Alabama looked like a world-beater in last night's 42-14 crushing of Notre Dame in the 2013 Discover BCS Championship Game. It's almost hard to believe that Texas A&M had actually beaten Alabama in the regular season, but the Aggies did, winning 29-24 last November.
How did the Aggies do it?
Well, two things went in their favor. Alabama head coach Nick Saban only had one week to prepare for the Aggies (as opposed to five weeks to prepare for Notre Dame) and Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel is very difficult to stop.
The only other team that might possibly have been able to compete with Alabama this year was Oregon. Like Texas A&M, the Ducks have an outstanding quarterback that can both run and pass well. Manziel passed for 253 yards and rushed for another 93 against Alabama and those numbers sound eerily similar to what Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota is capable of doing.
In fact, the two teams have a lot in common.
Both Oregon and Texas A&M strike fast in scoring. Oregon scored on the opening kickoff of the Fiesta Bowl when De'Anthony Thomas ran 94 yards for a touchdown.
Texas A&M, on its first possession, took less than three minutes to score a touchdown on Alabama.
The speed of both teams is something that Alabama has trouble with—Auburn beat Alabama 28-27 behind the speed of dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton in 2010. Mariota, like Manziel, can chew up huge yardage on quarterback draws (see 2:03 mark).
Oregon is a team built on speed and likes to jump out to an overwhelming lead early in the game—for the most part, it is not a second-half team. Against Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, Oregon was limited to only one touchdown and two field goals in the second half. The Ducks ended up winning 35-17, with 22 of their points coming in the first half.
The Ducks would probably give the Crimson Tide fits in the first half, but how would they have done in the second half? Saban is the master of huge adjustments and I can't see how Oregon's defense survives a slugfest against the big uglies from Alabama.
Who would have won if the Oregon Ducks had played the Alabama Crimson Tide on a neutral field?
In our mythical matchup, Oregon would jump to an early lead and have Alabama reeling, but in the second half, Alabama would outmuscle the Ducks, just as Stanford's stout defense throttled Oregon's offense last November.
Stanford, a team very similar in style to Alabama, limited Oregon to only two touchdowns in two quarters—Stanford would eventually win 17-14 in overtime.
Like Stanford's game against Oregon, it looks like Alabama would have come out on top against Oregon as well, but the game would have been very close. Oregon would have slowed that Tide down to a little splash.
The Ducks would have forced the Tide to pick between defending the run or the pass on every down and try and catch the Tide out of position, much like Texas A&M did. Mariota's speed would have also kept the Tide's defense on its heels.
It would have been a fun game to watch.