Cavalcade of Whimsy
Dec. 15, Part 2
Dec. 14, Part
1 - Understanding The U.
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten reasons why Texas will win the national title (before you get all Alabamaey and bomb me with e-mails about disrespect and negativity, because I’ve never written anything positive about the Crimson Tide, next week will be the ten reasons why your Tide will win the national title). We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the matchup, like the breakdown of the lines, Texas receivers vs. Bama secondary, etc., later next week in the bowl previews. These are ten non-X-and-O reasons …
10. The Alabama pass defense
The Tide finished seventh in the nation against the pass allowing just 164 yards per game while it led the nation in pass efficiency defense. While that sounds impressive, the defense only faced one bomber of a quarterback, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. While the Hog sophomore started out the season with two great games, this was only his third game with the team (he completed 12-of-35 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown with a pick). South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia had some success, but he couldn’t get his Gamecocks into the end zone, Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead had a lousy year (Bama doesn’t deserve too much credit for shutting him down), and Tim Tebow threw for 247 yards.
While the Tide defensive back seven is talented, Arkansas was the only team on the schedule ranked in the top 43 among passing teams (the Hogs were ranked tenth). Florida is fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (and Tebow had a decent 120.1 rating in the title game) and Auburn 18th (Chris Todd’s rating was 139.2), but the rest of the SEC teams are ranked 40th or lower. Colt McCoy didn’t have his most efficient season, and he struggled against Nebraska throwing three picks, but he’s too good to come up with another clunker.
9. The Texas run defense
Texas finished No. 1 in the nation in run defense allowing just 61 yards per game and gave up just five touchdowns. Only three teams got over 85 yards on the ground while Oklahoma finished with -16 net, Nebraska came up with just 67 and UTEP, led by star Donald Buckram, finished with just nine. Alabama has to be able to run well to win, and it has to be able to dominate with the offensive line. Florida could be shoved around if punched in the mouth a bit, while Texas is more physical up front.
8. Terrence Cody isn’t Ndamukong Suh
It’ll be tempting to assume that Cody, Bama’s terrific defensive tackle, will start rag-dolling the interior of the Texas offensive line just like Suh did in the Big 12 title game. But Cody and Suh play two different games and Texas will be facing a far different line. Suh is more of a playmaker and a pass rusher who works well in open space, while Cody is a space-eater who anchors the rest of the defense. Cody doesn’t have a sack on the year and has just six tackles for loss on the season; Suh had seven tackles for loss in one game against the Horns.
Yes, it’s a different year and there are different circumstances, but the Horns can learn a lot from the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Alabama was down after the loss to Florida in last year’s SEC Championship, didn’t have Andre Smith at tackle, and didn’t appear to be interested from moment one, but Utah had a lot to do with the butt-kicking.
The Utes came out with an up-tempo offense, was in a great rhythm from the start, and sold out on defense to get into the backfield. The Longhorns have the best pass rush Bama has faced, and that includes Ole Miss, and while they’ve been great at getting into the backfield all season long, they got better as the season wore on with 20 sacks in the final five games along with 42 tackles for loss. Granted, there was only one sack and four tackles for loss against Nebraska, but there wasn’t any need to get to the quarterback of an attack that managed just 106 yards of total offense. Like Utah of last year, Texas has a senior quarterback who knows what he’s doing, a dangerous receiving corps, and the potential to come out storming.
6. The Heisman factor
Teams full of 18-to-22-year-old kids always go for the easy motivation, and when they have a prize of a Heisman winner to stop, and with weeks to prepare, they tend to shut down the star and/or get the win in the bowl. The trend doesn’t lie.
2008 Heisman winner – Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. Loss to Florida.
2007 Heisman winner – Tim Tebow, Florida. Loss to Michigan.
2006 Heisman winner – Troy Smith, Ohio State. Loss to Florida.
2005 Heisman winner – Reggie Bush, USC. Loss to Texas.
2004 Heisman winner – Matt Leinart, USC. Win over Oklahoma.
2003 Heisman winner – Jason White, Oklahoma. Loss to LSU.
2002 Heisman winner – Carson Palmer, USC. Win over Iowa.
2001 Heisman winner – Eric Crouch, Nebraska. Loss to Miami.
2000 Heisman winner – Chris Weinke, Florida State. Loss to Oklahoma.
Going back further, the Heisman winners rocked in the 1990s, but in this decade they’re just 2-7 in bowl games and 1-6 in national championships. Of course, Alabama knows this and Mark Ingram should be ready, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a marked man.
5. “Nobody respects us … “
This is like a great fastball; you know it’s coming, but you still might not be able to hit it. Alabama has already heard about how it has to guard against overconfidence and has already heard about how Texas is going to feel disrespected. That doesn’t mean that the Longhorns still won’t come out with a little bit of an edge and a little more nastiness than a Tide team that might be thinking deep down that blasting away against Florida decided the real national championship. Alabama made Tim Tebow cry and it’s going to worry about a Texas team that couldn’t stop Texas A&M and couldn’t produce offensively against Nebraska? The other problem might be Nick Saban as the favorite.
Under Saban, his underdog LSU team shocked Tennessee in the 2001 SEC Championship, and even with the win, Illinois was still ranked higher going into the Sugar Bowl. LSU won easily. The Tigers lost the 2003 Cotton Bowl to Texas, and then in the 2003 season were a 6.5-point underdog in the 2004 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. They won the national title. The next year, LSU was a 6.5-point favorite over Iowa in the Capital One Bowl and lost. Florida was favored in last year’s SEC Championship, but it was ranked fourth in the BCS while Bama was No. 1 (the Gators won), and the Tide was an 11-point favorite against Utah in the Sugar Bowl (and lost). This year, as the underdog against Florida in the SEC title game the Tide pulled off the win. Got all of that?
In the biggest of the big games, Saban, with the higher ranked team and as the favorite, won the 2007 Independence Bowl over Colorado and destroyed Georgia in the 2003 SEC Championship. But the track record hasn’t been strong when he’s coaching the team that’s supposed to get the win.
4. Colt McCoy is better than Greg McElroy
Can McElroy do it again? The late drive for the win over Auburn appeared to have sparked his confidence and he was magnificent against Florida completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards and a score. But now the Longhorns will get time to prepare for him.
It’s not like the Florida game was a fluke; McElroy was strong against Virginia Tech, Arkansas, and LSU, and he has only thrown one interception in his last six games, but he’s not Colt McCoy.
Granted, he wasn’t supposed to be Tim Tebow, either, and he outplayed the Gator star. But McCoy is every bit the winner that McElroy is (he’s the winningest starting quarterback in NCAA history), and he has been phenomenal in the three bowl games throwing for 308 yards and two scores in the 2006 Alamo Bowl win over Iowa, completed 21-of-31 passes for 174 yards in the easy win over Arizona State in the 2007 Holiday Bowl, and completed 41-of-58 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final seconds, to beat Ohio State in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. He has won all three of his bowl games, threw only one pick, and ran for two touchdowns.
3. Air travel
If you’re a believer in trends and historical tendencies, this one is for you.
Non-SEC fans always beef about how the SEC never travels anywhere. Here’s why …
2003 - at Hawaii 37 – Alabama 29
2002 - Alabama 21 - at Hawaii16
2000 - at UCLA 35 – Alabama 24
1991 - Fiesta Bowl Louisville 34 – Alabama 7
Since the 1985 24-3 Aloha Bowl win over USC, Alabama has taken a really long plane trip west four times and was 1-3. Yes, it’s a quirky trend, but it shows that the program just isn’t used to going anywhere far. Now compare Bama’s trips to what Texas has done under Mack Brown.
2009 Fiesta Bowl – Texas 24 – Ohio State 21.
2007 Holiday Bowl – Texas 52 – Arizona State 34
2006 Rose Bowl – Texas 41 – USC 38
2005 - Texas 25 – at Ohio State 22 (not a West Coast trip, but still a long, tough road game)
2005 Rose Bowl – Texas 38 – Michigan 37
2003 Holiday Bowl – Washington State 28 – Texas 20
2001 Holiday Bowl – Texas 47 – Washington 43
For what it’s worth, Texas is 6-1 on long trips to big games since 2001 and Brown is 2-0 in Pasadena. Speaking of trends …
2. The No. 2 vs. No. 1 thing
Go back to the disrespect factor, call it a quirk, whatever. A trend is a trend is a trend …
2009 BCS Championship – No. 2 Florida over No. 1 Oklahoma
2008 BCS Championship – No. 2 LSU over No. 1 Ohio
2007 BCS Championship – No. 2 Florida over No. 1 Ohio State
2006 Rose Bowl – No. 2 Texas over No. 1 USC
2005 Orange Bowl – No. 1 USC over No. 2 Oklahoma
2004 Sugar Bowl – No. 2 LSU over No. 1 Oklahoma
2003 Fiesta Bowl – No. 2 Ohio State over No. 1 Miami
From 1999 to 2002 the BCS No. 1 beat the BCS No. 2, but the recent trend is alarming. Chalk it up to Oklahoma and Ohio State being overrated, or call it the No. 2 team feeling disrespected, but going 6-1 in the last seven games is a serious streak. Throw in the Heisman factor, and 2004 USC bucked the odds.
1. Texas really is good
It’s not like this is Oklahoma or Ohio State of the past few seasons and is getting another shot after disappointing America in previous big games, and it’s not like this is Boise State; a great team in a bad conference. The Big 12 might be awful this year, and Texas didn’t exactly extend itself in non-conference play, but this is a loaded team that’s keeping a tremendous roll going. The Longhorns have won 26 of their last 27 games, with the one loss coming on the all-timer of a Michael Crabtree touchdown, and have won 75 of their last 84 games with three of the losses coming to Oklahoma, one to a national title Ohio State team, and two to arch-rival Texas A&M. Under Mack Brown, Texas has nine straight double-digit win seasons with four straight bowl victories. This is one of the powerhouses of all powerhouses, and you don’t get to this point without being really good, and without knowing how to sidestep a few dozen landmines.
No longer is this the program full of underachieving talents with a questionable tactician as the head coach. Texas is loaded with a tremendous mix of star veterans and big-time young talents, and they have all the speed and skill of Alabama, all the offensive firepower, all the defensive toughness, and they have the ability to be the national champion.
Don’t focus on the Texas A&M and Nebraska games. The real measure of how good this team is might have come in the middle of the season with road stompings of Missouri and Oklahoma State. Those were two of the best four teams in the conference (Nebraska being the other) and the Longhorns won by a combined score of 82 to 21 in games that weren’t even that close. Yes, Texas A&M got hot and got the offense rolling, and Texas still won by double-digits. Yes, it took a slight-miracle of a timekeeping error and a bomb of a field goal to beat Nebraska, but that wasn’t any less shaky than Alabama needing two blocked field goals to beat Tennessee at home or a big late drive to get by Auburn.
Alabama is terrific, and again, next week will be the Ten Reasons Why The Tide Will Win, but don’t just hand the trophy over to Nick and the boys quite yet.
Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn’t feel like writing bigger blurbs for.
- The biggest blunder on all the all-star teams came in the Pac 10. Arizona corner Devin Ross was one of the league’s best cover-corner, he led the team in tackles, and he picked off a pass, but he was named just an honorable mention all-conference pick. He and fellow corner Trevin Wade were terrific.
- When Turner Gill was the starting quarterback at Nebraska, the Huskers were 4-0 against Kansas by a combined score of 204 to 28.
- Tackles James Carpenter and Drew Davis, guards Mike Johnson and Barrett Jones, and center William Vlachos. That’s why Mark Ingram won the Heisman.
- People, stop. A plus-one won’t work, the way most people are proposing it, wouldn’t work. It not fair to match No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a bowl game and then have the winner of that play one more game against a less team. However, this year, a true plus-one would be TCU vs. Alabama and Cincinnati vs. Texas. That would’ve been cool.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Mark Ingram crying … Underrated: “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY.”
2) Overrated: gingerbread anything … Underrated: peppermint mocha anything
3) Overrated: A “five minute plan” ... Underrated: A “five year plan”
4) Overrated: Jake Locker ... Underrated: Ryan Mallett
5) Overrated: It’s A Wonderful Life ... Underrated: Christmas Vacation
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn’t my fault … Mardy Gilyard and the seniors didn’t have my back.
Dec. 14, Part
1 - Understanding The U.