Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide were near perfect against the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game to secure a spot in the National Championship. The Texas Longhorns did not look as convincing as they barely escaped in a 13-12 win over Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game played on December 5th in Dallas. Both teams are undefeated going into the January 7th Championship Game as the regular season ended with the least controversy possible as the two best teams in college football will be playing in the season finale.
The #2 Texas Longhorns come into Pasadena to face the favored #1 Crimson Tide from Alabama led by running back and Heisman Candidate Mark Ingram. Both teams not only bring Heisman candidates into the game, but tough defense. Both teams are top 10 in the nation for least points allowed per game, yards allowed per game, interceptions, and are #1 and #2 in rushing yards allowed (Texas #1, Alabama #2).
Here are several important match-ups to watch:
Mark Ingram vs. Texas Rush Defense
Texas will need to bring their #1 ranked rushing defense along with them to stop Mark Ingram who has 1542 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. The Longhorns have not allowed a single back 100 yards rushing in any of their 13 games this season. In 5 games, the opposition’s leading rusher has failed to exceed 40 yards rushing. I would not expect any defense to shut down Ingram, but if there was a unit that could pull it off, it’s Texas’ rush defense. Ingram will break the 100 yard mark, but it will take a few screen passes to spread out the defense first. I like Ingram to win this battle with 120 yards and 2 TD’s.
Winner: Mark Ingram
Colt McCoy vs. Alabama Secondary
Alabama will have to worry about the pass more than the run in this contest. Alabama has allowed the 6th least passing yards this season and have only given up 8 touchdowns through the air, good for 4th in the nation. After week 12, McCoy had 3328 yards passing (9th in FBS), and a 3-1 TD to interception ratio (27-9). Colt McCoy was bailed out in the Big 12 Championship game as he had a terrible performance with 3 interceptions and no touchdowns, going 20-36 for 184 yards. This will be a critical match-up, and may come down to the final drive, but I have to go with the Alabama secondary who has hauled in 20 interceptions this season.
Winner: Alabama Secondary
Special Teams Battle
When you have a battle between two teams with top 10 defenses, special teams often can decide the game. This match-up is heavily in Texas’ favor. Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley is one of the most dangerous return men in college football and averages 13.3 yards per punt return and has two touchdowns via punt return this year. Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence showed how clutch he could be by making a 46-yard field goal to put away Nebraska with no time left in the Big 12 Championship. Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin failed an extra point attempt against Florida, which due to the score proved not to be a factor, but is still a mistake you cannot have in big games.
Winner: Texas Special Teams
Mack Brown vs. Nick Saban
This match-up could go either way depending at how you look at it. Both coaches have had success at multiple schools and have won a BCS National Championship. Speaking strictly on bowl games, you have to go with Mack Brown judging by his 11-5 bowl record including 5 straight bowl wins over the last 5 seasons. Saban has lost 3 of his last 4 bowl games, the only win in that period was in the 2007 Independence Bowl against a 6-6 Colorado team. Both are great coaches, but in a big bowl game, Brown is the Mack.
Winner: Mack Brown
Other Factors to Consider
Jim Rome Karma- Regardless of whether you believe in “Jungle Karma” or not, it seems to reign true more than not. Mack Brown has more “Jungle Karma” than any other coach in college football according to Van Smack himself. Mack was on the Jim Rome show the Thursday before the Nebraska game, and it looks like it paid off just enough.
Greg McElroy Undefeated- In Junior College and at Alabama, McElroy is undefeated as a starting quarterback.
Final Prediction: So I had five match-ups to watch, and Texas took three of them so that means that Texas will be my pick, right? Not so fast. The Longhorns inconsistency to run the ball will hurt them in the biggest game of the year. Alabama will play a Nebraska like game that almost sent Texas away without a chance at getting to the BCS title game. Texas leading rusher against the Cornhuskers had 36 yards, and the team as a whole had only 18 yards rushing. I don’t expect Colt to have an equally awful game with 3 picks and no touchdowns, but he will have to have a near perfect game to keep it close against Alabama. I think the combination of Mark Ingram, and the Tides secondary will be just enough to get past Texas for the National Championship in a tight contest.
Prediction: Alabama 21 Texas 20
MVP: Mark Ingram 120 Yards rushing, 2 TD’s, 3 catches for 40 yards