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.