Posted: Thursday December 22, 2005 3:55PM; Updated: Friday December 23, 2005 2:37PM
Bowl Breakdown: Cotton
No. 13 Alabama (9-2) vs. No. 18 Texas Tech (9-2)
Jan. 2, 11 a.m. (FOX)
Cotton Bowl (68,252)
SI.com's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down Alabama
Tide QB Brodie Croyle is a prolific passer, but without Tyrone Prothro the offense sputtered.
For 10 games, 'Bama's blue-collar defense was among the stiffest in the country, holding eight straight opponents to 16 points or less. All-America linebacker DeMeco Ryans is the star, but a host of fellow seniors -- DE Mark Anderson, LB Freddie Roach and DBs Anthony Madison, Roman Harper and Charlie Peprah -- are almost always in the right place.
Injuries to star receiver Tyrone Prothro and center J.B. Closner severely hampered the Tide's offense, which struggled to sustain drives the second half of the season. The line allowed 37 sacks. Quarterback Brodie Croyle is a tremendous leader with a beautiful release, but the Prothro-less receiving corps is average. Tailback Ken Darby is a steady performer, though he scored just three touchdowns.
Breaking down Texas Tech
Mike Leach's high-powered aerial attack put up big numbers again in 2005, led by senior quarterback Cody Hodges' 67.7 completion percentage and 4,042 passing yards. The goal of Leach's offense is to distribute the ball evenly among the skill positions, and tailback Taurean Henderson and receivers Robert Johnson, Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani all caught between 61 and 64 passes.
Tech, long a defensive doormat, was much-improved this season. Led by hard-hitting All-America safety Dwayne Slay, who forced eight fumbles, and fellow safety Vincent Meeks, the Red Raiders ranked eighth nationally in pass defense. They're not immune to defensive breakdowns, though -- Texas scored 52 points against them, and Oklahoma State ran for 303 yards in a 24-17 upset.
Alabama's strong cast of seniors will be looking for redemption after their embarrassing Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. The Crimson Tide has the kind of fast, athletic defense that can get pressure on Hodges, and while the offense was abysmal the second half of the season, Croyle is due to go out with a big game.