The one thing standing in Texas' way, Fiesta fallout, more mail
Texas' offensive line hasn't performed well against elite defensive fronts
If the 17-10 Fiesta Bowl had featured SEC teams, we'd call it a classic
Plus: Mack Brown's future, Nebraska's top 10 worth, Cincy's slide, more
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Well, here we are, on the eve of the game I once proposed calling the "The Granddaddy of All Mismatches." Hopefully those of you familiar with my writing style understand I was being tongue-in-cheek -- but that surely won't prevent a world-record deluge of hate mail streaming in from the state of Texas should the Longhorns prevail Thursday night.
So -- should I be getting nervous?
Has your opinion of the Alabama-Texas outcome changed at all since your original article?
Well first of all, having already clinched a losing season on my bowl picks, there's no reason for me or anyone else to be confident in my prognostication abilities right now. In the weeks after that article was published, I started thinking more about the matchup and started having some buyer's remorse. Was I reading too much into the teams' last games (remember, that column was written less than 24 hours after Texas-Nebraska)? Was I not giving Colt McCoy enough credit for his potential to deliver a Vince Young-style sendoff? Was I giving Alabama's offense too much credit based off the Florida game, considering the Tide rarely looked that complete for much of the season?
Of course, Mack Brown is now playing up the David vs. Goliath angle on a daily basis (much to Nick Saban's considerable chagrin), and we all know the recent history of widely discounted teams (namely 2000 Oklahoma, 2002 Ohio State, 2005 Texas, 2006 Florida) in BCS title games.
But after being out here a few days, after talking to members of both teams, after boning up on both teams' collective work over the course of the season, I simply can't get over the one glaring issue that makes it hard for me to envision the Longhorns winning: Texas' offensive line.
Obviously, a team doesn't go 13-0 by accident, and the Longhorns' offense played at a high level for much of the season. But the two times they faced an elite defensive front -- against Oklahoma and Nebraska -- they simply could not protect McCoy. The Sooners sacked him four times; the Huskers nine. Now they're going up against an Alabama defense known first and foremost for its endless array of blitzes and ability to disguise them. I don't doubt Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis will be ready with some countermoves (look for McCoy to run more draws for himself), and I know McCoy himself is adept at making quick reads and adjusting accordingly. But at the end of the day, there's only so much he can do if his line doesn't protect him.
At Sunday's media session, I spent some time at Texas center Chris Hall's riser. Hall seems like an incredibly nice guy. He had a big smile on his face the entire time he was up there. I wish the guy no harm. But when asked what reason people should have to believe that his O-line will fare better against the Tide's defense than it did against Nebraska, Hall's reply was simply: "If we don't, we'll be in trouble." Then he burst out laughing. It didn't exactly fill me with confidence.
But what do I know? I'm the guy who picked Arizona to beat Nebraska.
Stewart, I thoroughly enjoyed the Boise State-TCU game. The defenses played well. Just because it was not a shootout does not mean it was not a good game. I bet if the game involved UT and 'Bama, it would be considered a "classic."
Boise State-TCU was the worst BCS game ever. I have seen more exciting and more complete teams in high school games in Texas. Boise State needs someone like Florida or Alabama or Texas to punch them in the mouth. Don't give me the Oklahoma game defense. They won that on a trick play, and they won last night's game on a trick play. They are as good for college football as a gun show is for the NBA.
No matter what the result had been Monday night, there would have been detractors. If the game had been 43-42, they would have complained that the teams don't play defense. Instead it was 17-10, so now the game was "boring." Was it sloppy at times? Sure. There were penalties. There were turnovers. Both quarterbacks missed open receivers. A TCU player dropped a sure touchdown. But these things happen in lots of games. During the third quarter, when the score was 10-10 and neither team could seem to get anything going, I turned to the writer seated next to me and said: If you played this exact same game but put SEC uniforms on the two teams, Gary Danielson would be telling us "It doesn't get any better than this!"
I'm not na´ve to the fact that Boise State doesn't have the same caliber of athletes as Alabama or Texas. Would the Broncos go 14-0 playing an SEC or Big 12 schedule? I highly doubt it. But all the Boise States of the world have ever wanted is a "shot." And something like 70 percent of you think there should be a college playoff. You don't have to beat a team four-out-of-seven in a football playoff, you just have to beat it once. And the way the Broncos played defense Monday night, they could have shut down just about anybody. They held a team that went in averaging 256 rushing yards to 36. That's just unbelievable.
I used to believe a team like Boise was pretty good, but could never beat a big-time team in a championship setting. I can't possibly say that now. Any team that plays tough, physical defense gives itself a chance to win on any given night. In this case, the Broncos' offense wasn't faring much better than TCU's, and it needed that fake punt to provide the spark to get it over the hump. But contrary to John's opinion, I don't think Boise won "on a trick play." Boise won with defense. I guarantee you whoever wins Thursday night's game will do so much the same way.
Stewart, I watched the Fiesta Bowl last night and was impressed by both defenses. Boise State has put on an impressive run over the last couple seasons, of that there is no doubt. What happens, however, to the BCS landscape if say next year, an undefeated Boise (or any other non-AQ team) were to meet up with a powerhouse (whichever one happens to step up next year) and gets absolutely obliterated in a BCS championship?
Well first we have to get to that point. As I wrote Monday night, next season will provide the Broncos a golden opportunity (not that going undefeated and beating Virginia Tech in Washington D.C. is by any means a given). If it happens, and assuming Boise faces a traditional power like Alabama or Texas, it's going to be a watershed moment for the sport one way or the other.
Forget the system for a second. This is about Boise's reputation as a program. The Broncos are in the midst of a remarkable phenomenon similar to what Miami and Florida State did in the '80s: They're building a national reputation out of nothing. By no means is it an exact parallel. For one thing, those teams were independents that played rigorous regular-season schedules; Boise still plays just one or two truly respected opponents all season. The Broncos also lack the advantage Miami had in the old bowl system of being able to play the No. 1 team in its backyard. The Hurricanes' upset of Nebraska in the '84 Orange Bowl gave that program immediate and lasting respect as a truly elite team.
Boise has been climbing the mountain with its Fiesta Bowl victories to the point where it may now get such an opportunity, but so much would be riding on that one game. If the Broncos were to get obliterated, they'd probably never get that opportunity again under the present system. And it would certainly hurt the cause of their brethren pushing for a playoff. It's well and good to say the smaller-conference teams should be able to play for the national championship, but if one of those teams finally gets the chance only to lose 42-10, it could set back that movement many years.
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors
College Football Video