Running the football won't be easy for Texas or Alabama when they face each other next month in the BCS Championship Game. The matchup was made official on Sunday night as the BCS bowls were announced. Alabama finished No. 1 in the final regular-season BCS standings with Texas No. 2.
Those teams are ranked ahead of everyone else against the run, too. The Longhorns have the top rushing defense in the country, holding opponents to 62.15 yards per game on the ground. Alabama is No. 2, with teams managing just 77.92 yards per game. Both teams held their conference championship game opponents to less than 100 yards rushing in the wins.
So the team that can run the ball -- something Alabama did for 251 yards against Florida on Saturday -- could have a big edge.
For Texas, that means learning from Saturday night's offensive struggles against Nebraska. The Blackshirts held Texas to 202 yards of total offense, including 18 on the ground. Quarterback Colt McCoy was pressured all night and was sacked nine times.
"I think it got our offensive team's attention," Texas coach Mack Brown said in a conference call with reporters Sunday night.
The good news: Texas can use that experience as preparation for the national championship game.
Brown has great respect for the Alabama defense. He said he was able to watch the first quarter of the SEC title game and saw immediately how disciplined and well-positioned the Tide defenders were in running their schemes.
"I said, 'Those guys are prepared,'" said Brown, who acknowledged that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp learned a lot from Nick Saban when he worked with him at LSU. "They do as good a job as anyone in the country on defense."
But as Brown will point out: So do the Longhorns. Texas held Nebraska to 106 total yards on Saturday and was at its best on third down. The Huskers went 2-for-16 on third downs and had just five first downs the entire game.
"Texas is a great team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We're excited as a university and a team to have the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl and play a quality opponent with tremendous tradition."
Other regional teams in non-BCS bowl games (all times Central):
SMU vs. Nevada, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, 7 p.m., ESPN: SMU's focus leading up to the game will be on stopping Nevada's impressive running game. The 8-4 Wolf Pack had three 1,000-yard rushers, the first NCAA team to do that. SMU was hoping to play Hawaii in a dream matchup, but Hawaii lost to Wisconsin and was not bowl eligible.
Texas A&M vs. Georgia, AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 28, 4 p.m., ESPN2: It's a game that features two teams that have been inconsistent this season. But both are coming off solid showings against their rivals. Georgia ran the ball all over Georgia Tech in a victory on the road and the Aggies gave Texas all it wanted in a 49-39 loss. We'll see which Aggies team shows up (the team that beat Texas Tech 52-30 or the one that lost to Kansas State 62-14).
Houston vs. Air Force, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 31, 11 a.m., ESPN: It's rematch time as Houston beat Air Force in this game last year. It's Air Force's third straight trip to Fort Worth and they'll face a Houston team that leads the country in passing against the nation's top pass defense. That should be fun.
Oklahoma vs. Stanford, Brut Sun Bowl, El Paso, Dec. 31, 1 p.m., CBS: The Sooners, fresh off a 27-0 win over rival Oklahoma State, will face Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart. Stanford is No. 13 in the nation in total offense, thanks in large part to the 224 yards per game on the ground. But running won't be easy against the Sooners, who have bottled teams up this year. Oklahoma is No. 7 in the country in rushing defense and total defense.
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Jan. 2, 1 p.m., Fox: These two teams played each other in the Cotton Bowl in 2004, when Eli Manning led Ole Miss to a 31-28 victory. An Oklahoma State victory would give it 10 wins and tie a school record. For Ole Miss, which did not meet lofty expectations this season, it's a chance to finish the year on a high note. That's what it did against Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl last year. Oklahoma State is buying up tickets in a hurry. It should be quite orange in there.
Texas Tech vs. Michigan State, Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Jan. 2, 8 p.m., ESPN: Two of the top-30 passing offenses in the country will sling it around San Antonio. After getting blown out by Texas A&M, the Red Raiders finished the season with three wins in its final four games, including a 41-13 whipping of Oklahoma. Michigan State comes in after losing three of its last five games. The season ended with a 42-14 loss to Penn State.
TCU vs. Boise State, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 4, 7 p.m., Fox: The Horned Frogs face Boise State for the second consecutive season, though this time on a much bigger stage. It's not the national title game, but TCU still has plenty at stake. A win and TCU could start the 2010 season in the top 5, making the jump to that elusive title game a little bit easier.