It is the biggest game of the year in college football...alright, that is an understatement. The two most deserving teams are playing each other. Boise State just does not play at this level, so no apologies are needed.
Two of the best players in the nation will be matching wits. Texas has “nothing but a winner” Colt McCoy, while Alabama features stud linebacker Rolando McClain. Most Alabama fans will tell you that McClain is probably more critical to the Tide’s success than Heisman winner mark Ingram. Not that they want to give the running back up.
So what does all of this add up to? Well, it should be a really great game to watch Thursday night. Oh, and before we forget, both teams also feature top of the A list coaches.
Here at College Sports Matchups we have looked at the game and concluded each team has two objectives to achieve that will determine the outcome. Our own Chris Rushing has also compiled what he believes to be keys to the game, which you can read by clicking here.
For now, though, here is what we believe each team should be preparing to do as they get ready for the kickoff which is drawing closer and closer.
Strategies for Texas
· Do not become one dimensional on offense. Texas threw the football for 65% of their total yards during the season. If they want to have success against Alabama it is imperative that they involve their running backs in the game and avoid relying on Colt McCoy to generate 70 percent of their total offense with his arm and legs.
McCoy is a great player, but if Longhorn fans remember their last national title it took Vince Young playing what may have been the finest individual college football game ever to carry the day. While McCoy has a better arm than Young, he does not have the legs of his predecessor under center at Texas.
The best way to attack Alabama’s rushing defense? Kentucky had success getting to the corners. LSU was running the ball well straight at them until Charles Scott was injured late in the game. Want to win Texas? It will take 125 yards of rushing to have a chance.
· Get after Bama QB Greg McElroy. McElroy was a question mark for Alabama starting the season. He began the year solidly, but slumped in the middle. Down the stretch he was a real leader and made big plays to beat Auburn and Florida. What was the biggest difference in McElroy’s successful stretches compared to his lesser performances? Pressure.
McElroy is still a relatively inexperienced starter and making quick decisions while being hurried will cause him to hurry throws and read the coverage incorrectly. The other benefit of pressure for the Longhorns is that if they can manage a few sacks they will handicap the Tide offense: 3rd-and-10 forces Alabama’s hand on offense. With their running game, 3rd-and-6 does not mean they will necessarily pass.
Strategies for Alabama
· Complete passes to receivers other than Julio Jones. Early in the season Alabama’s passing game was distributing the football to receivers all over the field. Julio Jones was being doubled by everyone they played giving speedy Marquis Maze the opportunity to make big plays for the Tide.
Then the Tide offense became stubborn. For one stretch of games, it almost seemed Alabama was going to pass the football exclusively to the outstanding sophomore receiver. Maze and tight end Colin Peek were suddenly invisible, and making the situation worse was Jones dropping footballs. Texas has a fast, strong defense and if Alabama develops tunnel vision passing the ball they will be in trouble.
Longhorn Earl Thomas has eight picks this year. If Alabama looks to Jones first, second and third he will grab two more in this game from his safety position. In order to win Alabama has to complete 60 percent of their passes to receivers other than Jones. Receivers. Dump offs to running backs won’t be enough.
· Make Colt McCoy one dimensional. If Texas has to keep the running game active to win, Alabama’s defense must discourage the run. The way to do this is by keeping Colt McCoy in the pocket where you can keep an eye on him. When he starts moving around he is able to use his athleticism to make a play with his feet or arm. It also disrupts Alabama’s ability to play man defense if he is on the move.
Now, if Bama forces McCoy to stay in the pocket, but gives him plenty of time to pick out receivers they will still have failed. Ramping up the pressure and making him throw the ball before he is ready is critical to an Alabama victory.
There you have it. Two strategies for each team. Watch during the game to see which team is the most successful in accomplishing the items above. The winner will be the one who is most successful making them happen.