With the BCS National Championship game looming tonight (FOX, 8:30 ET), many comparisons are being made between this year's matchup of No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Texas and the 2006 matchup of SoCal vs. Texas.
On the surface, the games look very similar: both were played at the Rose Bowl, Texas is the underdog in both, both feature a matchup of a Heisman-winning running back (Reggie Bush/Mark Ingram) against a runner-up quarterback (Vince Young/Colt McCoy), etc.
Because of this, many people are predicting another Texas upset. However, while the games may seem similar at first glance, there are some big differences that should ensure that there isn't a SoCal-Texas repeat.
The key factor in Texas' upset of SoCal back in 2006 was Vince Young, who passed for 267 yards and ran for 200 yards in a performance that can only be described as legendary. Young singlehandedly brought the Longhorns back from a 12-point deficit with six minutes left to play, and won the game's MVP trophy.
Colt McCoy is a great quarterback, but the chances of him putting on a Young-esque performance tonight are slim.
McCoy, like Young, is a dual-threat quarterback who can hurt you through the air and on the ground. But, unlike Young, he has looked ordinary at times this year, tossing 12 interceptions and throwing up a zero TD, 3 pick game against Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship.
McCoy is also a little slower on the field than Young, even though they run almost identical 40 times, and Alabama's defense is a lot faster than SoCal's was.
McCoy has willed Texas to victory this year (see, Texas A&M game), but he will need help if they are to beat Alabama.
I know it sounds stupid and cliched, but Alabama definitely has more to gain tonight than SoCal did four years ago.
Bama is coming off an embarrassing loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl last year, while SoCal was coming off of a National Championship season and didn't have nearly as much to prove.
A win tonight would put to rest all of the talk about Bama laying an egg last year and would give them a strong case for being the best college football program ever.
Alabama's players also have more to play for personally, with most of their key players being underclassmen who will not enter the NFL Draft. In contrast, both of SoCal's stars (Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart) were seniors and might have been thinking more about the Draft than the game itself.
Reggie Bush was a speed running back; Mark Ingram is a power running back. Texas' defense would eat a running back like Bush alive (and it did), but will have a lot more trouble containing Ingram.
Ingram bowls people over and is impossible to take down on the first hit. He is also a model of consistency. While a five-yard rush may not seem like a not, he will keep churning out more and more mid-range rushes throughout the game and wear a defense down.
Even against a good defense like Texas', I still expect Ingram to rush for at least 125 yards with a couple of scores.
You may remember a key Reggie Bush fumble late in the 2006 Rose Bowl that led to a Vince Young Touchdown. Alabama won't do that.
Earlier in the season, I wouldn't have put this up here, mostly because of QB Greg McElroy. However, McElroy has drastically improved over the second half of the season and is much less turnover-prone than he was before.
The real key here again is Mark Ingram. Once Alabama gets a lead, they will put the ball in Ingram's hands and it will be his game to lose. Considering he has never fumbled in his college career (that's 392 carries and 2,270 yards without a fumble), it's unlikely that he'll make a critical mistake. Once Ingram gets the ball in the fourth quarter, it's over.
Alabama's speed, discipline, and skill will prove too much for Texas to handle. It will be a one-score game after three quarters, but Bama will add a touchdown in the fourth to put the game away and become the 2009 BCS National Champions.
Bama 34, Texas 20.