For the fourth consecutive season, the SEC champion will play for the national championship. The Crimson Tide marched through their schedule with relative ease, dominating most of its foes along the way. Texas, meanwhile, underachieved as much as a 13-0 team can. The Longhorns failed to blow people away on offense much of the season, save for about a three-game stretch mid-season.
Both teams are led by respective Heisman finalists. Colt McCoy is in his fourth season as Texas’ starting quarterback. A national championship would go a long way in cementing his place as one of the all-time greats.
The Tide’s Mark Ingram busted onto the scene this season with a 150-yard, two-touchdown performance against Virginia Tech, and only improved as the season unfolded. Ingram is a powerful back that wears down defenses with his physical style until they simply can’t bring him down by the end of the game.
When Alabama has the ball:
The key matchup will be quarterback Greg McElroy’s handling of the Texas secondary. Earl Thomas is one of the best safeties in the country, and he is only a sophomore. His eight interceptions are among the best in the country.
Texas’ defense has played well for the most part this season, allowing only 15 points per game. The only team to score more than 24 points against the Longhorns was Texas A & M. No teams have been able to run the ball effectively against the Big 12 champions, but no team has had a running back like Ingram.
When Texas has the ball:
The Tide's defense is unquestionably the best in the country. Terrance Cody is a 350-pound run-stuffing machine at defensive tackle. Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain controls the second level of defense at middle linebacker. Javier Arenas is one of the most versatile cornerbacks at the collegiate level.
It’s going to be tough sledding for McCoy, who has struggled against the better defenses he’s faced this season. In the games against Oklahoma and Nebraska, he was a combined 54 percent on completions with one touchdown and four interceptions.
If McCoy does have success throwing the ball, it will be because his All-American wide receiver Jordan Shipley is catching passes. Shipley is a deceptively fast receiver with great hands. Think Wes Welker in burnt orange.
Leigh Tiffin is Alabama’s all-time leading scorer, and the most reliable kicker in the country. He has been the difference between winning and losing for the Tide several times in his four-year career. This season, he is 27 for 31 on field goals. In a game that will be controlled by defense, Tiffin’s leg could very well bring the national championship home to Tuscaloosa.
Who has the edge?
Alabama silenced all the doubters in its 32-13 win against Florida in the SEC title game. The Tide will be prohibitive favorites heading into the game, which is being played in Pasadena. The Tide defense could be mistaken for an NFL unit. If they get pressure on McCoy early and often, Texas will struggle. If McCoy is able to throw comfortably from the pocket, the ‘Horns have a chance. Last time Texas played for the national title, it was 4 years ago in…you guessed it, Pasadena. They were underdogs to USC in that game, and…you guessed it, they won the game. The Texas faithful are hoping for a similar result this time around. Sadly for them, it’s not meant to be.