Instant Analysis - Big 12
Texas 13 ... Nebraska 12
Finally, America will start naming their kids Ndamukong after a brilliant, all-timer of a performance, but lost in Suh's 12-tackle, 4.5 sack, seven tackle-for-loss game, the Hunter Lawrence gut-check game-winning field goal, and all the controversy about TCU, Cincinnati, and the flickering one-second put back on the clock because of Colt McCoy's lacksidasical effort in the final moments was the other side of the 2009 Big 12 Championship: The Texas defense.
The Nebraska offense stunk it up this year against every defense with a pulse, and some without, but the Texas defense still deserves credit for a brilliant performance that came up with stop after stop and play after play.
Five first downs allowed. 106 yards of total offense allowed, with 31 of those coming in desperation mode to get into a position for Alex Henery's 42-yard field goal. 2-of-16 third down conversions allowed. The Texas defense didn't come up with the sacks that Nebraska's did, but it was every bit as dominant and it kept the team in the game when the Huskers could've changed everything around with just one big play. Again, Nebraska doesn't exactly have Texas A&M's offense, and it was playing it close to the vest, but Texas still stuffed anything and everything and kept putting the pressure on the Husker defense.
Nebraska had to be a wee bit gassed late, even with the adrenaline kicking in, and even though it came up with a big pick to lead to the Henery late field goal, things could've been much scarier for the Longhorns after starting the drive on its own goal line.
So while everyone will be busy picking Alabama to win the national title in a blowout, don't forget about the No. 1 run defense in America.
Alabama and Texas are probably the two best programs in the country, so why do I feel so empty right now?
Kudos to the Longhorns, which found a way to win in Dallas behind an uber-clutch kick from Hunter Lawrence. However, unlike the Crimson Tide earlier in the day, the Horns' win was hardly a referendum. In fact, in their last two games, the nation's No. 3 team was ordinary, on defense versus Texas A&M and on offense tonight against that hellacious Nebraska D, which deserved a better fate.
Texas is going to Pasadena. That much is certain, but should it even be beyond debate? There are three other undefeated teams in the country, right? Cincinnati, Boise State, and especially TCU have handled their business in 2009 without a blemish, yet the system—and Lawrence—have boxed them out of dreaming of January in Southern California. And for that, everyone around the sport comes up a little short. Although it's one of those theories that can never be proven, I firmly believe the Horned Frogs can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country, including those other Horns from Austin.
For me, the excitement will surface once the bowl season begins, but I sure wish Texas dominated on championship Saturday the way Alabama did a few hours earlier. The Longhorns and the Crimson Tide will grow on me, I'm convinced, but after watching UT narrowly escape impotent Nebraska, I'm not counting down the days to Jan. 7 quite yet.
1) Okay, this will take awhile. Let's just settle down after a ridiculously wild day. Let the emotions cool off. Take away the names. Just do the homework.
Team A played its non-conference games against FCS-based Southeast Missouri State, at Oregon State, Fresno State, at Miami-Ohio, and Illinois.
Team B played its non-conference games against FCS-based Texas State, at Virginia, at Clemson, Southern Methodist.
Team C played its non-conference games against Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP, UCF.
Team A gets points for winning at Oregon State. Team B gets points for winning at Clemson. Team C gets points for not scheduling an FCS opponent. Team A's non-Oregon State profile is weak. Team B's non-Clemson profile is a little less weak because of 7-5 SMU. Team C's profile isn't enhanced by Monroe or UTEP, plus the presence of only one non-conference road game. Team A has the single best win, but Team B had a more blended portfolio and Team C saw UCF and Wyoming post decent seasons. You could kick it around a lot, but the real story is that the three resumes are very even.
Then, within each conference, consider the following: Team A's conference has only eight teams, but six of them have winning records. Team B's conference has some really weak sisters at the bottom, but five bowl teams and three teams with at least nine wins. Team C's conference has been historically powerful, but the team it barely beat on Saturday had a painfully bad offense, which shows how bad the North Division of that conference really was in 2009. Team A's three best conference wins: at Pittsburgh, West Virginia, at Rutgers. Team B's three best conference wins: at BYU, Utah, at Air Force. Team C's three best conference wins: Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, vs. Nebraska (neutral field).
Pittsburgh and West Virginia both have nine wins; BYU has 10 wins, Utah nine; Oklahoma State and Nebraska have nine wins, Texas Tech eight. Team A's conference wasn't great; neither was Team B's; neither was Team C's. You tell me who should go.
By now, you know which team is which: A is Cincinnati, B is TCU, C is Texas. Cincinnati and Texas both needed some bad mistakes from opponents to win today, and both survived incredibly deficient and flawed performances. TCU plays in the lowest-profile conference, which is also the least-credentialed conference (even with the 2009 Sugar Bowl beatdown Utah gave to Alabama), but the Horned Frogs rocked just about everyone they played, save for Clemson (not bad) and Air Force (the only truly shaky win on the slate). Cincinnati and Texas should be commended for running the table and winning their conferences, but those two teams looked ugly and – at least at times – highly undeserving of a shot at the national title, no small prize and no minor consideration.
Think of the national title debate this way: If an extra half-second elapses before Colt McCoy's pass hits the ground, Mack Brown becomes a rich man's (or is it a poor man's?) Les Miles, and Texas would have been laughed out the door on the way to the Fiesta Bowl for a miserable trip to suburban Phoenix. Should the fact that Hunter Lawrence manned up on his game-winning 46-yard field goal automatically mean that it's Horns-Tide on Jan. 7? Any conscientious college football voter/observer, in the absence of the playoff that we so painfully need, has to re-evaluate each week. I didn't expect to have this contentious a debate on my hands, but after seeing Texas perform so poorly – and receive three gifts (not bad calls, just gifts) in the final 90 seconds – it seems that Texas, under a very unfair system, has forfeited the right to enjoy automatic priority over Cincy and TCU. If you compare resumes, it's an open question. No team has a slam-dunk case, so the sniff test decides it. The Bearcats and Longhorns really wobbled, while TCU played more strong games against its roughly equivalent schedule.
For the 10,000,000th time, everybody, this system is not fair. It can only work when one – AND ONLY ONE! – scenario emerges, the magic-bullet scenario we saw in the 1999, 2002 and 2005 seasons. We didn't get that this year, and even without a Nebraska upset, we still have chaos… or at least, we ought to.
TCU gets this vote for the BCS National Championship Game, but the true solution is to have – at the very least – a plus-one. Come on, BCS pansies: Put Bama and Texas in Pasadena, fine, but then put Cincinnati and TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, and on Friday, Jan. 15 at one of the four BCS bowl sites, pit the winners against each other. This is the 21st flippin' century, for crying out loud, and the BCS is just as much of a disgrace as it's ever been. Texas deserves to play for the title. Only problem is, so does Cincy. So does TCU. So under the flawed system we have, Horned Frogs and Crimson Tide seems like the most reasonable thing to do.
2) Ndamukong Suh is the most outstanding college football player in 2009. Period. Colt McCoy isn't anywhere close to the top this season. He deserved the award last year, but not in 2009. This is NOT a career achievement award. It's not an award for the senior quarterback on a 13-0 team from a power conference. The Heisman is also not given to a player based on six games; it's an award based on 12 games, and Suh has been a beast all season long. McCoy was genuinely horrible against Oklahoma and Colorado and mediocre against Texas Tech and Wyoming. Heisman voters, if you had the good sense to hold onto your ballots until Sunday morning, you should have a very easy choice to make after the dust has settled.
Nebraska did everything right for 58 minutes, and Texas did what it had to for two. That was the difference between a delicious case of BCS chaos and a classic battle of unbeatens for the "national title." Don't tell TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State that everything worked out perfectly in the end, but if you are partial to burnt orange, Saturday's outcome was exactly what you wanted. The Longhorns couldn't do much against the rock-ribbed Nebraska defense, until it mattered. Then, thanks to a horrible mistake on a kickoff and a brain-freeze penalty, the ‘Horns moved into field goal position, and Hunter Lawrence delivered the goods. It was hardly an attractive win for Texas, but it was the 13th of the season, against no losses, and it was good enough to send the Longhorns to Pasadena. If Nebraska was going to win the game, it needed its defense to hold sway, and that it did, confounding the Longhorns for much of the night and helping set up four field goals. But in the end, not even the Black Shirts could overcome two big errors and Lawrence's big foot. For the second straight week, Texas wasn't overly impressive, but it was a winner. In the end, that was all that mattered.