It’s funny how you play three months to determine who is qualified to play in the BCS National Championship game, but it can all change in one week.
For the top three teams in college football for pretty much the entire season—Florida, Alabama, and Texas—some unexpected realities set in that last week of the season and altered the opinions of many fans across the nation.
The best asset that college football provides is commentary. You can obviously apply this to the National Football League, but the Bowl Championship Series element implements an extra element into the national title process in college football.
We always compare apples to oranges, conference to conference, and player to player, but sometimes we never find out if our opinions and predictions hold up.
I'm convinced that this crazy and controversial system is what undeniably attracts every single die hard college football fan.
I mean, one little blemish, when least expected, can suddenly ruin the whole picture painted over the course of a season by a football team.
Let’s go back to Thanksgiving Day.
The Longhorns played Texas A&M in front of a national audience, holding the only primetime college football game that night.
Texas Head Coach Mack Brown had his team clicking on all cylinders since the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma and went into College Station to care of business before the Big 12 Championship game.
However, after the Aggies were quick to score in the first quarter, Longhorns scratched their heads, having flashbacks of another Texas Tech heartbreak when they least expected it.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had been piling up his stat sheet in the latter half of the season, making his case to earn the Heisman award. A second quarter performance (3TD, 1 Rush TD, 149 Passing Yards, 72 Rush Yards) quickly propelled McCoy to the top spot on a lot of people’s Heisman’s list, as Texas went on to beat their in-state rival.
McCoy proved that he was worthy of the Heisman in front of a national audience.
A weakness was soon exposed in that game in the Longhorns’ offensive line and defensive unit, and critics were soon to tack on the “overrated” label to the burnt orange.
The next day, Florida destroyed Florida State in the Sunshine Bowl.
Gators’ quarterback Tim Tebow showed us why he’s probably the best ever to play his position in college football, as the former Heisman collected five total touchdowns and 311 total yards at the “swamp.” His emotional day was all he probably hoped for: flowers, singing, and a big win to head into the SEC Championship game.
Tebow definitely had the best day out of any player in college football but didn’t have the stats to compete with McCoy to quickly crown a Heisman winner.
Later that afternoon, Alabama took on their in-state rival in the Iron Bowl at Auburn.
The Crimson Tide got off to a bad first quarter, just like Texas, and fell behind 14-0 to the Tigers. However, it was everybody except Alabama running back Mark Ingram that changed the momentum in Alabama’s favor.
Eventually, quarterback Greg McElroy delivered a four-yard pass to wideout Roy Upchurch that lead to a Crimson Tide win.
Everyone was quick to scratch Ingram’s name off the Heisman list, as the bruising running back failed to deliver a Heisman worthy performance against a mediocre Auburn defense.
And then championship weekend happened. The last chance for the top teams to earn their way into the national title game, and the last opportunity for the top players to make that last Heisman statement.
The highly anticipated SEC Championship game, which hosted the two top teams in the nation, quickly shifted the opinions of college football advocates.
The Crimson Tide drowned the Gators, dominated the game from start to finish in a fashionable manner. Alabama simply tacked on 490 yards against one of the best defenses in the country and contained one of the best players in the country in Tebow.
We saw the whole package from Alabama, their balanced offensive attack and the best defense in the country.
Ingram showed us why he deserves the Heisman and why that previous game against Auburn was a fluke. He had a field day on Florida, running for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Then, eyes of America were on Texas, at least the ones who weren’t watching the ACC Championship game.
They weren’t exactly an SEC defense, but Nebraska showcased why they, too, have an iron curtain for a defense.
McCoy quickly got off to a bad first quarter again, throwing two interceptions and not leading the team to any points. At the same time, Cornhusker kicker Alex Henery looked to be the best and only offensive weapon the Big Red had to offer.
Nebraska was up 6-0 at the start of the second quarter.
Texas has been here way too often this season.
It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, the Longhorns just don’t start strong out of the gate. So as a Longhorns fan, you kind of just said to yourself, “Okay, we’ve been in this situation before. The Longhorns will simply turn the ‘on’ switch and start getting their act together.”
Except, the electrical circuit must have been broken or something. The second quarter was approaching two minutes, and Texas had still failed to score.
With the help of great field position, McCoy orchestrated a nice 42-yard drive to give the Longhorns a point advantage heading into halftime. Fans could exhale for a bit.
A field goal by kicker Hunter Lawrence gave the Longhorns a four-point cushion heading into the final quarter, but fans knew this wasn't going to be easy.
The defense had held up their end of the bargain all game, something they failed to do against Texas A&M, but when was McCoy going to finally play like a Heisman? The offensive line couldn’t contain defensive end Ndamukong Suh, exploiting some protection issues by an impressive pass rush attack.
Was this really a championship caliber team?
A fourth quarter that won’t be forgotten eventually came back around for Texas in the end of it all. After another Henery field goal, Nebraska kicked off to Texas, but kick returner Marquise Goodwin slipped while fielding the punt that lead the Longhorns to start from their very own one-yard line.
I couldn’t help but think, “Damn, Suh is going to get a safety, and somehow win the game single-handedly for the Cornhuskers. Texas is self-imploding right now, and I cannot watch this train wreck.”
Then, I thought more optimistically. “McCoy is finally going to have his Heisman moment despite a disappointing overall performance, and I can finally start to breathe again.”
McCoy finally led his team away from his end-zone and was even a James Kirkendoll dropped pass away from solidifying a win. However, the valiant drive ended with an interception.
Nebraska went on to march all the way to the Texas 26-yard line, where who else, Henery kicked in another field goal to give the Cornhuskers a two point lead.
What the hell is going on?
But, somehow, some college football god saw it was necessary to intervene with the game. Possibly the worst thing ensued for the Cornhuskers, they kicked the ball out of bounds.
Starting at good field position, McCoy quickly fired a pass to wide receiver Jordan Shipley for 15 yards, and then a Nebraska player made a horse collar tackle on Shipley. The Longhorns gained a quick 30 yards on the play, putting them in position for a field goal with about 90 seconds to play.
"How is this happening! Somehow, the Tide has turned!"
Then Suh made his fourth sack on the day.
“Tick, tick-tick, tick-tick. Are we going to use this last time out?”
McCoy snaps what was thought to be the final play before we attempt a field goal, but, he rolls out?
I don’t think Texas fans have screamed any louder at their television that night, as McCoy doesn’t even attempt to throw it in bounds and just throws it away at the last second. Literally.
Nebraska rushed the field, and I thought, “So I have to live with Michael Crabtree, and now this. I’m going to shoot myself.”
Then after the smoke cleared, Texas was given another shot. A chance to win the game by the right leg of Hunter Lawrence, and it happened.
Lawrence quickly became the most famous kicker in college football, while McCoy quickly saw his Heisman slip from his grasps. McCoy finished the game with three interceptions, 184 passing yards, and negative 20 rushing yards.
One positive point to take away from the game though is the Texas defense that held a lackluster Nebraska offense to five first downs and 106 total yards of offense. Suh made more of a Heisman statement than McCoy.
However, the Texas A&M and Nebraska games have given the Longhorns some much needed homework to accomplish over the Christmas break. I think the Longhorns got some much needed reps to work under some highly pressured circumstances. They are working toward their final exam.
It took me until the next morning to realize that I just went from witnessing a potential infamous blunder delivered by McCoy, to one of the most legendary all-time moments in college football by Lawrence.
McCoy's lapse could have easily been compared to Chris Webber's timeout call in the 1993 NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship game, when he didn't have any timeouts. North Carolina, the eventual champs, was awarded two free throws to solidify their trophy.
I’m pretty sure everyone woke up Saturday morning expecting Texas and Florida to take care of business, but I guess that’s why they play the game. Florida was cleared out of the BCS picture, and Alabama shed off their number two label.
Now, everyone is keen to crown the Crimson Tide as champions of the gridiron. The Longhorn critics argue they are not the best team in Texas, and they are the least deserving team to go to Pasadena.
Even if you were to argue, if Alabama were to play Texas this Saturday and demolish them, I wouldn’t believe you one bit. I’m not being biased, I’m convinced that you never know what to expect, and that’s why assumptions and predictions are thrown out the window after kickoff.
Mack Brown and his Longhorns have been here before, I mean, after all, they have been compared to the 2005 national championship before the first game. I guess it all finally comes full circle for Texas because nobody believed they had a chance to knock over Southern California in their backyard.
It’s time for the Big 12 to rise against the SEC in the hands of Brown and McCoy. It may be unfair how they beat Nebraska or how other undefeated teams Texas Christian, Cincinnati, and Boise State got overlooked for the title game.
The world of college football turned upside down during the time I sank my teeth into Turkey until Lawrence become the feature of annual legendary highlight we will see for the next decade, just like we see Crabtree's notorious Longhorns-killing touchdown every other Saturday.
It's the world we college football fans choose to live in, whether we hate it or not.
We live our season through a poll and a computer program, which has to be accepted for right now.
If you don't love the politics of this game then you're in the wrong camp. There is a football league played on Sundays that doesn't deal with polls, and conducts a playoff system format to determine an outright winner.
But, one thing is certain for this unique Texas team: They never have failed to put on an unforgettable performance this season.
Whether it’s blowing out a cupcake team, or eking out a nail-biting victory against Nebraska, this team may have the chance to become the most memorable team that Texas has ever put on the gridiron. They might need a little tune-up in the next month, but that's not to say the only way they can go is down.
I have the utmost confidence that Brown will prepare his team for success against this heavily favored Alabama team. As we’ve found out this entire football season and best enamored by coach Herman Edwards, “That’s why we play the game.”