Alabama-Texas title game has look of a mismatch, more bowl thoughts
In many ways, this is the best slate of games the BCS has ever given us
Pitting TCU and Boise State isn't a conspiracy, but rather a sign of respect
If you want to talk about bowl injustice, take a look at what the Gator did
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Texas -- the first-ever BCS Championship clash of 13-0 teams -- seems to warrant some grandiose, hyperbolic, "Game of the Century"-type nickname.
How about the Anticlimax Bowl? Or The Granddaddy of All Mismatches? Perhaps you prefer "Pointless in Pasadena?"
While it's true one should never assume anything when predicting a national championship matchup (see Ohio State-Miami, Texas-USC and Florida-Ohio State), it's hard to imagine two teams entering a title game having inspired such disparate degrees of confidence in their final regular-season games.
The Crimson Tide come in having annihilated defending national champion and top-ranked Florida in what was supposed to be an epic SEC Championship Game. The Longhorns, on the other hand, needed the Mother of all Miracles to survive the same Nebraska team that once lost 9-7 to Iowa State in what was supposed to be a Big 12 Championship blowout.
"I'm not sure you would say it was a good experience," Texas coach Mack Brown said of his team's 13-12 escape in Arlington. "But you have to give our kids credit for finding a way to win. I heard coach Saban say after the [Alabama]-Auburn game, 'The strong survive at this time of year.' If you look at Alabama at 13-0 and Texas at 13-0, these teams deserve a tremendous amount of credit."
Perhaps, but I'm not sure too many people view these 13-0 teams quite the same. Normally, the nation's annual BCS gripe-fest revolves around the unfortunate team(s) that got snubbed. But 98 percent of the complaints that arrived in my in-box late Saturday night and Sunday (an annual tradition this time of year) were directed at one of the teams that got in. And it wasn't Alabama.
Four years ago, Vince Young channeled a similar sense of disrespect into one of the greatest performances the Rose Bowl Stadium has ever seen, and the 'Horns knocked off heavily favored USC. Colt McCoy will presumably carry similar motivation on Jan. 7, and one should never doubt a guy who's won more games (45) than any starting quarterback in history.
But he'll have to forgive us if we're not exactly riled up with confidence after watching the Texas star endure nine sacks, toss three interceptions and very nearly commit college football's answer to Chris Webber's timeout in Saturday night's Nebraska game.
Consider: In his three games against top 40 pass defenses this season (Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska), McCoy has thrown for an average of 192 yards, with two touchdowns and five interceptions. (Overall: 270.2 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs). Alabama's pass defense ranks seventh nationally.
Texas fans could justifiably counter that their defense held the Huskers without a touchdown and has been stellar in all but one game (Texas A&M) this season. The 'Horns rank third nationally in total defense -- one spot behind Florida, the same team Alabama just burned for 490 yards Saturday.
"I think you read much too much into one game," Nick Saban said of Texas' Saturday-night escape. "Consistency in performance is the most difficult thing in this day and age. You don't always play your best. We played a game like that at Auburn [a last-minute 26-21 win on Nov. 27], then came back and played a great game the next week against Florida. Its tough to hit on all cylinders all the time, but the great teams find ways to win."
He's right about that. Obviously McCoy -- a long-proven superstar who had little control over the fact his offensive line was helpless to stop the Surge of (Ndaumkong) Suh on Saturday -- and the 'Horns should be commended for going 13-0, no small feat.
Unfortunately, Texas managed to go all 13 games without delivering a single eye-opening performance like Alabama's win over Florida. It never had the chance. Its highest-ranked opponent in the final BCS standings was No. 19 Oklahoma State. Conversely, Alabama beat three teams in the top 15 (No. 5 Florida, No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 12 LSU).
Yet with all that said, I can't authoritatively argue that one of the three other remaining undefeated teams (Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State) belong in Texas' place.
The Horned Frogs, which finished fourth in the final standings (a notable accomplishment considering no previous non-BCS team had finished higher than sixth), seem to be the popular choice. They certainly pass the eyeball test. TCU was incredibly dominant down the stretch, winning its last seven games by an average 31.1-point margin.
But the Horned Frogs played just six teams that finished .500 or better (8-5 Clemson, 7-5 SMU, 7-5 Air Force, 10-2 BYU, 9-3 Utah and 6-6 Wyoming). By comparison, Alabama and Texas both played nine. That's why they're facing 13-0 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl rather than 13-0 Alabama in Pasadena.
The fact that Cincinnati, even with its Big East affiliation, still finished behind TCU in three major human polls (AP, coaches and Harris) shows the amount of importance voters place on quality defense. The Horned Frogs rank No. 1 nationally in that department for the second straight year. The high-flying Bearcats are incredibly fun to watch, never more so than in Saturday's 45-44 shootout against Pittsburgh, but nobody would mistake Cincinnati's defense for that of the Bengals.
They did, however, play a much tougher schedule than TCU's, facing seven foes with seven or more wins. Four of the six BCS computers ranked the Bearcats ahead of Texas, boosting them to No. 3 in the final standings -- potentially one missed Texas field goal from playing for the crystal trophy. If Cincy entered Saturday possibly hoping for a date with then-No. 1 Florida ... well, they're getting it, albeit in the Sugar Bowl.
"I can tell you the kickoff specialist from Nebraska is not getting a Christmas card from us," joked Bearcats coach Brian Kelly in reference to the out-of-bounds kickoff that started Texas' winning drive at the 40. "Obviously it's bittersweet. We were disappointed because we thought we might get the opportunity."
Boise State never seriously entered the title discussion despite the fact the Broncos were technically the most dominant team of all. Only one opponent (Tulsa) even came within a touchdown against them, and, as has been noted countless times, they held Pac-10 champion Oregon to eight points. Over the course of the season, however, Boise played nine of its 13 games against teams ranked 73rd or lower in Jerry Palm's expanded BCS standings.
"For us, just to be playing in two BCS games in four years -- five years ago, no one would have thought that was possible," said Broncos coach Chris Petersen.
In many ways, this is the best set of games the BCS has ever given us. For the first time in BCS history, there will be two matchups of undefeated teams (Alabama-Texas and TCU-Boise State). For the first time in three years, there will be two games pitting top-five teams (the title game and the Sugar Bowl). And for the first time since the BCS expanded to five games in 2006, all 10 berths went to top 10 teams.
Yet one can already see this ending in exactly the same fashion as the past three editions: With the SEC champion celebrating atop a stage and the rest of the country lamenting that someone else didn't get a chance.
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