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2010 BCS Champ. Position Breakdown - Defense
Texas S Earl Thomas & Bama CB Javier Arenas
Texas S Earl Thomas & Bama CB Javier Arenas
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 6, 2010


Check out the position-by-position breakdown of the Longhorn and the Crimson Tide defenses.


2010 BCS Championship Breakdown

Alabama vs. Texas - Defenses


- CFN 2010 BCS Championship Preview  
- CFN 2009 BCS Championship Breakdown - Florida vs. Oklahoma  

- CFN 2010 BCS Championship Breakdown - Offenses

By Pete Fiutak

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alabama: The fantastic talent in the Bama defensive back eight overshadows the production from the front three. 6-5, 354-pound Terrence Cody isn’t Ndamukong Suh, he isn’t a pass rusher and he doesn’t make a ton of stops, but he takes on two and three blockers at a time and is an anchor in the truest sense of the term. Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick function as extra tackles, Washington is 290 yards and Deaderick is 306, holding up against the run while everyone else gets to produce. The stats might not be there, but forgets about running against this group.
Texas: If this isn’t the best defensive line in America, it’s No. 2. Junior Sam Acho has emerged as a difference-making pass rusher on one side, while the Longhorns have big, beefy blocks of granite on the inside with Kheeston Randall, Ben Alexander, Lamarr Houston and Tyrell Higgins forming a tough tackle rotation that doesn’t let anything pass. And then there’s Sergio Kindle, who was expected to be the next Brian Orakpo, didn’t do enough to get to the quarterback and was seen as a disappointment because he only had 3.5 sacks, but was still among the nation’s best ends because he did everything else well. Kindle might not come up with any sacks against the Tide, but he’ll force a few mistakes by breathing down hard on McElroy.
ADVANTAGE Texas. The Longhorn ends are a little splashy, but the two lines are used to hold firm to let the other stars shine. No one has had any luck at running on either line with the talent up front being why UT is No. 1 in the nation against the run and Bama is No. 2. In this game, though, with the Tide needing to run, the Texas front four could make the difference.

LINEBACKERS

Alabama: Let’s get this out of the way: Rolando McClain is overrated. He was on TV every week, he’s the unquestioned leader of one of the nation’s best defenses, and he’s going to make some NFL team very, very happy, but he wasn’t the best linebacker in America this season and he won all the big awards based on reputation as much as anything else. There are several other linebackers in America who’d have been just as good behind Cody and the Tide defensive front. With that said, he’s going to have a monster game against a team that he should dominate against. Terrific at dropping into coverage, he should easily hit the double-digit mark in tackles against the short Texas passing game. If you don’t see a lot of yards after the catch coming from the UT receivers, McClain will probably be the reason why. He’ll also be used to make sure that McCoy doesn’t break off big runs going up the middle. Eryk Anders is a quick playmaker in Bama’s Jack position, Cory Reamer is a strong run defender with great range on the strongside, and Nico Johnson is a star in the making on the weakside, but they’re all just very, very good players working around one superstar in the middle.
Texas: The sum of the Texas linebackers are better than the parts. Roddrick Muckelroy is sure-tackler in the middle earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors following a solid 79 tackle season and Emmanuel Acho is a rising star on the strongside, but this is a group that’s been able to flourish on sheer athleticism and hasn’t had to deal with any true power running games. The Longhorn linebackers are at their best when they get to run to the ball and chase down quick ball-carriers. It’ll be interesting to see how they hold up if Ingram and company can get to the second level.
ADVANTAGE Alabama, but not by as much as you might think. Texas doesn’t have a McClain, but it’s a rock-solid group. Both corps can move and both will make plays in the backfield while cleaning everything up that their respective lines don’t stuff.

SECONDARY

Alabama: The Crimson Tide defensive backs are mostly used in man coverage and can get away with taking chances because of 1) their tremendous talent and athleticism and 2) because no one in the SEC could throw the ball outside of Arkansas. The Hogs bomb away, but their receivers weren’t exactly Randy Moss and Andre Johnson, and LSU, who does have a few solid NFL receiving prospects, ended up getting shut down partly because Jarrett Lee came in the game. Javier Arenas might be a better return man than he is a corner, and he’s an all-star in both spots with peerless quickness and open field tackling ability (especially for his size). Strong safety Mark Barron has turned into a special playmaker, taking over for Rashad Johnson in the secondary, finishing with 70 tackles and seven interceptions. Justin Woodall has nice coverage skills, but he plays more like another linebacker than a pure safety, and Kareem Jackson is a solid all-around corner who shines when teams try to stay away from Arenas.
Texas: This is a young group with four sophomores starting, but it’s among the most talented defensive backfield Mack Brown has ever had. At least it’s close. Earl Thomas is one of college football’s best all-around defensive backs with safety skills against the run and the quickness to erase anyone’s No. 1 receiver as a corner. The 5-10, 197-pound safety makes big plays happen all over the field and is the one the rest of the secondary works around. Thomas is the team’s best player in the secondary, but Curtis Brown is the best corner. He has next-level speed and athleticism with the quickness to match up with Marquis Maze if needed and the toughness to not get shoved around by Julio Jones.
ADVANTAGE Dead even. Barron and Arenas are excellent, but the Longhorn defensive backs have more skills and are better at taking the ball away. Texas came up with a whopping 24 interceptions this season, while Alabama came up with 20, but the Tide is better against short-to-midrange passers and allowed just 48% of passes to be completed.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Alabama: Leigh Tiffin would’ve been a lock for the Lou Groza Award any other year, but UCLA’s Kai Forbath turned out to be everything for the Bruin offense. Tiffin nailed 29-of-33 field goals, and while he didn’t have to come up with the truly clutch kick, he’s as reliable as they come. Javier Arenas is among the nation’s most dangerous all-around kick and punt returners averaging 16.34 yards per punt return and 29 yards per kickoff try. Punter P.J. Fitzgerald is solid averaging a nice 42.1 yards per punt.
Texas: All Jordan Shipley has done is return more kicks and punts for touchdowns than anyone in Texas football history, while D.J. Monroe is a special kickoff returner averaging 35.79 yards per try, good for second in the nation. Hunter Lawrence connected on 22-of-25 field goal attempts, and after nailing the 46-yard bomb in the clutch against Nebraska to set the Longhorns to Pasadena, he’ll never have to buy another meal in Austin. Justin Tucker isn’t bad, but his average stinks because he’s more of a directional kicker and didn’t get many chances. He only punted 39 times.
ADVANTAGE Even. Neither team is a rock at covering punts, but Texas is worse. However, Alabama is miserable in kickoff coverage (Texas is fine) and that could turn out to be the difference. Each team has returners who can take a kick the distance, each team has fantastic field goal kickers, and neither team has a major advantage over the other. The mediocre Texas punting might be offset by the Bama kick coverage team.

COACHING

Alabama: Nick Saban is among the giants in the game with one national title under his belt and at least one more on the way before he’s done at Alabama, even if Texas wins this game. While he’s known for being a big game head coach, that hasn’t necessarily been the case when his teams are the favorites. 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. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain isn’t necessarily a risk-taker, but he’s creative with what he’s able to do to mix things up. Kirby Smart might be the defensive coordinator, but this is Saban’s D.
Texas: Mack Brown has always been a special recruiter and has been a far better coach than he gets credit for, but he’s not necessarily considered a top Xs and Os mind. Whatever. He wins, he wins a lot, and most of being a college head coach is about bringing in the top players and creating an atmosphere of greatness. Brown has done that. One thing Brown has been able to do as well as anyone is hire tremendous assistants, and with Will Muschamp his defensive coordinator, Major Applewhite a top assistant and running backs coach, , and Greg Davis as offensive coordinator, Brown has some serious talent around him. Don’t think that Brown can’t coach or match wits with Saban, though. You don’t get within a heartbeat of two national titles without knowing how to teach a little bit.
ADVANTAGE Even. The two staffs are as good as any in the game. There are several future head coaches among the assistants, while Brown and Saban are in their prime with each on the cusp of true greatness. If anything, though, the Texas staff, primarily Muschamp, knows Saban and the Alabama staff, having worked with many of them at LSU. Don’t read too much into that.