If ever there was a movie-script season for Alabama, so far, this has been it.
Winning the SEC championship, and taking down the mighty Gators and Tim Tebow was easily the second biggest victory of my adult life. When I was a kid we won a few national championships, but at the time I thought that was normal.
Now Alabama must refocus on a much bigger target. The National Championship. What stands between Alabama and final victory is one of the most storied programs in the country—the Texas Longhorns.
I'll be honest, I'm not terribly educated on teams outside the SEC so I did a little reading. Before I go into any details I want to talk about some general truths about college football.
Things are never as good as they seem: The SEC is the most powerful conference in America. It's been that way for a while. But the reason the SEC is so tough is its top to bottom strength.
Most other conferences have one or two good teams and a bunch of bad ones. In the SEC, anyone can beat you on any given day. That prepares a team and makes them better, but the gap between the best of the SEC and the best of the rest is usually not as big as you might think.
The underdog has the emotional advantage: Alabama was a significant underdog facing Miami in 1992 and Alabama used that as emotional ammunition to destroy the Miami Hurricanes. Alabama will not be the underdog in Pasadena.
Comparisons are dangerous: Alabama beat Florida handily while Texas squeaked by Nebraska. Florida lacked motivation and focus, but this is not to discount what Alabama did to the Gators. And the Texas Longhorns want this title just as badly as Alabama players do. Texas will not lack focus, preparation, or athletic ability.
Having said all that, let's look at Texas.
Texas is currently the No. 1 rated run defense in the nation. They allow just 62 yards on average. That's significantly better than the number two team, Alabama.
That sounds like trouble for Alabama, but lets take a closer look. Texas has not faced many good rushing teams. The teams that ranked highest nationally are Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Okie State rushed the ball 30 times for 134 yards for a 4.46 yard average. A&M did even better rushing: 33 times for 190 yards for a 5.75-yard average.
Alabama and the double headed monster of Ingram and Richardson will probably present a bigger challenge than either Okie State or A&M could muster. Alabama should be able to rush the ball, but they should have been able to against Auburn too. I do believe we will get our yards, but don't look for a 200 yard game from Ingram.
Texas, nationally, is less impressive in pass defense, ranking 23rd nationally. This looks good up front for the Tide, but since Texas forced many teams to play from behind, they surrendered yards in many cases to teams that were throwing on every down.
Taken together, it's clear Texas has a very good defense. Alabama must not become one-dimensional. They must pass the ball to keep things open for the run game. McElroy will need to continue his impressive play.
Texas faces one of the best quarterbacks in the nation every day at practice, so McElroy will not scare them, even with his marked improvement over the last month.
Offense is another story. Texas is more or less a one trick pony. They have a great quarterback who has won a ridiculous number of games in his impressive career, and they have some great receivers that will challenge Alabama's secondary every bit as much as Florida did. But that's pretty much it.
The offensive line was horrid against Nebraska and that's not the first time they have struggled. Alabama has an opportunity to do significant damage if the Texans doesn't play better up front.
Texas doesn't run the ball well, against Alabama they would be stupid to even try.
Alabama's game plan may be quite similar to the one they used against Florida.
Offensively, get McElroy and the passing game going and force them to back off the line. Mix in Ingram and Richardson when possible. Hope to gain momentum in the running game as we approach the forth quarter.
Defensively, try to contain McCoy. McCoy is very mobile so he presents a challenge similar to Tebow, but he won't do many designed runs. This opens the door for Alabama to attack him more conventionally with the rush.
McCoy has performed poorly when he has been pressured. Alabama will need to be in its worst mood when it arrives in Pasadena.
McCoy will get his yards, but Alabama will try to limit his scoring opportunities.
If you had a knee jerk reaction after winning the SEC that Texas was just going to cooperate by bowing down to the SEC champion, think again. This is not a slow footed Ohio State team.
Alabama will have to be firing on all cylinders and will have to avoid turnovers, or they can easily find themselves on the wrong end of history this January.
Alabama is the better team, but as Nick Saban said just two weeks ago: "Sometimes the better team gets their ass whipped." The script has been perfect thus far. All we lack now is the Hollywood ending. What better place for a Hollywood ending than California.