And now for the big one. The one for all the marbles. The only marbles, depending on who you ask. The BCS Championship. Nick Saban and Mack Brown are both seeking their 2nd BCS Title tonight; Texas, its 5th Mythical National Championship…Alabama, its 37th (depending on who you ask).
After Central Michigan could only give us a push last night against Troy, Frumpzilla is sitting at 9-6-2 for our feature. With that in mind, we’re definitely in the playmoney regardless of what happens tonight, and that’s always nice. Still, think it’s time to press our luck a bit more than usual and try to get us to 11-6-2. Frump it here for how we’re gonna do this in a BCS Title game that packs a bit more drama than usual…
BCS Championship: Texas vs. Alabama, 8 PM ET, ABC. Current Line: Alabama -4, O/U 46
First, I just need to get this bit out of the way. As a Georgia fan, it’s great, in a sense, to see a BCS Championship game that features two former Dawgs that also happen to be two of college football’s brightest young Defensive Coordinators. The Longhorns’ DC, and Head Coach in Waiting, Will Muschamp, walked on at Georgia as a safety back in ’91. He eventually rose to co-captain of the defense as a Senior, and, upon graduating, began his rise to becoming the 2nd highest paid DC in the land. Let’s not forget he spent 5 years with Saban either, winning a BCS Championship at LSU in the process, which adds a little extra thread of drama here.
Crimson Tide DC, Kirby Smart, also happened to play safety for the Dawgs, making All-SEC as a Senior in 1998. Like Muschamp, Smart has spent several years cutting his coaching teeth under the tutelage of Nick Saban and has even been on the same staff as Muschamp on two separate occasions (juicy). Smart was co-defensive coordinator for Alabama last year with Kevin Steele, and took over full DC duties this year after Steele left to become DC at Clemson.
Now if Georgia could just get one of these guys back, maybe they’d find themselves in this game at some point. Curiously, there’s a lot of smoke with regards to Smart being announced as Georgia’s next DC (with the HCIW title) soon after tonight’s game, so we’ll see.
Moving onto the game itself, you really couldn’t ask for a much better matchup on paper. Both teams have Top 3 defenses (Bama 2nd, Texas 3rd), and are absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Alabama is 5th in the NCAA with a +16 Turnover Margin, but the Longhorns are right there with them, sitting at 8th with +12. Goes without saying, then, that we should see elite levels of efficiency and be treated to quite a chess match tonight.
Some may think there’s a bigger gap on the offensive side of the ball, presumably with Texas exhibiting a substantial edge there. Those people would be mistaken. Alabama has been unfairly pigeonholed, in some circles, as a team that must rely on defense to win. I guess having such a stout defense, and a guy like Saban at the helm, potentially lends itself to such an interpretation, but it’s unwise to forget that the Tide produce 413 yards of total offense a game and present a very balanced offensive attack (32nd in the country). The Longhorns fare only slightly better on O, despite the press, with 432 yards a game, good for 16th.
The star power is obviously in full effect here, too. Mark Ingram, Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner, will obviously be on display tonight, as will the media starlet that shines perhaps only second to Tim Tebow: Texas’ Colt McCoy. Ingram accounted for over 1,500 yards rushing and 15 TD’s this year on his way to becoming the third consecutive Sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and it will be interesting to see if that success carries over tonight against a Longhorns’ defense that allows just 62 rushing yards a game.
Now, Colt McCoy may look like an extra from a Frosted Frakes commercial, but he typically plays like he belongs on a box of Wheaties. We all know about his ridiculous stats the past two years, but, even as Senior, he also seems to be developing a reputation for not being able to reproduce such magic when he’s staring at a defense with teeth (see Oklahoma and Nebraska this year). The fact that Bama’s defense ranks 1st in passing efficieny defense certainly doesn’t bode well for Colt’s hopes of breaking out of this trend tonight, but then players of his caliber often rise to the occasion, I guess, in farewell games.
So who wins/covers tonight? I’m doubling up on Alabama -4 and Under 46. Texas is actually a pretty remarkable 7-0-1 against Alabama all time (ownage), but then the two teams haven’t played since 1982. I’m tossing that mark out the window. Texas is just 5-7-1 ATS this year, dropping 3 of their last 5, and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 bowl games. The Longhorns are also 3-7 ATS in their last 10 bowls games that were played on grass.
That said, it’s not that there’s necessarily a particularly strong trend towards Alabama here, though they are 8-4-1 ATS this season. The biggest knock for me regarding Texas is their struggles against teams with solid defenses. They’ve played two this year, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and they barely got out alive, mustering just a combined 29 points. Alabama’s offense, world’s better than Nebraska’s and comparable to Oklahoma’s, won’t allow an escape tonight if/when the Longhorns experience similar struggles against the Tide defense.
On the Over/Under front, Texas is 6-2 Under in their last 8 games at a neutral site. Alabama is 5-2-1 Under in their last 8 games overall. I think that 46 is a bit high, and we see a relatively low scoring game with Bama’s defense in control throughout most of the contest. The Crimson Tide gets its first victory over Texas tonight, its 38th National Championship (depending on who you ask) and the SEC gets its 5th BCS Championship (4th consecutive) in the 12 years since the BCS’ inception. Somebody get Charles Barkely a drink…