Alabama's Oct. 9 loss at South Carolina appeared to end the Tide's chances of repeating as college football's premier team.
But after a month of fallen undefeateds, Big Al's posse is a clean slate away from a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
Oregon, on the other hand, has yet to encounter ripples in the 2010 waters. The Ducks, averaging 54.9 points per game, have won by single digits exactly...ZERO times. Dominant, to say the least.
And with a manageable schedule in November and December, UO, barring an ultra upset, will be wading in the national championship pond in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10.
So begins the BCS National Championship Game breakdown of the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide and warp-speed Oregon Ducks.
If 'Bama runs the table, they will have defeated current ranked foes Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and the SEC East champion.
A 35-21 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 9 sandbagged the Tide's swell.
BCS No. 6 Alabama erases memories of the South Carolina debacle with wins over four ranked teams in the final five weeks. The signature: Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Such high-profile victories will vault the elephant ahead of probable unbeatens Boise State and the TCU/Utah winner.
Aside from putting up a tally a minute? BCS No. 1 Oregon has trounced opponents by an average of 37 points, with the narrowest margin of victory an 11-point "squeaker" against Arizona State. Total dominance in 2010.
Oregon tends to fall behind midway through games against quality opponents. Of course, they always wear out the opposition in the second half...especially in the fourth quarter. Still, the question lingers: Could this trend come back to haunt the Ducks?
Four more wins and Oregon is title game bound. With only two worrisome teams left on the schedule—Arizona and Oregon State—the Ducks should remain on cruise control all the way to Arizona.
Saban, college football's preeminent coach, needs his Tide to keep the seconds moving and limit big plays while on defense.
If the RB tandem of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have 40-plus carries, 'Bama will control the clock and keep Oregon's offense on the sidelines.
If this happens...
...the Crimson Tide will have a companion for last season's national championship trophy.
The game plan is simple: fast, fast, fast. If Oregon continues running at dynamic speed against Alabama as they have against all comers—and LaMichael James puts up two bills rushing—the Ducks win.
The key: controlling the first 30 minutes. If the Ducks fall behind, de-oxygenating their opponent—as they often do in final 30—won't be so easy against a Crimson Tide squad that has the ability the drain the clock.
If the first half-hour belongs to the Ducks and James is, well, James...
...the trophy will reside in Eugene.
Mark Ingram, RB
85 RUSH / 544 YDS / 6.4 YPC / 8 TD
Trent Richardson, RB
86 RUSH / 606 YDS / 7.0 YPC / 5 TD
Greg McElroy, QB
137 of 194 / 1,781 YDS / 11 TD / 3 INT / 163.35 RAT
Julio Jones, WR
45 REC / 669 YDS / 3 TD
Marcell Dareus, DL
8 TFL / 2.5 Sacks
Robert Lester, DB
LaMichael James, RB
170 RUSH / 1,210 YDS / 7.1 YPC / 14 TD
Darron Thomas, QB
128 of 211 / 1,827 YDS / 21 TD / 6 INT / 160.56 RAT
Brandon Bair, DL
Kenny Rowe, DL
Cliff Harris, DB
- Points For: 34.2
- Passing: 253.9
- Rushing: 186.9
- Total: 440.8
- Turnovers: 8
- Points Against: 17.9
- Passing Allowed: 211.9
- Rushing Allowed: 125.4
- Total Allowed: 337.2
- Takeaways: 28
While Oregon's offense deserves credit for its eye-popping output, the defense is no slouch; the Ducks create turnovers aplenty and the D consistently puts teams away in the second half.
QB McElroy needs to avoid turnovers and connect often with Julio Jones to keep the Duck defense honest. And, of course, the two-headed RB monster of Ingram and Richardson needs to stomp out yards and keep the Oregon offense off the field.
- Points For: 54.9
- Passing: 264.1
- Rushing: 308.8
- Total: 572.9
- Turnovers: 15
- Points Against: 12.5
- Passing Allowed: 178.0
- Rushing Allowed: 113.4
- Total Allowed: 291.4
- Takeaways: 17
Oregon's offense is a juggernaut and, as many teams will attest, is truly unstoppable. If the Ducks avoid turnovers, they will score plenty of points, even against the nation's second-ranked scoring defense.
To stay close, the solid 'Bama D must force the Ducks to sustain drives rather than strike quickly, as Oregon often does. If Alabama is up to that task, UO's offense, while not stoppable, might very well be slow-down-able.
But that's a big "if."
Alabama's defense is undoubtedly stout, but nothing can prepare the Tide for Oregon's tornado of an offense.
While James and Thomas might not put up "typical" numbers, they will nonetheless fill the stat book. The winner, then, will be...
...not so fast, my friend (phrase credit: Lee Corso). How about experience? The Tide have a savvy, been-there-done-that quarterback in McElroy, last season's Heisman winner (Ingram), a 2011 Heisman front-runner (Richardson) and, lest we forget, college football's best coach.
In the end, Alabama's offense, not Oregon's, will be the story, with McElroy playing mistake-free football and the Ingram/Richardson duo putting up 200-plus.
The Crimson Tide defense will surrender yards and points...but make enough stops for Alabama to claim a second straight national championship.
Alabama 38, Oregon 35