Horns or Tide is the BCS question
Now that it's official -- No. 1 Alabama versus No. 2 Texas in the BCS title game -- I've got questions.
Are the two best teams playing for the BCS championship?Absolutely maybe.
Think about it: If the SEC and Big 12 championship games were de facto national semifinal games, then Bama overwhelmed the then-No. 1 team in the BCS standings, while Texas needed a medium-sized miracle to squeeze past then-No. 22 Nebraska 13-12 on the last play of regulation.
Texas coach Mack Brown was in full BCS spin control after the Longhorns' grotesque offensive performance. A sampling: QB Colt McCoy played "great." If it were an SEC game, everyone would have applauded the defensive efforts. The sun was in their eyes. But by Brown's own admission, Texas has yet to put together a complete game this season. Bama has. The Crimson Tide left Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in tears. The Longhorns left the Huskers thinking, "We lost to those guys?"
I'm confused. So you're saying Texas doesn't belong in the Citi BCS National Championship Game?Don't you bark at me like some junkyard dog.
What I'm saying is that Texas, against a Nebraska offense so feeble it should get its own handicapped parking space, didn't play like a team that finished the season ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings.
What I'm saying is that Texas has done nothing in its past two games (gave up 39 points to Texas A&M, scored just 13 points against Nebraska) to close the perception gap between the Longhorns and the Tide.
So why so tough on Texas and so puckered up for the Crimson Tide?Like Brown said after the Big 12 championship, Bama needed two blocked field goals to beat offensively challenged Tennessee 12-10 earlier in October.
But Bama's closest game happened Oct. 24 and its best game happened Dec. 5. Texas' closest game happened Dec. 5 and its best game happened Sept. 26 against UTEP or Oct. 24 against Missouri.
The point is, the Longhorns are leaving oil marks on the driveway late in the season -- never a reassuring sign.
Did I mention I hope Bevo drools in your dinner salad?Look, it's not personal. Brown is an accomplished football CEO. Texas is an elite program. McCoy has led the Longhorns to an NCAA-record 45 wins during his impressive career. And the Texas helmet logo is to die for.
But I can make a compelling case that the other Texas team -- TCU -- is playing better than the Longhorns these days. The Horned Frogs have scored 41 or more points and given up 12 or fewer points in seven of their wins. In their final four games of the season, they scored 55, 55, 41 and 51 points.
And for what it's worth, TCU is ranked higher than Texas in total offense (TCU No. 4, Texas No. 20), total defense (TCU 1, Texas 3) and scoring defense (TCU 6, Texas 8). Texas is ranked higher in scoring offense (Texas 3, TCU 4).
Yeah, but TCU wouldn't be 12-0 if it played in the Big 12.Maybe not. Unlike at Texas, TCU's two-deep isn't stocked like a trout pond.
But I'm talking about one game, not 12. I guarantee you that nobody wants to play the Horned Frogs these days. They're balanced, well-coached, athletic and wouldn't croak on a big stage.
You have to choose between Brown or Bama's Nick Saban to coach your team in the BCS title game. Who do you take?Brown doesn't get the credit he deserves as a coach. Since 1990, no major college coach with 100 or more victories (we're talking the big-name guys) has more wins than Brown.
Texas is a state-of-the-art program, and Brown, who has seven top-10 finishes in the past nine seasons, is the lead contractor on the project. He bear-hugs the Texas tradition and understands how best to use the vast football assets at his disposal.
Both Brown and Saban have won national championships, but only Saban has taken two different programs to the BCS National Championship Game. And Saban, long considered one of the better defensive minds in the business, now has a full month to devise a scheme against Texas.
Who will be the best player on the Rose Bowl field Jan. 7?McCoy and Bama running back Mark Ingram are Heisman finalists, but I'm not sure they're even the best players on their own teams. If you ranked Texas' top three players, McCoy would get my No. 1 vote, but receiver and return man Jordan Shipley is a vital playmaker who has an absolute Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne-like mojo going with his buddy McCoy. And sophomore safety Earl Thomas, who wears the same No. 12 jersey as McCoy, is probably the Longhorns' best defensive player.
Do the same rankings with Bama and Ingram could finish third behind linebacker Rolando McClain and noseguard Terrence Cody. And cornerback Javier Arenas isn't far behind that group.
What are the wise guys in Vegas saying about this game?The early number makes Bama a 4½-point favorite -- you know, just in case I need the information for a term paper.
Isn't it time you admitted the BCS got it right this year?Never. I'd rather eat my sister-in-law's tuna Jell-O than cross over to the BCS dark side.
Get it right? There are five undefeated teams: Bama, Texas, TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State. But for all intents and purposes, Boise -- unbeatable at home and one of the best road teams in the country during the past 10 years -- never had a chance at the BCS National Championship Game. In fact, the Broncos came dangerously close to getting shut out of a BCS bowl game for a second consecutive year -- despite being unbeaten during the '08 and '09 regular seasons.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati won the Big East and scored actual points in its final game of the regular season, but would have needed a Nebraska upset to possibly overtake Texas in the BCS standings. Same goes for TCU.
The BCS isn't a system. It's a beauty pageant rigged from the start. It rewards the popular, established kids, not the gleeks such as Boise, Cincy and TCU.
Strangest BCS stat?Mr. Southern Charm himself, Ivan Maisel, actually did something useful and uncovered a surprising nugget about the Alabama-Texas rivalry. In their previous eight meetings (the most recent taking place in 1982), the Tide have never beaten the Longhorns.
Bama-Texas for the title has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?Even if we're not sure Texas is the second-best team in the country, you have to admit Bama-Texas sounds like a national championship kind of matchup.
The pedigrees of the two programs are amazing. Plus, their fans are psycho in their support (but mostly in a good way). On the opening pages of the 2009 Crimson Tide media guide is this slogan:
"At Some Places They Play Football
At Alabama We Live It."
Replace "Bama" with "Texas" and the same holds true in Austin.
What's the one matchup we should watch five plays in a row?Five? Why stop there? If Saban decides to put Arenas on Shipley, I'd pay money to work the spot shadow machine. And after Nebraska's defensive line terrorized Texas' O-line, keep a close eye on how Cody & Co. attack the Longhorns.
Got a prediction?Not yet. I'm pacing myself.
I was stunned by the ineptness of Texas' offense against Nebraska. Yes, a Longhorns wide receiver dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. Yes, another pass was wrestled away for an interception by a Nebraska defender. And yes, the Longhorns drove far enough to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.
But the fact is Texas made too many mistakes against an inferior team. And some of those mistakes were made by the usually reliable McCoy, as well as by his receivers and offensive line.
My pick? Not positive, but I'm leaning hard toward the Land of Houndstooth.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.