NCF Nation: 2010 BCS title preview

Citi BCS National Championship: Texas vs. Alabama

January, 6, 2010
Here’s all you need to know about the Citi BCS National Championship Game matchup between Texas (13-0) and Alabama (13-0) Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.

WHO TO WATCH: Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

Texas’ hopes in springing an upset over the Crimson Tide will rely on McCoy, who will be gunning to make history in his final college game. McCoy’s numbers in his senior season have been good, but not what he expected coming into the season. His most recent struggles -- a three-interception, nine-sack performance in the Big 12 title game against Nebraska -- should serve as inspiration for a better title-game performance. He'll be facing an even more imposing defense at the Rose Bowl in Alabama, and will have to be at his sharpest to help his team win. It will be important for McCoy not only to pass the ball strongly, but also to make some early plays with his feet to neutralize Alabama’s defensive pressure and help give his team some early confidence after their offensive struggles in their last game. If he can do that, the Longhorns might have a puncher’s chance of pulling an upset.

WHAT TO WATCH: Texas’ run defense against Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram

Alabama’s hopes of emerging victorious will be dictated by winning the game in the trenches and providing some running opportunities against Texas’ defensive front. The Longhorns aren’t the biggest team along the defensive front, but have done a good job of stifling opposing running games with a mixture of speed and talent. Crimson Tide players say that defensive style reminds them of their own team. But it will be key for Ingram to effectively run the ball, keeping Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy in manageable down-and-distance situations where he is less susceptible to turnovers. Ingram will challenge the Longhorns inside, trying to do something that no other team has done this season. The Longhorns haven’t allowed an opposing player to run for more than 100 yards. Texas' chances of winning will be much better if it can keep the bullish tailback in check.

WHY WATCH: The national championship game has been a recent nightmare for No. 1 teams

The top-ranked teams haven't played well in recent national title games. The No. 2 team has won the past four games over the No. 1 team and claimed six of the past seven games. Heisman Trophy winners like Sam Bradford, Troy Smith and Reggie Bush all have similarly struggled as their teams lost their national championship games, which might not bode well for Ingram. The Longhorns already feel emboldened after their previous success in their last two BCS bowl victories in Pasadena. Collectively, that run of recent history might help propel another underdog to an upset Thursday night if the Longhorns can produce a few breaks.

PREDICTION: For the past month, naysayers have knocked Texas for its struggles in the Big 12 title game and wondered if the Longhorns really deserve to be playing for the national championship. That inspiration to prove doubters wrong, however, will only last so long against a team that is as talented as Alabama in running the ball and playing strong defense. The star-studded Alabama team is dotted with a record six members on the Associated Press’ All-America team. Coach Nick Saban’s grinding scheme isn’t pretty, but should have enough talent to gradually wear the Longhorns down. Texas’ upset hopes will be predicated on big plays from McCoy and a couple of breaks along the way. The Longhorns have the speed to take advantage of Alabama’s season-long struggles covering kickoffs. And if they can win that phase of the game, their chances of an upset will be much better.

But the thought here is that the Crimson Tide will be able to dominate a Texas offense that has struggled against the better defenses it has faced all season. Look for Ingram’s running to wear the Longhorns down, scoring a late touchdown to clinch the game and take their first national championship since 1992 back to the Capstone. Alabama 24, Texas 13.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Breaking down the Citi BCS National Championship Game on Thursday (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) between Alabama (13-0) and Texas (13-0):

WHO TO WATCH: Alabama’s offense has been extremely diverse this season, which has made it so difficult to defend. There’s no such thing as focusing in on one guy. But the “X-factor" in this offense has without a doubt been junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who started the season as one of the biggest question marks on the team only to play his way into one of the Crimson Tide’s steadiest performers. He went through a little funk during the middle of the season, but rebounded to play some of his best football down the stretch. McElroy has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, and he’s spread the ball around to all of his playmakers. He’s also playing with tremendous confidence after carving apart Florida’s defense a month ago in the SEC championship game. In every situation this season, McElroy has delivered. This could be his toughest test yet.

WHAT TO WATCH: Texas has had its struggles running the ball coming into this game, and Alabama’s defense has feasted on making teams one-dimensional this season and putting them in third-and-long situations. That’s where Nick Saban’s defense is most dangerous. If the Longhorns can’t have a little success on first down or at least run the ball some, can they beat the Crimson Tide with Colt McCoy throwing the ball 40-plus times? Alabama has been hard on opposing quarterbacks this season, primarily because they were constantly facing third-and-long. If the Longhorns are going to win this game, they’re going to do so on first down. Alabama is third nationally in third-down conversion defense (29.3 percent) and has forced 71 three-and-outs, which is also third nationally. You don't beat these guys on third down.

WHY TO WATCH: Really, since Alabama went on its unbeaten spree in the regular season a year ago, everybody in Tide Town has been asking the same question: Is Alabama all the way back? A BCS national championship would provide a resounding “yes” to that question. The Crimson Tide last won a national title in 1992, and for Nick Saban, this is a chance to do something that no coach has done in the Associated Press poll era (since 1936), and that’s win a national championship at two different schools. Saban won one at LSU in 2003. An Alabama win would also give the SEC four straight national championships and five of the last seven. Plus, it would be the fourth different SEC team to win a BCS national title going back to the inaugural one in 1998 when Tennessee won.

PREDICTION: The unknown in a game like this is how much a 32-day layoff will affect each team. Alabama is coming off its best and most complete game of the season in its 32-13 win over Florida in the SEC championship game back on Dec. 5. Texas was fortunate to escape against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship Game. Of course, all that matters is who plays the best on Thursday. Both defenses are excellent, and both coaches have been here before. But Alabama’s balance on offense will be the difference. Alabama 27, Texas 17.