DALLAS (AP) -- As a former quarterback, Alabama coach Mike Shula
can appreciate how much fun it must be to run Texas Tech's offense.
And after watching plenty of it while preparing for the Cotton
Bowl on Monday, Shula knows what a bad fit he would've been in the
"I would probably be about third or fourth team," he said,
laughing. "I couldn't throw it that well. I did a good job of
handing it off in the Alabama system. One of my biggest completions
was a shovel pass to Bobby Humphrey."
Don't be so hard on yourself, Coach. The scheme's mastermind,
Mike Leach, is willing to give you a shot.
"I would like Mike Shula to come out and be our quarterback for
the next year," Leach said, sitting a shovel pass from Shula at a
news conference. "We can get started practicing here today if he
doesn't have anything going on."
Alas, Shula did -- another practice to fine-tune his terrific
defense for their biggest challenge of the season.
The showdown between the Crimson Tide defense and the Red
Raiders offense helps the Cotton Bowl stand out on a busy day of
bowl-watching. It's enough to justify being in front of the TV for
the 11:07 a.m. ET kickoff, although that doesn't seem as early on
Jan. 2 as it does Jan. 1, when the game is usually played.
Each team is so good at what it does best that this matchup
deserves a tale-of-the-tape preview, like a heavyweight title
The designated home team, from the Southeastern Conference:
No. 13 Alabama (9-2).
The Crimson Tide give up the fewest points in the country, 10.7
per game. The unit allows the second-fewest total yards (248.4) and
the fourth-fewest yards passing (154.8).
"They're very fast, very physical and very, very relentless,"
Tech offensive lineman E.J. Whitley said. "It's not one move and
stop. It's one, two and three moves. It's whatever it takes to get
to the quarterback and get the job done."
With speed all over the field and an attack-mode attitude,
Alabama allowed more than 200 yards passing only twice, grabbing 20
interceptions and piling up 37 sacks along the way.
"We just need to do what we have been doing," said linebacker
DeMeco Ryans, the team's leading tackler and winner of the Lott
Trophy for the nation's top defensive player.
The visiting team, despite a large fan base in Dallas, from
the Big 12: The No. 18 Red Raiders (9-2).
Tech throws for 403.6 yards per game, almost 20 better than
anyone other team in the country and 177.3 more yards than the top
passing offense Alabama played. That was LSU, which handed the Tide
its first loss of the season. Add in the running totals, and Tech
averages 511 yards per game, third-best in the nation.
"It is a monster," Alabama safety Roman Harper said.
The Red Raiders score 42.1 points per game, which is fourth-best
in the country and 7.9 more than Auburn, the highest-scoring team
Alabama faced. Auburn gave the Tide its second loss of the year.
"I think the thing that makes us hard to defend against is that
we're going to use all of the space on the field," quarterback
Cody Hodges said. "And we're going to throw the ball. If it's
first down, fourth down or whatever it is, we're going to throw the
Big 12 teams haven't figured out how to slow Tech much, but
facing it every year helps. Not even a month of prep time has been
enough for the Red Raiders' last three bowl foes, with California,
Navy and Clemson losing by an average score of 46-20.
Tech isn't invincible, though, losing 52-17 to No. 2 Texas and
getting upset 24-17 by Oklahoma State after moving to the fringe of
a BCS berth. The Red Raiders also needed wild finishes to beat
Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Alabama won its first nine games this season, reaching No. 4 to
stoke realistic dreams of playing for a national championship
despite a meager offense. But the Tide couldn't keep it up,
dragging a two-game losing streak into this game.
Still, Alabama will be adding to its proud tradition by playing
in its record-extending 53rd bowl game. A win would stretch its
bowl record to 30.
It also would give the Tide 10 wins for the 28th time, extending
yet another mark and sending out in style a senior class that's
endured a lot. Many were introduced to Alabama by Mike DuBose,
broke in under Dennis Franchione, went through the Mike Price
debacle and are now thriving under Shula.
"A record of 10-2 has a whole lot better ring to it than 9-3,"
said quarterback Brodie Croyle, who is among that class.