stand-alone event at the Rose Bowl (the epic Texas/USC battle of '06 was actually the Rose Bowl game itself), pits two of the game's signature programs against one another. Shockingly, as much as Texas and Alabama have been front and center throughout much of the history of college football, their paths have rarely crossed -- until now. And owing largely to the Rose Bowl's heritage of Big 10/Pac 10 matchups, neither institution has much history in this building -- although Texas does have the aforementioned '06 win and another very entertaining victory over Michigan in the '05 Rose Bowl.

Along with Florida, Oklahoma (a huge disappointment largely due to the Sam Bradford injury) and USC (a huge disappointment, period), these squads have been on a short list of the most likely teams to be here from the very outset of the season. And since it seems like much longer than three years since Nick Saban has been at Alabama and restoring premium quality, this continues a trend throughout pretty much the decade of having teams in the game that are top contenders year in and year out.

Unsurprisingly, both 'Bama and the 'Horns are super-strong in the trenches, although Texas got pushed around way more than expected in the Big 12 Championship. Since the Tide relies on imposing their will physically to allow for the dominance of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram on the ground (it's still hard to believe he's the first Heisman winner from Alabama!), as they did against Florida, this is not a good sign. Conversely, Alabama may be hard-pressed to keep up with the oft-frantic pace of the Texas offense as Colt McCoy, one of the best college QBs never to win the Heisman, directs a fast-break offense with brutal efficiency. While Texas is also good at grinding it out and Alabama is also good at executing the passing game, this contest will be yet another example of the winner being the one that successfully imposes their preferred style of play.

Befitting two teams in the elite of the college game, there are few weaknesses on either side. The biggest enemy for both during the course of the season actually seemed to be focus, as both endured stretches of underachievement while impatiently awaiting the games that would matter during the season. Alabama was certainly more battle-tested this year, as the Big 12 South, on a par with the SEC in '08, slipped drastically this year.

How does this one shake out in the end? Glancing at how Texas struggled against Nebraska in their most recent outing and how Alabama surmounted far tougher opposition repeatedly en route to Pasadena, the guess is that they control the ball and the clock enough to throw Texas off their game. Mark Ingram will make more history by ending the "Heisman jinx" in championship games and Nick Saban will become the first coach to win titles at two different schools since the dawning of the BCS. Alabama 23, Texas 17.

Oh, and a side note to Lisa Salters: just because you're not eye candy, it doesn't mean that you're necessarily substantive -- and you're not. Kindly try to keep your pompous questions to a minimum tonight and just try to do your job without trying to prove how smart you are. Thank you in advance.

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