Tag Archives: BCS

College Football: Week 9 Viewing Guide

This week on “PTI,” Tony and Mike were asked which coach needs a win more, Urban Meyer or Mack Brown. They both have three-loss teams, both have been beaten at home by lesser ranked opponents, and both were preseason top five teams. Their argument came down to which fan base has the crazier fan base with the most unrealistic expectations. Both Tony and Mike chose Urban Meyer as the coach with the most heat at the moment. They’re probably right, though for the wrong reason.

It seems that every year Mack Brown gets another 9-year extension, and is currently on contract until seemingly 2035. The UT boosters, administrators, players, janitors, parking attendants, and field mice love him. The problem is, and always has been – in the eyes of students and alumni at least – offensive coordinator Greg Davis. In the early years of the last decade the phrase “Fire Greg Davis” was as ubiquitous as “Texas Fight” around the Forty Acres. For a time, those cheers quieted as Vince Young and Colt McCoy were able to compensate for poor coaching with superior talent. Today, the cries for Greg Davis’ job are as loud as ever, but are we any closer to his ouster now than we were after five consecutive losses to ou? His supporters can point to this season’s signature win at Nebraska as a point in his favor, and they can fault the inexperience of Garret Gilbert as a reason for the offensive struggles.

After last weekend’s loss, however, even Mack Brown had harsh words for his assistants, saying, “I told them if one of your guys is playing bad, I can change them. If three of your guys are playing bad, I change you.” For a coach known to always take the blame, shielding his players and coaches from criticism, those words carry extra weight and make you wonder if maybe his long partnership with Davis is nearing an end. What would it take? A third straight home loss? To Baylor, no less? Losing out and missing a bowl game? Or, has the damage already been done?

This week Baylor comes into Austin ranked for the first time since 1993, and hoping for their first win over Texas in 12 years. The Bears are also currently in first place in the Big 12’s South division. It’s hard to imagine that a win over Baylor could actually be a signature win on the season, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday and prime-time regional games.

The games this weekend stink, so commentary is light, but if you can bear to watch, here’s your Week 9 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 30
12:00 p.m. ET
#17 Oklahoma State at Kansas State (FSN, Comcast Sports)

The next two Longhorn opponents.

#22 Miami (FL) at Virginia (ESPN)
The early games are light on intrigue.

3:30 p.m. ET
#5 Michigan State at #18 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)

One of the day’s better games, and what should be MSU’s last big test.

#6 Missouri at #14 Nebraska (ABC/ESPN)
This game should decide the Big 12’s North division champion.

Florida vs. Georgia @ Jacksonville, FL (CBS)
Has there ever been less hype for this rivalry?

6:00 p.m. ET
#1 Auburn at Mississippi, ESPN2

The top team has fallen each of the last three weeks. Don’t expect that trend to continue, tune in to watch Auburn QB Cam Newton be awesome.

7:00 p.m. ET
#25 Baylor at Texas (FSN)

See how Texas responds to their latest embarrassment.

8:00 p.m. ET
#2 Oregon at Southern California (ABC)

One of Oregon’s final tests en route to the BCS title game.

#11 Ohio State at Minnesota (ABC)
If Michigan State goes down, the top of the Big Ten will be real interesting presuming OSU and Wisconsin continue to roll.

9:15 p.m. ET
Colorado at #9 oklahoma (ESPN2)

The night cap game has ou giving Colorado a send off from the Big 12. Over/under is at 65 points for ou.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 8 Viewing Guide

If any team earned redemption last weekend it was Texas, both by avoiding a third loss and by beating a top 10 team on the road. Not to mention proving to the Cornhuskers that they weren’t the better team last December 5th. So there’s your parting gift, Nebraska, thanks for playing. The Longhorns will miss their home away from home.

The BCS standings came out earlier this week and with them a lot of analysis and grumbling about who is where. There is really very little we can glean from the poll this early as we still have half the season to play out with some big time match-ups featuring the top ranked teams. Does that mean Texas will rise to the top and play for another BCS title? No, that’s still highly unlikely, but if enough things happen, it’s possible. Let’s entertain some hypothetical outcomes to envision the best case scenario:

First of course, Texas must win out. Looking at the schedule, this could still be difficult. After a challenging game against Nebraska, they play perennial patsies Iowa State and Baylor at home the next two weeks, which should be easy street, but we thought that about UCLA didn’t we? Following those games, the ‘Horns go on the road against K-State, a team Texas historically struggles against, and then top 15 team Oklahoma State comes to Austin. Finally, after a gimme against Florida Atlantic and a short week, they host A&M which is a game never to be taken lightly.

Next, oklahoma has to lose to Missouri this weekend. For Texas to play for the Big 12 title, ou needs two losses and after Mizzou, they don’t face another ranked team until they go to Stillwater on Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers will be one of the biggest tests for the Sooners, going on the road against a ranked team for the first time this year, and only their second road game period.

Next, Kansas State must beat Missouri and Oklahoma State. Texas doesn’t play the Tigers this year, so the net result of their game against K-State will only benefit Texas if the Wildcats win. Further, if the Wildcats lose that game, they could potentially fall out of the rankings before they play Texas. Either Nebraska or OSU could potentially fall out of the rankings this weekend with a loss.

That will get Texas to the Big 12 title game, though against who is still up in the air. Nebraska is likely to win out, but so is Missouri. After this weekend’s games, it should be a lot easier to predict.

For the rest of the country, we’d like to see Auburn beat LSU and Alabama, but lose the SEC title game to anyone from the East division. Currently, that would be South Carolina. The PAC-10 and Big Ten pose the largest obstacles in Oregon, Michigan State, and Ohio State, all three of whom have few challenging games remaining. And, of course, there’s always the Boise State and TCU problem.

This space will feature more meta analysis of the state of the BCS in the weeks to come and we’ll highlight the games to watch in hoping some of these scenarios play out.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games. There’s a lot of football left to play, so enjoy the roller coaster. Here’s your Week 8 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 23
12:00 PM ET
#7 Michigan State at Northwestern (ESPN)

Northwestern actually has a chance in this game. They’re playing at home, and they have some advantages on the stat sheet. It might not be enough, but they could give the Spartans a run for their money.

Iowa State at #19 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports)
Texas returns home and hopes to keep the momentum going. It isn’t their style, but putting up about 60 points and really get that offense in gear wouldn’t be a bad sign.

3:30 PM ET
#6 LSU at #4 Auburn (CBS)

This is the game of the week. Les Miles is getting killed by everyone for the way he’s running this team despite their undefeated record and being three years removed from a national championship. Auburn has hardly earned any credit at all. Something’s going to give.

#13 Wisconsin at #15 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)
#16 Nebraska at #14 Oklahoma State (ABC)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, (ABC/ESPN)

These are your regional games this weekend. Most of the country will not see the Big 12 match-up and it looks to be one of the best of the weekend. On the flip side, most will see how the Big 10 is shaping up which will give some clarity to the rest of the season. Oh, and there’s a dreadful ACC game that no one wants to watch.

7:00 PM ET
#8 Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN)
This is likely to be a drubbing, but Alabama has not played well on the road and a home victory would make the season for Tennessee. Keep an eye on the first half in between the afternoon and later games.

8:00 PM ET
#1 oklahoma at #11 Missouri (ABC)

As mentioned above, Texas needs Missouri to win this game. This ou team has weaknesses, barely surviving at home against Air Force, and eeking out a win over a terrible Cincinnati. Most people don’t agree with ou being at the top of the BCS standings so it’s up to Mizzou to prove them right.

10:15 PM ET
Washington at #18 Arizona (ESPN)

Your night cap game this week features two teams that could stand in Oregon’s way of an undefeated season. Check it out if you’re not passed out by now.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 7 Viewing Guide

Despite Texas’ struggles, this season is beginning to shape up to be something exciting. An upset here or there is just the prescription to cure the fever of the status quo. This week has more games that have the potential to be great.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins next week. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

We’re jumping right into the Saturday games. Pick your spot and settle in. This is your Week 7 Viewing Guide.

Saturday, October 16
12:00 PM ET
Boston College at #16 Florida State (ESPN)

BC is struggling, losing three straight, and now they travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State who just went on the road to beat Miami. Things don’t look good for the Eagles in this one, but the Seminoles are suddenly surging and looking like the legitimate Florida State teams of a decade ago.

#21 Missouri at Texas A&M (FSN, Comcast Sports)
If you haven’t had a chance to see what the Aggies are looking like this year, here’s as good an opportunity as any. They host Missouri, who could be a potential Big 12 North champion if they hold on to the momentum they have now. The road from here gets harder for the Tigers as they face oklahoma and Nebraska in the next two weeks.

Remember to check the coverage maps to see which channel carries the following regional game in your area.

3:30 PM ET
Texas at #5 Nebraska (ABC/ESPN)

For the third consecutive game, Texas plays in the mid-afternoon time slot, but this time the nation is fortunate that both of the regional games will be shown in every market. Nebraska is always a difficult game, and after last year’s Big 12 title game you can be sure they will be looking to prove that they rightfully belong back at the top of the conference. With two weeks to prepare, Texas has a good opportunity to bounce back and take the Huskers down a notch before they defect to the Big 10.

#15 Iowa at Michigan (ABC/ESPN)
The other regional game is a Big 10 match up. Iowa has been impressive all year, stumbling only on the road against Arizona, and Michigan has Heisman candidate Denard Robinson lighting things up. Check in once in a while and see what’s going on with these two teams.

#12 Arkansas at #7 Auburn (CBS)
The afternoon SEC game should be a good one, so consider putting it on your DVR for later.

4:00 PM ET
Brigham Young at #4 TCU (Versus)

If you haven’t seen TCU this year, flip over to this game during breaks in the Texas action to see how they look.

6:00 PM ET
#10 South Carolina at Kentucky (ESPN2)

Kentucky has ruined hopes before, but something says South Carolina knows who the better team is in this game. The Gamecocks made a huge jump in the polls this week, so they should be feeling good.

7:00 PM ET
#1 Ohio State at #18 Wisconsin (ESPN/ESPN3D)

Heading into primetime, we have another Big 10 contest, this one between two of the best in the conference. Wisconsin is one of the only teams that could legitimately stand up to Ohio State and really throw the BCS doors wide open (much to TCU fans’ delight).

9:00 PM ET
Mississippi at #8 Alabama (ESPN2)

Alabama mercifully gets to return home to lick their wounds and rebound after their first loss in almost two years. Don’t count on an upset here, but it’s worth noting Ole Miss has won four out of their last five games against ranked teams.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 6 Viewing Guide

Well, last week was once again unfortunate. So, as Longhorn fans hope for another 10-win season and a respectable bowl invitation, we can still enjoy the best games each week. Texas is mercifully off this week, but there’s plenty else to keep you entertained.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Settle in for some indifference! Here’s the Week 6 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 9
12:00 PM ET
Indiana at #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D)

Ohio State is easily rolling along through their schedule. Don’t expect an upset, but this is an opportunity to see one of the best teams in the country.

3:30 PM ET
#1 Alabama at #19 South Carolina (CBS)

Alabama looks unstoppable based on the way they’ve dominated so far this season. Yet they struggled the last time they went on the road against a ranked team, needing a second half comeback to pull off the win against Arkansas two weeks ago. You can bet the Ol’ Ball Coach picked up some pointers he hopes to exploit.

Check the coverage maps to see where to find which regional game will be on in your area. The regional games this week include:

#11 Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (ABC)
If you can catch it in your area, A&M facing Arkansas at Cowboy Stadium should bring back Southwest Conference memories.

#17 Michigan State at #18 Michigan (ABC/ESPN)
Michigan hosting Michigan State will finally be interesting again, especially with one of the most exciting QBs in the country under Rich Rodriguez’s tutelage.

Clemson at North Carolina (ABC/ESPN)
Once again, ACC country gets a horrible game in the mid-afternoon regional lineup.

7:30 PM ET
#8 Auburn at Kentucky (ESPN2)

Auburn is yet another SEC team that’s rolling right along and looking like a legitimate threat to Alabama’s hopes for SEC domination this season. Auburn will be looking for a little payback going to Kentucky having lost to the Wildcats at home a year ago.

#12 LSU at #14 Florida (ESPN)
Urban Meyer should have asked Nick Saban for a safe word in last week’s throttling. Either the wheels have fallen off or the Gators will be looking to make a statement against unbeaten LSU.

We also have a pair of regional games in the prime time slot:

8:00 PM ET
#23 Florida State at #13 Miami, FL (ABC)

The history in this game makes it intriguing to watch every year. This is the rivalry that brought us “Wide Right” and Jenn Sterger. Both teams are on the upswing for the first time in what seems like forever so it’s nice to finally have some meaning in it once again. If you’re east of the Rockies, this will be your game.

Southern California at #16 Stanford (ABC)
For those on the West Coast, you get the PAC-10 matchup. Both teams took their first loss last week, and the memory of the drama following last year’s Stanford win is surely fresh in everyone’s mind.

10:35 PM ET
San Jose State at #21 Nevada (ESPNU)

Your night cap game this week gives you a look at suddenly surging Nevada. Could they pose a legitimate threat to Boise State later this year? Take a look for yourself.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 5 Viewing Guide

After last week’s debacle in Austin, any hopes the Longhorns had of making it to the national title game went out the window. Nonetheless, there is still the prospect of playing in a BCS bowl game and for the Big 12 title. With this week’s game against ou, and Nebraska in two weeks, Texas has the ability to redeem themselves in a hurry. The ‘Horns have fallen considerably in both polls, to #21 and #16 in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively, but those rankings mean little when you’re out of the title hunt.

At this point it’s all about conference domination, but just for fun, we can hope for a late season run and focus on all the help we’ll need along the way. With more teams to root against, the rest of the season should be interesting.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Now let’s get to it. Put on your “hater” hat and follow the week 5 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 2
12:00 PM ET
Louisiana-Monroe at #10 Auburn (ESPNU)

Auburn should handle business at home against an inferior team, but this game will do little to move the needle for them.

No. 16 Miami, FL at Clemson (ESPN2/ESPN3D)
Both of these teams will be playing their first conference game of the season. Expect this to be a good game with Clemson trying to make a statement at home.

3:30 PM ET
#21 Texas vs. #8 oklahoma (ABC/ESPN)

The Horns’ path to redemption begins in Dallas this weekend. Reference EyesOfTX’s game preview here. Note: This game will not be shown on TV in the mid- and south Atlantic regions. Check the coverage maps to see where you can find it in your area.

Virginia Tech at #23 North Carolina State (ABC)
Another regional coverage game. A Tech loss here only weakens Boise State’s case for their lofty ranking.

#11 Wisconsin at #24 Michigan State (ABC/ESPN)
The final of the regional trio this week has highly-ranked Wisconsin going on the road. Michigan State is getting a lot of credit for the way they’ve played the last few weeks, and they’ll prove they’re worthy of it if they knock off the Badgers. Their head coach Mark Dantonio will be coaching from the booth as he returns from the mild heart attack he suffered two weeks ago.

Tennessee at #12 LSU (CBS)
Keep an eye on what’s happening in Baton Rouge and hope for a major upset. LSU head coach Les Miles is beginning to take a lot of criticism, let’s hope it’s merited.

#19 Michigan at Indiana (ESPNU)
Michigan is finally getting on track for the first time since head coach Rich Rodriguez took over the team. A conference road game could be just what we need to see them lose their way again.

8:00 PM ET
#7 Florida at #1 Alabama (CBS)

This should be one of the better games of the season. From the standpoint of a Texas fan, there is no good scenario with this game. Both teams will remain ranked higher than Texas despite who wins here or what happens in Dallas. That said, the lesser of two evils would be for Alabama to roll on and knock Florida back a few slots, leaving the status quo at the top of the SEC for now and hoping for some other spoiler down the road.

#9 Stanford at #4 Oregon (ABC/ESPN2)
This is a similar situation to the aforementioned game, and ‘Horns fans should take the same position as before and hope for the higher ranked team to hold on to that position for the time being. The PAC-10 is usually a cluster, so it’s foreseeable that both of these teams will lose at least one more time as well.

Washington at #18 Southern California (ESPN2)
Ah, USC, how we’ve loved to hate you for these last few years. But now that you’re bowl ineligible, you can play hero. By wreaking havoc throughout the conference, USC can determine the fates of many teams this year, without taking a bowl spot for themselves. Let’s hope for an undefeated Trojans season going into their final game against UCLA on December 4th and then getting crushed.

8:05 PM ET
#22 Penn State at #17 Iowa (ESPN)

It would be easy to hope that Penn State could knock of Iowa on the road thereby removing one higher-ranked team from Texas’ path, but a victory like that would be one to vault the Nittany Lions over Texas in the rankings. For the time being that might be acceptable, being that the Big Ten has a way of knocking off all of its teams on its own. With this game, Iowa begins a four game stretch of ranked opponents and then still has to face Ohio State in late November. Penn State’s competition is more spread out and their one loss to-date was on the road at #1 Alabama. Hope for Iowa to win this one knowing that they’ll likely fall again in the next few weeks.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Thoughts: Week 1 in College Football

It was an exciting five days of college football to open the 2010 season, and more frequently than not, additional beverages, food, DVR space, and beverages (and perhaps a brief nap) were needed to keep pace with the torrent of games hitting the airwaves. It was a football nirvana that exists only once a year, and that is nearly orgasmic for any college football fan…no matter your allegiances.

Before we look ahead to week two, let’s take a look at some highlights and lowlights, as well as some perspectives on the ‘Horns after their 34-17 win over Rice in Houston.

Of the “contenders,” no team lost in week one that shouldn’t have. While Virginia Tech might argue, it was clear Boise State was the better team throughout Monday’s contest. You saw it here first, Boise State will play for the BCS National Championship in January 2011.

FBS schools Jacksonville State and North Dakota State made some noise with victories over BCS conference teams Ole Miss and Kansas, respectively. Not the way Turner Gill wanted to re-load in Lawrence…give him time, though.

sooners QB Landry Jones

oklahoma struggled. And we loved every minute of their metal-row-stadium-seat-squirming in Norman. While RB Demarco Murray looked in mid-season form, QB Landry Jones played mediocre at best. If you’re Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, the ‘Horns throw the ball on every play against the sooners and run up the score in October at the Cotton Bowl.

Don’t read much in to Oklahoma State or Texas A&M’s victories in week one. The Cowboys might as well have played the local high school’s JV team for a more competitive match-up than they had with Pac-10 bottom-dweller Washington State. And the Aggies – who did show more defensive prowess in their new 3-4 scheme than at any time in 2009’s campaign – had less rushing yards on more carries (55 carries for 192 yards) against a lesser opponent than did Texas against Rice (46 carries for 197 yards). Yep, you read right.

The Tuberville era began in Lubbock, and despite the victory, QB Taylor Potts didn’t look that spectacular and the defense was mediocre at best against SMU’s defense. All-in-all, it wasn’t a performance to write home about. What did look familiar was the half-empty stands at Jones Stadium from the third quarter through the end of the game – with the game’s outcome still in question. Time for the afternoon drunken pass out in the West Texas plains.

While Kansas State eeked out a victory over recognizable-name UCLA at home on Saturday, it was unimpressive. UCLA is dragged down by head coach Rick Neuheisel (“Hey Rick, who do you have in the national semifinals of the 2011 NCAA tourney bracket?”), so they basically don’t count. Plus, the Wildcats remain a big question mark without the legs of RB Daniel Thomas. Yep, he’s a stud.

The ‘Horns, while racking up 197 rushing yards, looked unimpressive and flat on offense. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to reset fans’ expectations of the running game – it’s not going to change overnight – but it did look better than any point last year. But, it was also Rice. The defense hasn’t missed a beat – they looked solid (after the first series in a base scheme) – but need to hold on those picks for TDs. Solid, but unenthusiastic…there is work to be done. Rice is going to rebound big time from last year’s 2-10 record, they looked solid in a week one game against a top contender.

Finally, it’s 12:24 a.m. Pacific time and ou still sucks. Week two represents a big weekend for a lot of the top 25 – perhaps determining 2010 BCS legitimacy – so rest up, my legions, and get focused.

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Game Preview: BCS National Championship – #2 Texas Longhorns v. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Thursday, January 7
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC

In early August, before the beginning of the 2009 season, the Texas Longhorn faithful couldn’t contain their excitement and anticipation for an undefeated season and a potential trip to the BCS National Championship at the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

After all, even the casual observer would note 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Colt McCoy was back, as was a stout defense that returned a plethora of young players who continued to improve each day. Yes, the running game continued to have question marks, but then again, every team has questions coming out of spring drills and in to fall two-a-days…it was all fixable, right? Fear not, ‘Horns fans, the day of reckoning has come – a day to redeem a one-second loss to Texas Tech in 2008, and to rejoice and enjoy the spotlight of playing for the Longhorns second national championship in five years.

Let’s breakdown what should be one of the best bowl games of 2009-2010 – the national championship between #1 Alabama and #2 Texas.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 24, Alabama 20

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0)
After suffering for years in the SEC and under a revolving door of coaches, always with the “potential” to compete for the conference title, the Crimson Tide have finally found their niche and achieved their goal of being in the hunt for the national championship. With head coach Nick Saban corralling his troops, ‘Bama’s defense has shot to the top of the national rankings and the offense is playing well enough to beat fellow SEC run-heavy conference foes. They bring six All-Americans between both sides of the ball to Pasadena, and yes, they have this year’s Heisman Trophy winner in sophomore running back Mark Ingram. How on earth can they lose?

Ironically, Bama’s games are managed by a fellow Texan in junior Greg McElroy, who has grown out of his Southlake Carroll HS size to be a legitimate 6’3” 200-pound gun slinger for the Tide. I saw managed, because that’s typically what he does – controlling the clock, handing the ball off to the stable of ‘Bama running back, and making timely throws when asked to do so. On the year, he’s completing 60 percent of his passes for just over 2,200 yards, 16 TDs and only four INTs. the focus of ‘Bama’s offense is obviously their running game, but McElroy is more than capable of delivering accurate passes to his underrated wide receiver targets. For those who watched the SEC Championship game against Florida, you saw exactly how McElroy picked apart the man-to-man coverage that a pretty darn good secondary presented the Tide offense all day long. In our opinion, with Texas focused on stopping Ingram and ‘Bama’s running attack, McElroy might have to win this game with his arm – and, it remains to be seen whether or not he’s capable of doing that consistently.

Criss-crossing the field for the offense, McElroy has several targets who are largely underrated on the national landscape. The headliner is sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones, who at 6’4” 210-pounds, has accounted for 545 yards and four TDs (13.6 yards per catch) and has excellent speed and even better hands. He will, by far, be the best WR the ‘Horns will face this season, and he must be accounted for on every play. The benefit of a Jones double-team is none other than Marquise Maze, a 5’10” 179-pound sophomore who is an absolute bullet getting downfield. Maze, who has catches totaling 423 yards and two TDs, is the true deep threat and ‘Bama’s fastest player. While Alabama will run some three- and four-wide receiver sets, their next passing threat is also one of their best run blockers in senior tight end Colin Peek. Peek is big – weighing in at 6’6” and 225 pounds – and is capable of holding his own when ‘Bama runs downfield, and also releasing off chip blocks to be a key outlet for McElroy. With 274 yards receiving and two scores, Peek can make yards after the catch (and after contact) as he’s averaging over 11 yards per reception, and can be trouble for smaller defensive backs and linebackers.

Now, the meat of the Alabama offense – the running game and the boys up front creating the holes. The running game is led by Ingram – the Heisman crier, if you remember – as the sophomore tallied 1,429 yards rushing and 12 TDs (a 6.5 yards per carry average). While he is slightly undersized at 5’10” 215-pounds, he is capable of using his numerous skills to find success running between the tackles or getting to the sidelines and turning the corner. He’s also the team’s second-leading receiver, having caught 28 balls for another 246 yards and three TDs. While Ingram is the workhorse who gets the most recognition, his back-ups are equally qualified to give opposing defenses fits. Trent Richardson, who most often spells Ingram, is a true freshman that is a little bit bigger and faster. That in and of itself is a scary thought, and he might already be better than Ingram. Richardson has accounted for six scores on the year, and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Finally, senior Roy Upchurch will anchor the running back corps as a likely third down back that is capable of picking up the blitz and giving McElroy more time to throw on obvious passing downs. The real work, though – and the biggest reason for Ingram and Richardson’s current and future success – is done by the Alabama offensive line. These big boys, led by first-team All-American senior guard Mike Johnson, have made life easy for the running game, paving the way for more than 2,555 yards team rushing and more than 5,000 yards of offense in 2009. While their offensive line is sized well enough to compete with opposing defensive tackles on the outside, the question remark remains their ability to pass protect. They’ve given up 14 sacks on the season, but they haven’t seen a pass rush like Texas’ so far this season, and when it’s not your bread and butter…well…

On defense, Alabama is all they are cracked up to be. If the Texas defense is good, Alabama’s is great – and defense is Saban’s specialty. Given Texas’ own coach-in-waiting defensive coordinator Will Muschamp learned from the best, expect to see some similar wrinkles on the defensive side of the ball. The Tide are ranked #2 nationally in total defense, giving up only 241 yards per game (77 yards rushing for #2 nationally behind Texas; 163 yards passing for #7 nationally), while they are #1 in scoring defense (11 points per game), and getting almost three turnovers per game. In other words, they don’t have a weakness.

The defensive line is stout, they typically run a 3-3-5 base defense, and although they don’t have a lot of sacks from the front three, they plug holes and create opportunities for the linebackers to clean up the mess. Their interior is held down by nose guard Terrence Cody who is an absolute beast at 6’5” 365-pounds and creates double- and triple-team needs by opposing offensive lines. Cody tallied 65 tackles on the season, and six of those were for a loss – not great stat lines, but he creates enough of a distraction for his teammates to make plays. You’ve probably heard about Cody based on his two blocked field goals in the Tennessee game, which allowed ‘Bama to sneak out with a win and maintain their national championship hopes. The teammates on the line who support Cody are defensive ends Brandon Deaderick and Lorenzo Washington, both are 6’5” and nearly 290 pounds each, and both are stout on rush defense and decent pass rushers. The sack master of the line is the smaller Marcell Dareus, who has accounted for 6.5 sacks on the season. All told, the defensive line doesn’t create the stats you would expect, but they do their jobs well.

The linebackers and secondary are the guys who create pressure on opposing offenses and lead the team in tackles. All-American linebacker Rolando McClain – who has been sick with a “stomach virus” this week – is the team’s leading tackler with 101 on the season, and has had 12.5 tackles for a loss including four sacks, two INTs, eight passes defended, a forced fumble and 14 quarterback pressures. If you printed out his stat line, your printer would run out of ink – he’s that good. From his middle linebacker position, he’s able to hit the gaps and make tackles in the backfield, but he’s also solid from sideline to sideline. The other linebackers do their jobs well, and although they aren’t Mr. Clean like McClain, they have accounted for 90 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

The secondary is the best Texas will face all season, and is led by All-American Javier Arenas. Arenas has three INTs, seven passes defended with four more break-ups, his second on the team with five sacks, has 66 tackles and tied for the team-lead in 12.5 tackles for a loss. On the other side of the field, Kareem Jackson has 12 passes defended, and combined with the safeties Eryk Anders, Mark Barron, and Justin Woodall are all big and physical. When ‘Bama plays zone defense, Barron is the ballhawk of the bunch, with seven INTs, and the secondary as a whole plays physical defense and can use it’s size and quickness to makes plays while the ball is in the air.

#2 Texas Longhorns (13-0)
So, what’s it going to take for the ‘Horns to win? First and foremost, the offensive line has to play better than in the Big 12 Championship when they gave up nine sacks to the Cornhuskers. Every unit has a bad day, and with a month to prepare, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter will have his big boys drooling with the opportunity to redeem themselves against one of the best defenses in the country.

Second, Muschamp’s defense has to be prepared to stop the run. You can expect ‘Bama to come out firing the same way they did against Florida – leading with the passing game to get the Texas secondary to back off the line of scrimmage and then finishing the game with Ingram running wild. Can they do it? It remains to be seen – Muschamp is a master of making in-game adjustments to address problem areas, and that could help the ‘Horns on Thursday night.

On offense, McCoy needs to use his legs and be smart with dumping the ball off on screens and using shovel passes to try to alleviate the ‘Bama pass rush. Texas doesn’t win if McCoy can’t use his legs to stretch plays out and give him a chance to find his receivers on broken plays. The ‘Horns have the playmakers at wide receiver to take advantage of the Tide’s secondary, but McCoy needs time to find them. While Texas doesn’t need the running game to have huge stats, they need to use the running game to make ‘Bama think twice about their pass rush. Anything special from the running backs is an added bonus, and one that will help keep the Alabama defense honest.

The real difference in this game could be special teams, and Texas has a slight advantage in kick and punt returns, so long as they can contain Arenas when Texas does have to punt. While I wouldn’t expect Saban to have any trick plays in the kicking game – especially considering they are a defensive-focused and ball-control team – if Boise State is any example, you might see some fireworks to try to keep drives alive.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Alabama Crimson Tide Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts:
Issue #110: Alabama Offense & Special Teams v. Texas Defense & Special Teams
Issue #111: Texas Offense v. Alabama Defense

Texas-focused Media Coverage of the BCS National Championship
One of Eyes Of TX’s favorite media outlets (unless they’re talking about USC), ESPN, has been posting various Texas and Alabama pre-game coverage all week. Some of our favorite Texas-focused reads this week below:

Articles
ESPN: UT’s O-line Aims To Improve (1/6/2010)
ESPN: SEC On Verge Of Total Domination (1/6/2010)
ESPN: Brown Finally Finds Everything In Place (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Muschamp Takes On Friends For Title (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Thomas Is A Man Of Many Talents (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Horns Relish The Challenge of Ingram (1/4/2010)
ESPN: McCoy Focused On Final Texas Test (1/1/2010)

Videos
ESPN: Houston Prepares To Lead Texas’ Defense (1/5/2010)
ESPN: BCS Coaching Conflicts (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Team Talk – Texas (1/5/2010)
ESPN: A Tale Of Two Quarterbacks (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Sunday Conversation – Brown and Saban (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Brown, Longhorns Draw From Experience (1/2/2010)
ESPN: Sergio Kindle’s Inspiration (1/2/2010)

Hook ‘em!

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