BCS National Championship
Texas vs. Alabama
Site: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Date: Jan. 7
Line: Alabama -5
Matchup: The Crimson Tide will be going for its 13th recognized national championship. However, the Tide is 0-7-1 all-time against the Longhorns. The team last met on Jan 1. 1982, when Texas scored twice in the fourth quarter to beat Alabama, 14-12, in the Cotton Bowl. Five of the eight meetings have come in bowl games.
Alabama is balanced on offense, relying on RB Mark Ingram for both tough yards and breakaway potential. The entire Texas defense must contain the Crimson Tide threat, who ran for a school-record 1,542 yards while becoming Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner. LB Roddrick Muckelroy leads the Longhorns in tackles, though as run stoppers, the unit relies heavily on a stout defensive front led by DT Lamarr Houston. UT leads the nation in rushing defense with a 62.1-yard average. Alabama (77.9) ranks second.
Alabama also ranked second nationally in total defense (Texas is third) with a 241.7-yard yield. The Tide leads the country scoring defense at 11.0 points per game allowed. Alabama DT Terrence Cody isn't the same kind of sack-master from the interior that Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh is, but he can create similar havoc by collapsing the pocket and blowing up plays. In general, "Mount" Cody eats up a lot of space and is hard to move. The Longhorns will worry about the middle of the offensive line for a month after it was unable to keep the Huskers out of the backfield, allowing permitted 18 tackles for loss, including nine sacks. Texas had trouble all season developing a consistent rushing threat before finally settling on speedy RB Tre' Newton.
Still, QB Colt McCoy may be as dangerous as any of the Texas rushers with his ability to scramble. Alabama LB Rolando McClain was named the Butkus Award winner as the nation's top linebacker. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound McClain not only covers the field but inflicts punishment. He led the Tide with 101 tackles, including 12.5 for loss. McCoy will be responsible for reading the Alabama defense and making adjustments to what he sees. McClain is responsible for reading the Texas offense and making adjustments for what he sees. Both are capable of changing calls multiple times at the line of scrimmage in an intricate guessing game, and both are physical enough to back up whatever they call with pure ability.
The bar was raised again, this time by Texas. After directing the Longhorns to a 13-0 record and capturing a berth in the BCS championship game, Mack Brown was awarded the most lucrative salary in college sports.
Brown will now command $5 million annually in a deal that still extends through 2016. A clause remains that provides Brown a "significant" position within the university if he voluntarily resigns. No timetable has been set for Brown's departure.
When that does happen, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will be elevated to head coach as part of an arrangement struck last year. Muschamp earns $900,000 annually as the second-highest paid college assistant in America. He trails Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who makes $1.2 million.
The compensation is factored entirely from revenue earned by the football program. A year ago, Texas football generated $87.6 million, which was tops in the country. Estimates for revenue this year top $100 million following the expansion of Royal-Memorial Stadium to more than 100,000 seats.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds was not bashful in his praise of Brown, who is 128-26 with the Longhorns in his 12th season.
"We've got the best football coach in the nation at the University of Texas," Dodds said. "We're the envy of lots of institutions. I'm just real proud of where we are. I like the stability."
Texas didn't really need to up the ante for Brown. He's probably not going to take another job. But hey, the money is there so why not flaunt it? Besides the publicity the move generated speaks to the solid footing Texas enjoys in football.
Texas supporters will like Brown even more if the Longhorns can win their second national championship in five years. The odds seem stacked against them, however, after their narrow escape against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game was compared to Alabama's impressive rout of Florida for the SEC title.
Stopping Alabama's Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram looms as the greatest challenge for the Texas defense. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns' offense, meanwhile, face a Bama defense allowing 241.7 yards and 11 points on average.
Scouting the Offense: Heading into the Nebraska game, the Longhorns had found virtually all the tricks needed for a potent offense. QB Colt McCoy not only was the nation's most accurate passer, but he was beginning to hit his receivers on deep routes. The shackles also had been lifted on McCoy to make him a double-threat as a runner. WR Jordan Shipley is the most consistent pass-catcher in the Texas stable, though WR James Kirkendoll and WR Malcolm Williams have shown the capability to break big gains. The run game lacks a consistent threat, though RB Tre' Newton was beginning to blossom before Nebraska shut down the UT attack.
Scouting the Defense: After allowing Texas A&M to enjoy a field day with 500-plus total yards, the Longhorns stiffened and looked like their normal selves against Nebraska. Of course, the Huskers are severely limited with what they can do offensively, but credit Texas for allowing just four field goals in the Big 12 championship game after the Huskers managed three takeaways. Nebraska picked up just five first downs and 106 total yards. Texas is excellent within each position group. DE Sam Acho blossomed as a pass rusher, LB Roddrick Muckelroy is the leading tackler, LB/DE Sergio Kindle diverse at different assignments and S Earl Thomas is the leader in the secondary with a school-record eight interceptions. Texas allowed just six completions in the Big 12 title game.
Injury Report: CB Aaron Williams missed much of the Nov. 26 victory against Texas A&M with a deep leg bruise, but he played well in the Big 12 championship game and snagged an interception in the end zone after Nebraska blocked a punt. P Justin Tucker continued to struggle with his rugby-style boots. One was blocked and another was returned to the Texas 10-yard line after the line drive allowed the cover unit little time to motor downfield. DT Lamarr Houston and DB Deon Beasley, both of whom were shaken up in the Texas A&M game with injuries that were not considered serious, played against Nebraska. Houston ranked second among the Longhorns with six tackles.
Quote to Note: "One of the young guys said it in the dressing room, which was so correct, that we could quit talking about 0.128 now because it's gone. And the guys, a year and six days ago, committed to come to the (Big 12 championship) game and win, and be undefeated and they've done that."
-- Texas coach Mack Brown, referring to the decimal points the Longhorns lacked in the BCS standings last year to overtake Oklahoma in a tiebreaker the Big 12 used to determine the South Division champion.
The seeds of Alabama's national championship game appearance were planted right after last season.
"There was a time when we had a team meeting after the (2009) Sugar Bowl (a loss to Utah), right before we started the offseason program," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "We kind of showed a picture to the players of the SEC Championship, and we said there are some great teams and we would have some difficult times, and we had to work to beat the best team in our league. ... And everything you do, every time you go to work, every time we lift weights, every time you run, every time we practice, it's not to be as good as the guy you're playing against. It's to be as good as the guy you have to beat to be the champion. Our players bought into that."
So, it's no surprise to Alabama that it is headed to Pasadena to play in the national championship game after dispatching the defending national champion Florida Gators 32-13 in the SEC title game.
It's a powerhouse matchup: 13-0 Alabama vs. 13-0 Texas.
Everything -- well, most everything -- starts for both of these teams on defense. Alabama ranks No. 2 and Texas No. 3 in total defense. The Longhorns are No. 1 and the Tide No. 2 in rushing defense. Alabama is No. 1 and Texas No. 8 in scoring defense ... and on it goes, right down the line, where statistically these are two of the best defenses in the country.
Offensively, however, they are very different. Texas, behind quarterback Colt McCoy, is 14th in passing and 55th in rushing, while Alabama is 12th in rushing and 84th in passing.
To get here, Alabama had to win close games, blocking a last-second field goal try by Tennessee to preserve a 12-10 victory and driving the length of the field for a touchdown on the final possession to beat Auburn. But the Tide capped the season with a dominating victory over Florida in Atlanta's Georgia Dome to win the school's 22nd SEC title.
The chance to win championships is "a big reason why a lot of people come here," said Tide quarterback Greg McElroy, a Texan from Dallas whose hero is Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo.
"Our fullback, Baron Huber, said it best when he said, 'If you could write a page in history, what would you want it to say?'"
Alabama has a chance to write some history with the school's recognized 13th national championship in January.
Scouting the Offense: Alabama is showing more balance, with QB Greg McElroy spreading the ball around to WR Julio Jones, WR Marquis Maze, TE Colin Peek and TB Mark Ingram. But what the Tide really likes to do is just pound opposing defenses with the run (215.8 yards per game) and play ball control (SEC-leading 33 minutes average time of possession). Often, Alabama will throw early to soften defenses, then come with the bruising Ingram and freshman Trent Richardson. The Tide offense just seems to get stronger as the game goes on, dominating fourth quarters this year with a 109-24 scoring advantage.
Scouting the Defense: The Tide has one of the best linebackers in the game in Rolando McClain and one of the most intrigue nose tackles in 365-pound Terrence Cody. The defense uses an NFL-style philosophy of trying to take advantage of personnel mismatches. The Tide can be multiple in formations without changing personnel, and has done a very good job of disguising coverages and matching opposing offenses shift for shift before the snap of the ball.
Injury Report: LB Dont'a Hightower is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery following an injury in the Arkansas game. DE Damion Square is out for the season with a knee injury. Reserve RB Terry Grant was limited almost the entire season with an abdominal strain.
Quote to Note: "I think that a lot in life comes down to expectations sometimes, and we didn't come here looking for a moral victory."
-- Alabama coach Nick Saban, after a 32-13 victory over defending national champion Florida in the SEC Championship Game.