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.

 

 Please follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

151 comments Add your comment

Asheville Dawg

January 7th, 2010
10:31 am

Go SEC teams, ROLL TIDE.

Otto

January 7th, 2010
10:31 am

If conf. superiority was fixed USC, Miami, and FSU would be fighting for the tile. Why did they not get the death penalty? They gave away far more than TEXT BOOKS.

Bama in Atlanta

January 7th, 2010
10:31 am

Look for Trent Richardson to have a big game. Much like the Auburn game, Texas will focus on Ingram to make sure he doesn’t beat them and force McElroy to pass. On several key plays Bama will pull Ingram and insert Richardson and Texas will be thinking pass. Richardson will either be handed the ball or be tossed the ball in the flats. If TR gets in the open field then there’s only one person in the world who can catch him…..assuming there’s no kryptonite on the field!

Otto

January 7th, 2010
10:34 am

Texas will focus on Ingram? As if they wouldn’t before he was handed the Heisman?

BIG 3, INSIGNIFICANT 9

January 7th, 2010
10:39 am

If you’re not from LSU, UF or Bama, you have nothing to crow about. You are the abused dog that keeps coming back to it’s master for comfort.

Tide Rising

January 7th, 2010
10:40 am

I just can’t see UT running the ball on us with any effectiveness at all. Just can’t see it and if that’s the case I can’t see a one dimensional offense then winning the bcs game. I also think we run the ball with some effectiveness. If we ran it well against a better Florida D then I’m certain we can run it against UT which sees a lot of passing teams in the sec but 0 physical running attacks in that conference.

I’ve noticed in a lot of the bowl games between the sec and big 12 the sec teams have dominated especially in the last 2 years. Those finesse spread passing offenses of teams like Texas, OU, and TT tend to get exposed against great defenses.

OU got exposed last year vs a great Florida defense after OU rolled into the game scoring over 60 pts a game in its previous 5 games. Texas beat Ohio St last year but was pretty lucky to do so. OSU which normally gets pounded by Sec teams physically dominated Texas in that bowl game.

Ole Miss has dominated the big 12 the last 2 years and Georgia ran up and down the field on A&M team that took UT to the wire. Had they not dropped several interceptions that game would have been even worse.

Heck we even shut down a great TT offense in 06 Cotton Bowl and held them to 10 pts. And that was a Shula coached team that beat TT.

Based on inter conference results I’m feeling really good. Just gotta watch Shipley on those punt and kickoff returns. Here’s to hoping we bring home a 4th bcs crown in a roll for the sec and a 6th in 8 years. That would be unreal from a conference standpoint.

Elliot Garcia

January 7th, 2010
10:41 am

It sure could get ugly for Tide fans if Bama loses….

goober

January 7th, 2010
10:43 am

1: To Howard et al.: Please, use brevity in your posts. The long streams are boring and not read.

2: UGA and Valdosta State University win big tonight on defense: DCs Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart are both Georgia natives, both UGA alums, and both coached at VSU in 2000. Congrats to both of you for representing your state well!

DawginLex

January 7th, 2010
10:43 am

m,
Putting all nastiness aside, and given the fact that I too am a proponent of a playoff, who is more deserving to be in this game THIS YEAR?

IMO, this year, they got it right. I can argue there have been more years where it was questionable than years where it was right. but this year, they got it right.

Tide Rising

January 7th, 2010
10:44 am

General Neyland and others,

Thanks for wishing us luck. If we do win a 4th title in a row for the conference then we will try to be humble about it. Now I say try only because being a Bama fan you do understand how rather difficult that is for some of us.

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

January 7th, 2010
10:46 am

Two words: Colt McCoy. ‘Nuff said.

Texas-30
Alabama-23

George in Bama

January 7th, 2010
10:47 am

SEC Pretender: You left out Va. Tech which Ala. opened the season with this year. Also, note that next year we play Penn State in T-town. Year after that Penn State in Happy Valley. Take that!!!

im4bama

January 7th, 2010
10:47 am

yes
no
yes
get lucky breaks
agree

I am cautiously optimistic about tonight. You never know, you always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. For all intinsive purposes, I think we win easy if we come out on a mission. I dare to say, we will never underestimate any team again. My gut says this one could be closer than I’d like, based on how most of the bowl games have went thus far.

Bama fans everywhere have waited a long time for this day. I hope we will be celebrating the 13th National Championship tonight and 4th straight SEC BCS Champs. To all Bama fans; R

Alphare

January 7th, 2010
10:47 am

If Heisman trophy is a curse, BAMA should just start Trent Richardson, forget about Mark Ingram. Richardson looks as good as Ingram minus 1-year of play experience.

im4bama

January 7th, 2010
10:48 am

ROLL TIDE ROLL!

DirtyDawg

January 7th, 2010
10:53 am

I suppose that you, Tony, have provided enough caveats in your prediction/analysis to allow for a Texas victory, because you really need to. Have you ever been so positive about so many games…and been so wrong? I’m sure that we could go back in time and find any number of them, but just for those off the top of my head – Georgia/Georgia Tech…GaTech/Iowa…TCU/Boise State – and a lot more, but who’s counting?

By the way, say hello to Sela Ward while you’re out there. That was one of your better interviews – classy and beautiful lady.

SEC Rules

January 7th, 2010
10:55 am

USC, Miami and FSU are not going to win every year, because Texas, Ohio State and other big conference schools have to get their cut of the money every once in awhile. But each has won a title in the past dozen years partly by virtue of playing in a big six conference. The NCAA will be sued soon for what they did to Boise St. TCU and Cincy this year. They – and their big six schools – deserve it. The system is rigged in favor of conferences like the SEC. Otto, this is not fringe thinking. Only the conference system supporters believe the system is fair and that’s because it’s in their favor to think that way.

Sporty Black

January 7th, 2010
10:55 am

I just got of the phone with Mack Brown. Texas is going to go 5-wide to open running lanes. McCoy will rush for 125 yards (against the dime) and throw for 250 yards (against nickel and base).

Texas 38 Alabama 34.

DawginLex

January 7th, 2010
10:59 am

SEC RULES,

Do you even watch college football? Did you not watch cincy get absolutely destroyed by Florida? Boise and TCU looked like a high school game compared to the SEC.

Get over it and stop being a jealous hater. Bama and Texas deserve to be in this game.

Jacket4ever

January 7th, 2010
11:01 am

Tony,

Since there are more than just the BCS and AP that declare championships, surely there will be an outlet somewhere declaring my Jackets as the National Champion. Can we tout that as another National Title? I know we have in the past, so why couldn’t we now?

Tiff

January 7th, 2010
11:02 am

R-O-L-L T-I-D-E!!! We love you Bama!!!!

DawginLex

January 7th, 2010
11:09 am

jacket4ever,

it would be as legit as some of Bama’s 12…………………

Alphare

January 7th, 2010
11:09 am

About 4 #2 teams beating #1 in the NC games, those #2’s are not really #2, they are #1 in most people’s hearts. It’s the twisted polls that put them in #2. I remember when LSU was #2 in the big game, most people I know said LSU without a doubt was the better team. So was the case with Florida when they played in the big game.

The only exception is Texas vs USC.

So, most people have it right most of the time: the better team wins (forget about the ranking). The only exception is TX vs USC, but USC is not a SEC team.

When a SEC team is ranked #2 in the big game, they are favored to win, which means they should be ranked #1 instead of #2. I remember even the national media favored the SEC teams when they were ranked #2. The poll got it wrong. Did anybody really think those SEC teams winning NC an upset?

This time, BAMA is ranked #1, and most people favor it to win. If BAMA loses, it’s really an upset.

BAMA 34 – TX 17.

yeah right

January 7th, 2010
11:09 am

Please!!! Boise has played 3 different SEC teams 4 times during the past 10 years and got waxed every time!!!! The commentators always seem to forget that when they are trying to talk them up.

David

January 7th, 2010
11:10 am

Dang Tony, you know I rarely agree with you. However, nice job sizing up this game. You did your homework. Now if we could just get you to stop being a Ga homer. Is Ga going to win the NC next season?

Otto

January 7th, 2010
11:13 am

SEC Rules TCU, Boise and Utah do not deserve. They did not play the schedule to deserve it. Law Suits have been defended in the past and can be again. The greater threat to BCS are politicians from Utah and a President that acts like dictator wanting a playoff. If you are going to flame the SEC you should atleast learn the landscape and history of CFB.

Tide Rising,

Agreed on your points. It is hard to pick against Bama given most of that history. The only things going against Bama are the Heisman Jinx and Texas’ record against Bama from how many years ago? Texas is a big underdog which was denied last year. They should be playing lights out and as much as I like Bama an underdog with nothing to loose is a dangerous opponent. I will be hoping for something like the ‘92 Sugar Bowl but something about this game has me a little uneasy (no I can’t tell you what)

Roll Tider

January 7th, 2010
11:19 am

HAHAHA…

m with his same lines. Again m, show me a better conference this year? Funny enough, the Big Ten has had the best bowl season this year. Seems like their runner-up just b*tch slapped another conference’s champion. Which conference would that be? Hmmm… The Pac-10 and Big 12 were both exposed as frauds this bowl season (see: Okie St., TAMU, Oregon, Oregon St., Arizona) and the Big East, well, pretty much goes without saying. The ACC held its own playing against much lower-seeded teams from other conferences with worse records (see 4-4 UT and 3-5 UK).

Non-conference wins this year in the SEC included VT, GT, FSU, Clemson, UW, NC State. All in all, the SEC is the strongest conference top to bottom in the land.

#2 BAMA FAN

January 7th, 2010
11:22 am

It is time for the crimson tide to bring the crystal football trophy back to Tuscaloosa!! Make us proud tonight guys!! RTR Remember the Rose Bowl 1926-1945!! ROLL TO VICTORY TIDE!!

Otto

January 7th, 2010
11:23 am

Alphare, It could be argued that many people saw Texas beating USC. The media was promoting USC. Texas won out in a much harder conf. USC had survived games against ND and Fresno St. The game was not an upset IMO.

ACC > SEC

January 7th, 2010
11:26 am

We have GT, Miami, Va. Tech, Clemson and BC. What do you have?

Roll Tider

January 7th, 2010
11:26 am

If Texas goes 5-wide, McCoy won’t make it through the first quarter without a turnover or two. Bama seems to disguise and time those corner and safety blitzes better than anyone. Arenas is a madman on the blitz.

Gen Neyland

January 7th, 2010
11:27 am

Reptiles Rule : As Maj Winters told a Cpt., “You salute the uniform, not the man.” As a Gator, you need to get over feeling so dang righteous.

jumbeauxtiger : Thx. Old-Timers disease, you know. That’s why I just cut it to ‘Red Elephants all’.

Roll Tider

January 7th, 2010
11:29 am

ACC > SEC

January 7th, 2010
11:26 am
“We have GT, Miami, Va. Tech, Clemson and BC. What do you have?”

Wins against most all of those? We have UF, UA, LSU, and Ole Miss. And since UGA and SC beat two of those you listed, we’ll include them too.

Next.

Tide Rising

January 7th, 2010
11:33 am

Otto,

You hit the nail on the head as far as what does worry me. Overconfidence after the Florida game, the Heisman thing. I don’t believe in jinxes. But I do believe that stuff like the Heisman, being favored, etc, i think that psychologically those things hinder the favorite and favor the underdog. You can spend too much time basking in how great you think you are and how great people tell you that your are and lose focus. Losing focus and not being mentally prepared a la Utah is what worries me more than Tejas.

ArmsBendBack

January 7th, 2010
11:34 am

Please stop using the “war” metaphor. They’re playing in a football game.

Sam

January 7th, 2010
11:37 am

Two great defenses, two average offenses by comparison. First one to 20, wins.

Paul

January 7th, 2010
11:37 am

Tony,

I have my money on the team not playing athletes who can’t even remember their major – cough, cough, Cody of BAMA – and joke about it.

College football is going to Tebow, McCoy and Shipley.

Hook em’ Horns!

http://stuffblackpeopledontlike.blogspot.com/2010/01/college-football-opiate-of-america.html

ReptilesRule

January 7th, 2010
11:42 am

Neyland…Unfortunately, the man IS your uniform and the face of your program right now. He (Kiffin) has opened his classless mouth and you all have embraced it. Next year is going to be a very hard trip back to reality for the Vols. It’s a shame that a once proud program has become such a laughing stock. YOU may not think so, but 95% of the college football world does!!

Atlanta Gator

January 7th, 2010
11:49 am

To all my Bama blogger friends, good luck to you and your team. Let’s keep the BCS title within the SEC tribe.

Dawgdiggler

January 7th, 2010
11:50 am

Hook’em Horns !!!

Alabama Headlines – 1/7/09 | MrSEC.com

January 7th, 2010
12:12 pm

[...] digits.)Now, onto some other web coverage:1.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC asks (and then discusses) five burning questions regarding tonight’s BCS Championship Game.2.  A win by Alabama will further validate that [...]

BCS = Fraud

January 7th, 2010
12:17 pm

Congratulations to the Boise State Broncos !!

The 2009 College Football National Champions !!

Defeated PAC-10 Champ Oregon. Defeated NCAA #1 Rated Defense: TCU.

BCS = Fraud

January 7th, 2010
12:18 pm

Congratulations to the Boise State Broncos 14-0 !!

The 2009 College Football National Champions !!

Defeated PAC-10 Champ Oregon. Defeated NCAA #1 Rated Defense: TCU.

Alphare

January 7th, 2010
12:32 pm

BAMA will have a slow start tonight because of nervousness by the QB, and Texas’ strong defense against the run. But BAMA’s rock-solid defense will keep the game close in the first half.

But BAMA will exhaust Texas in the 2nd half. McCoy will be tired and lose his pin-point accuracy. Texas defenders will be even more exhausted. That’s when BAMA will run away with the win.

You never know what will happen with a game. Well, that’s why you still have to play it after all the smash talk. But that’s my 2cents if you care.

Alphare

January 7th, 2010
12:44 pm

BCS = Fraud,

I don’t buy TCU’s #1 rated defense, just like Texas’ #1 rated defense against the run. All stats should be weighted against the Strength of Schedule. I said the same thing before BAMA played FL when FL was rated #1 in defense.

If you play a bunch of sisis, and the sisis cannot run/throw/score, of course you are rated #1 in defense.

Why is Texas rated #1 in defense against the run? Hello? Nobody run against them! If nobody runs against you, you give up 0 yard without having to do anything. And you will be ranked #1 because you give up 0 yard.

Roll Tider

January 7th, 2010
12:53 pm

How did Oregon do in their bowl game to support that claim for Boise?

murfdawg

January 7th, 2010
12:54 pm

The underdogs have won 17 bowl games so far this season. If you look at the point spread, it goes to 22. I don’t know what that means for Texas, but it could be a good omen. Just like the Heisman jinx..

However, playing good, hard-nosed football will overcome superstition and Vegas. Just ask UGA and Iowa.

Bama in a close one!

p.s. Please send Kirby home after the game!

BIG 3, INSIGNIFICANT 9

January 7th, 2010
1:00 pm

Roll Tider
Funny you should mention the Big 10. They will be able to lay claim to the only conference to win 2 BCS games this year and have their top 4 teams win their bowl games. Did you know the Big 10 and SEC have played 15 bowl games in the last 6 years against each other? The BIg 10 won 8, the SEC won 7.

30 Year Drought

January 7th, 2010
1:03 pm

Last year was Florida’s year, this year is Bama’s year, and when everyone on this blog is dead it will be the Dawgs year.

Will

January 7th, 2010
1:09 pm

I hope tonights game was as good as the Troy- Cent Mich game last night! Don’t you Tony? That game was so crazy. Also, if for some reason Damon Evans is reading the post………… Stop being frugal with my money and the othe alumni and go hire Kirby Smart already. Good lord Damon, you should run for president, I wish our leaders in Washington were as tight with other peoples money as you.