Five burning questions about the BCS championship game

 

Newport Beach, Calif.—Folks, you know how much I love Atlanta but it was nice to wake up this morning in one of the few places in the United States where it is warm.  I understand we have some nasty weather coming in to the ATL.

Tonight in almost perfect conditions No. 1 Alabama (13-0), the SEC champ, and No. 2 Texas (13-0), the Big 12 champ,  will square off at the Rose Bowl for the BCS national title. I’ll be getting to the stadium pretty early today. I’ll file a new blog before the game and will then share some thoughts during the game. So if you’re watching tonight jump online. It should be fun.

Since this matchup was set on Dec. 6 it has been broken down in every conceivable fashion. But here are Five Burning Questions I have before the kickoff comes just after 8 p.m.

 

1. Can the SEC keep its streaks going? There are two big ones on the line tonight. A win would give the SEC its fourth straight BCS national championship. Florida won it in 2006 and 2008 while LSU took home the title in 2007. Because LSU won in 2003, a victory tonight would give the SEC five of the last seven national championships.

The SEC also holds the distinction of having never lost a BCS championship game. In addition to the four winners mentioned above, Tennessee beat Florida State in 1998.

 

2. Can Texas block the Alabama defense? In the Big 12 championship game Nebraska gave Texas fits because the Cornhuskers applied pressure up the middle with Ndamukong Suh and used their fleet linebackers to fill Colt McCoy’s running lanes. Texas is much more effective when McCoy can run the ball, which he did well in the second half of the season. With over a month to prepare, and with a defense that is faster than Nebraska’s, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will come up with a few things that McCoy has not seen on the film. I’m just not convinced the Texas offensive line can block Alabama on a consistent basis.

 

3. Seven Heisman Trophy winners have played in the BCS championship game. Six of them have lost. Will Alabama’s Mark Ingram be the exception or the rule? The matchup of Alabama’s offensive line and Texas’s defensive line will be a war. Alabama’s offensive line has jelled beyond anybody’s expectations. In the preseason the O-line was a question mark and it ended the season as a strength. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has done an incredible job rebuilding this defensive line as the Longhorns lead the nation in rushing defense (62 ypg).  But I don’t think Texas has seen an offensive line as good as Alabama’s. I believe Ingram will go north of 100 yards.

 

4. So what is Texas’s best shot to win this game? The Longhorns are the nation’s No. 2 team when it comes to forcing turnovers with 35. If Texas can turn Alabama mistakes into points then the Longhorns have a good chance to win.  But Alabama doesn’t turn the ball over very much. Two key stats here: Ingram has 492 career carries in two seasons and has lost just one fumble, that coming in the final minutes against Tennessee. Quarterback Greg McElroy has thrown 314 passes this season and has only four interceptions. Alabama just doesn’t make that many mistakes. I think the key here is McElroy, who enters this game with a 29-0 record as a starting quarterback dating back to his senior season in high school. McElroy doesn’t have to have a GOOD game. He just needs to avoid a BAD game. If McElroy does not play poorly, Alabama wins.

 

5. So what is the X-Factor? Without a doubt it is special teams. This game features two the nation’s best punt returners in Javier Arenas of Alabama and Jordan Shipley of Texas. Arenas, who averaged 16.3 yards per return, is a threat to go the distance each time he touches the ball. Shipley has returned three punts for touchdowns this season. If it comes down to a field goal, both teams have guys who can deliver in the clutch. Hunter Lawrence of Texas made a 46-yard field goal on the last play to give Texas a 13-12 win over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. Lawrence has made 20 of 23 field goals this season. Alabama’s Leigh Tiffin made 29 of 33 field goals, including 5 of 7 between 40-49 yards. If this game is close, expect a big play in the kicking game to decide it.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: If the Alabama team that destroyed No. 1 Florida in the SEC championship game shows up tonight in Pasadena, I think the Crimson Tide wins by double digits. Alabama is just too solid and the defense is certainly the Crimson Tide’s best since the 1992 national championship unit. But I also thought that the 2005 Texas team was overmatched by No. 1 USC in a game what was also played in the Rose Bowl. You never know how a long layoff will affect a team and you have to wonder if Alabama played its best game against Florida on Dec. 5. Colt McCoy could have one of those Vince Young moments and fool me. Keep this in mind. Since No. 1 USC beat No. 2 Oklahoma in 2004, the No. 2 team has won four straight BCS championship games. Could No. 2 do it again? I don’t think so.

 

FINAL SCORE: ALABAMA 24, TEXAS 13.

 

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151 comments Add your comment

WonderDawg

January 7th, 2010
8:47 am

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 7th, 2010
8:51 am

2nd? Dang thats as close as I have gotten to first!

BuLLdawg blows

January 7th, 2010
8:53 am

I have HIV…3rd?

Zebra

January 7th, 2010
8:54 am

Tide 31-14. You cannot be as one dimensional as Texas and beat a good team.

Texas Rebel

January 7th, 2010
8:55 am

My mind says they can’t do it, my heart says there is a reason McElroy didn’t get a scholarship from his home state team. Muschamp dials up a great performance on Defense and gets 3 turnovers, and Lawrence wins another game with a kick on the last play! HOOK ‘EM HORNS!!!

Marcdog

January 7th, 2010
8:55 am

Good article Tony,

The TIDE will roll and bring #13 to Tuscaloosa.

USC vs Texas

January 7th, 2010
8:58 am

Pete Carroll threw that game for the sake of football. If you remember USC was dominating the polls for several years and people were tired of it.

How many times did Vince run to the right on the last drive alone.

SEC is best is a joke

January 7th, 2010
9:02 am

The SEC of late is like the Pac 10. A few good teams and the rest are busts. TN and AU both fired their coaches for their body of work. Idiot Richt can’t win a big game. So that leaves FL, AL, LSU against a weak conference.

Fat American

January 7th, 2010
9:03 am

Disrupt & harass McElroy. Colt outplays GMac.

Texas 24 – Bama 20

bamaguy

January 7th, 2010
9:10 am

My father played in the 1935 Rose Bowl game with Bear Bryant. He died when I was young and I haven’t had him off my mind since the matchup was set. I chose to send my niece and her husband to the game instead of going myself. I am beginning to regret that decision Some teams come and some teams go, but the Tide rolls forever!

I have no life

January 7th, 2010
9:11 am

GatorG

January 7th, 2010
9:14 am

Everyone is expecting you to win and represent the SEC, Bama. Don’t choke!

123456789

January 7th, 2010
9:15 am

It’s still remains a mystery that Tony has yet to even mention the Decory Bryant case.

Not to worry. He will soon……when the case reaches the Federal Appeals court.

The UGA-AA is going to lose……BIG.

123456789

January 7th, 2010
9:24 am

Uh-oh.

Looks like former USC running back & Hesiman Trophy winner Reggie Bush
just lost THE big one in court.

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2009-12-28-reggie-bush-lawsuit_N.htm?csp=34&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+UsatodaycomNfl-TopStories+(Sports+-+NFL+-+Top+Stories)

So now, ALL of the facts will be revealed about the $300,000 he was paid while playing at USC.

EW

January 7th, 2010
9:24 am

TB I will be infinitely jealous of you for attending the game. A long, long season all comes down to tonight, SEC ROLLS…again

Michael G.

January 7th, 2010
9:25 am

Texas will not allow Ingram to beat them, and it will come down to McElroy making plays to do it. Hats off to him if he does, but I don’t think he will be able to.

SecIsFootball

January 7th, 2010
9:27 am

Texas Rebel….McElroy was committed to Texas Tech so correct me if I am wrong, that is a home state team even if it is too painful to admit. Alabama was a better offer so he took it and looks like he made the right decision. BAMA rolls tonight 34-21.

Johnny Test

January 7th, 2010
9:28 am

Bama will win… Texas was exposed vs Nebraska and Texas A&M.

For those who think the SEC is week except for the top 4 teams please see the South Carolina vs Clemson game , the UGA vs GT game, 10 bowl eligible teams even though they play in the toughest conference in the country and see last year’s bowl record and this year’s bowl record.

If you are still not convinced I’d say you suffer from denial and are probably a Tech fan who still has his tail between his legs after losing your 5th bowl game in a row.

Ryan

January 7th, 2010
9:31 am

Hook em Horns. UT wins by a final score of 24-21. Bama fails to win its 7th national title!

jimmy

January 7th, 2010
9:32 am

SEC is best is a joke….. Your a joke!!! look at the numbers pal, that says it all. A mediocre SEC is still better than most, especially your pitiful ACC.

Denver Dog

January 7th, 2010
9:32 am

Roll Tide, I hope that they holding calls on offense don’t upset the Red Elephants. I heard the stat that the Alabama line had not been called for holding since the 3rd game of the season. Alot of ref’s say that you could call it on every play. What’s up with that? My only thought here of distraction is that Texas may want it more. Saban is the better coach, and with Ray Goff’s coaching tree running the defenses, it should be a great game.

Rogers Redding

January 7th, 2010
9:33 am

If we can get our officials to referee the game tonight, Alabama will win easily. We haven’t called a holding penalty on Alabama in 34 quarters. And ya’ll thought all the conspiracy theorists were crazy. There are a lot of nieve people out there.

m

January 7th, 2010
9:33 am

Tony…this game is just a rigged bullshiite MYTHICAL championship (sic).

If we had a legitimate 16 team playoff, neither one of these teams would probably be there,

It is an outrage and a disgrace that the best sport in history has this SHAM BSbcs system.

FWIW

January 7th, 2010
9:40 am

As Jimmy Johnson so eloquently stated recently on a TV broadcast:

“In the current era of college football, if a Championship doesnt result
from a playoff system, it aint legit.”

Right on !!

FWIW

January 7th, 2010
9:41 am

Congratualtions to the Villanova Wildcats !!!

College Football’s ONE & ONLY “LEGIT” National Champions.

1eyedJack

January 7th, 2010
9:46 am

Ruh…ro…rrr…roll….t..t..ti…tide. Man that just sticks in my neck like a chicken bone.

Gen Neyland

January 7th, 2010
9:55 am

Tide Rising, Bama Stan, bamaguy, Red Elephants all : Originally at preseason, I had Texas and Florida in the BCSNCG with Texas winning out. Now that that match up is off the table, I want to wish Alabama the best of luck. TB and the rest of the pundits can anaylize it pregame. We’ll slice it up tomorrow postgame. Roll Tide…Roll SEC.

ReptilesRule

January 7th, 2010
9:56 am

As much as I am disliking Bama right now, I have to root for the SEC to continue the streak. In fact, I cheered for all of the SEC teams in bowls this year, inclusing UGA, as in every year. Ugh, except Tennessee as long as Lane Kiffin is there. They can lose ‘em all until they get a half-way respectible coach.

ReptilesRule

January 7th, 2010
9:59 am

Sorry, that was supposed to be INCLUDING UGA, thank you Mr Freud.

DK->

January 7th, 2010
10:00 am

College football will finally be over. The most rigged “sport” on the planet.

Habersham Dawg

January 7th, 2010
10:01 am

Bama Guy, you’re a damn fine uncle. I bet your niece and her husband have called you repeatedly and thank you for your gift. If there is ever a next time, I believe it is legal to adopt a nephew from Georgia that you could send to such a game.

SEC Pretenders

January 7th, 2010
10:08 am

Let’s see why the “mighty” SEC got ten bowl eligible teams…. Your bowl-eligible teams’ non-conf schedule includes:
Charleston Southern, Troy, Tennessee Tech, Western Kentucky, Memphis, Florida International, North Texas, Chattanooga, Louisiana-Lafayettte, Tulane, UAB, Eastern-Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, Eastern Kentucky, Miami OH, Ohio U, Florida Atlantic, South Caroline St, Ball St, Furman, Missouri St, E Michigan

I don’t think 10 SEC bowl teams is something to brag about. You play a crappy non-conf, go .500 in the league, and play against another patsy in the Vidalia Onion bowl. Come on SEC……

#1 BAMA FAN

January 7th, 2010
10:08 am

Happy New Year to all of the college fans….May the best team win tonight. (I think it will) RTR

mootpoint

January 7th, 2010
10:09 am

tangent:People keep referencing how Texas was a huge underdog in the 2005 title game. I don’t get it, that team destroyed everybody that year, including dropping 70 pts on CU in the big 12 title game. Why was USC considered such a heavy favorite? the game this year is completely different. UT hasn’t been nearly close as dominant as the 05′ horns. Bama destroyed UF a few weeks ago, if they play the same they’ll blow UT out.

John Calipari

January 7th, 2010
10:12 am

As an SEC guy, loyalties have me pulling for Alabama. But seriously, can anyone imagine exactly how arrogant Saban will be with another NC under his belt?

Tommy Tuberville

January 7th, 2010
10:14 am

Good to see the ‘Bama Nation is back in full-throated roar. It’s as if the (18) seasons before Saban arrived never happened……….WDE!

jumbeautiger

January 7th, 2010
10:14 am

The Tide rolls 27-17.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC
Roll Tide

jumbeauxtiger

January 7th, 2010
10:16 am

Gen Neyland,

You left off Got 12?. He’s a regular too.

Mikey in SAV

January 7th, 2010
10:16 am

This is no contest. Bama by double digits…

Love the SEC but...

January 7th, 2010
10:17 am

Please let UT win somehow! There is no other fanbase remorely close to Bama that idetifies their personal self-worth with the success of who they cheer for on the football field. Bama fans are gonna be insufferable for a long time to come. I have tremendous respect for Saan and actually like him (far more than Meyer) but the fans base is THE worst in cfb. Florida fans actually have learned to carry themselves with dignity and class (definity some level of smugness too) but, for the most part, don’t measure their own personal self-worth by ‘their’ football team. And Texas fans aren’t zealots, they seem far more well balanced in their lifes. Please, let UT win, so we don’t have to listen to Bama fans tell us how great they are.

DawginLex

January 7th, 2010
10:21 am

I too had Texas/florida in the title game with Texas winning. I think the SEC streak ends tonight.

If it doesn’t it is really only Bama’s 7th legit title. You can’t count the 6 voted on by the 3 guys at Tuscaloosa Corner Drug Emporium.

Howard

January 7th, 2010
10:21 am

Tony…I’d be more worried about that Heisman jinx than anything if I was Alabama…we were on a vacation recently and got to know a Bama fan real well and he was highly upset…seriously…that Ingram won it. He was pulling for McCoy because he said “we eat up Heisman winners in Tuscaloosa.” I believe that Ingram will become a rallying point for Texas…just like in 2005 when USC had the Heisman guy and Texas beat them. Also this 40-day layoff is insane. If I’m Bama, I would have wanted and begged to have played Texas the next week…especially after that Nebraska-Texas game and after how Bama beat Floridia. I think even two weeks later, Bama would have won big. Now I don’t know. I agree…the factors of which quarterback has the better game and special teams will be the big factors, don’t disregard this 40-day period of not playing. I’m a big Texas fan (my friend is their offensive line coach…Mac McWhorter)…so I’m pulling hard for the Horns. But I’m convoluted…there’s no team on the other side that I despise…like say Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Penn State or Miami. I want Bama to lose but if they win I won’t go jump off a cliff. Two southern schools playing for the national title in the Rose Bowl is sweet revenge. I’m sure Pasadena was salivating for a Big-10 vs. Pac-10 showdown…too bad folks. If both QBs have good games and the special teams have a stalemate…could be an OT and that would be great. Two great programs with a ton of history…maybe the BCS got it right this time. Oh, I will miss the heck out of watching Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy…two fine young men with Christian values and with their degrees in hand and off to the pros. Hope the NFL doesn’t ruin them.

Huh?!

January 7th, 2010
10:24 am

TB, how did you swing a place in the OC when the game is up the freeway in LA County? Nice per diem, eh?!

If you get next door to Newport Coast, say “hi” to Kobe and Rodman.

UGA Fan

January 7th, 2010
10:24 am

“A win would give the SEC its fourth straight BCS national championship. Florida won it in 2006 and 2008″ – Tony Barnhart

Johnny Test

January 7th, 2010
10:25 am

SEC pretender…. AKA Tech fan.. put up the OCC for the bowl eligible teams from the ACC.. It is a real laugher… because the ACC loses to the likes of Richmond and William and Mary… How about Tech.. Jax State, next year South carolina State and Middle Tenn. Typical Tech statistical analysis.

Otto

January 7th, 2010
10:26 am

Roll Tide keep the streak alive and keep the SEC undefeated in BCS title games.

Can’t wait to see tonight’s game and see who the real National Champ is. The sytem has worked and given us a very good season to watch. Enjoy this while you can before a playoff destroys CFB.

With the BCS title game remaining, the SEC is 5-4 bowl despite often having the lower pick in Bowl selection. Even in a down year the SEC can play with anyone.

Huh?!

January 7th, 2010
10:27 am

Oh, and the Big 12 is busted again. It pains me to say it, but the Tide rolls big!

catfish31015

January 7th, 2010
10:29 am

First!….I mean 41st.

Otto

January 7th, 2010
10:29 am

Since when was Texas a southern school?

SEC Rules

January 7th, 2010
10:29 am

You know how to tell the SEC is the most powerful conference? Because Bama violated NCAA rules just as SMU did with Eric Dickerson, but SMU got the death penalty and Bama got to go to the national championship game. The college football games may not be fixed, but the system is sure rigged. Not sure why anyone would get any satisfaction cheering for a conference over another when confernce superiority is fixed before any games are played.