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Texas vs. Alabama, a national championship primer

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, left, leads the Longhorns

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, left, leads the Longhorns in the national championship game against Heisman winner Mark Ingram and the University of Alabama. Credit: Newsday composite

The college football season comes to an end Thursday night with the BCS National Championship game between the University of Texas and the University of Alabama.

If you're underprepared to discuss the game, we're here to help. We'll get you ready to watch the Longhorns and Crimson Tide, and you won't even have to thank us when you sound like an expert in the office on Thursday. Here we go:

TEXAS (13-0)
Coach: Mack Brown (12 years, 128-26)
Rank: 2
Burnt orange and white
Conference: Big 12 (South division)
Last national championship: 2005
Notable active NFL players: Cedric Benson, Aaron Ross, Roy Williams, Vince Young, Jamaal Charles, Shaun Rodgers, Brian Orakpo, Casey Hampton

What to expect: A balanced attack on offense. Of the 983 plays Texas ran this year, just over half (498) were pass attempts. Texas has 23 touchdowns longer than 25 yards, 11 of which went for more than 50. The Longhorns rely on the connection between Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley. On defense, Sergio Kindle is extremely versatile. He can line up at defensive end or over a man in the slot. Texas can get a lot of pressure rushing just four and five players. 

ALABAMA (13-0)
Nick Saban (3 years, 32-8 record)
Rank: 1
Colors: Crimson and white
SEC (West division)
Last national championship: 1992
Notable active NFL players: DeMeco Ryans, Le'Ron McClain, Chris Samuels, Andre Smith, Deshea Townsend

What to expect: Alabama has Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, at running back and they use him a lot. The Tide runs the ball 62 percent of the time on offense. Quarterback Greg McElroy is an outstanding game manager and takes care of the football. When he does throw, he'll look for No. 8, Julio Jones. Defensively, Alabama is about as good at it gets. There's a lot of speed and Saban's teams are not afraid to blitz.


TEXAS: The Longhorns began the season where they're ranked today, No. 2, but it wasn't easy. Brown's team warmed up with wins over Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming before dispatching Texas Tech, a revenge win for the Longhorns. One of the biggest hurdles for UT was the annual Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma, the school's biggest rival. In a 16-13 win, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was far from sharp, but the Texas defense re-injured quarterback and 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford's shoulder and knocked him from the game. The Longhorns forced five turnovers and actually held Oklahoma to -16 rushing yards. It was just one example of the Texas defense, ranked No. 3 in the country, carrying the team to a national title berth.

After the win over Oklahoma, then 6-0 Texas romped to December, where they were tested by Texas A&M (in College Station) and Nebraska, in the Big 12 title game. When Texas' defense sputtered against the Aggies on Thanksgiving, it was McCoy's outstanding performance that lifted the Longhorns in their final regular season game. McCoy finished 24-of-40 for 304 yards and four touchdowns, adding a career-high 175 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Against Nebraska a week later, the defense answered the call again. Nebraska was held to just 106 yards, and Texas hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired to play for a national title.

ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide began the season ranked No. 5 and opened against No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta. They trailed in the second half but used its steady run game and tough defense, ranked No. 2 nationally, to win 34-24. The Tide went relatively untested the next six weeks, notching wins against Arkansas, then-No. 20 Ole Miss and then-No. 22 South Carolina. With the wins, Alabama climbed to No. 1 in the polls and had to use a last-second field goal block to preserve a 12-10 win over visiting Tennessee. Terrence Cody, the Tide's All-American defensive tackle, actually had two fourth-quarter field goal blocks to preserve the perfect record. It didn't get easier for 'Bama, who hosted then-No. 9 LSU after a bye week. Trailing 15-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Alabama's offense woke up with a Greg McElroy 73-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Heisman winner Mark Ingram added 108 yards on the ground in the second half to pace the Tide to a 24-15 win.

The win catapulted them to the Iron Bowl three weeks later, where the Tide fell behind Auburn 14-0 in the first quarter. But Alabama again flexed its defensive muscle, shutting down Auburn for most of the remaining three quarters in a 26-21 win. The final hurdle came in the form of the defending national champion Florida Gators in the SEC title game. Alabama had then fallen back to No. 2 in the polls, but manhandled the Gators behind Ingram's three touchdowns in a 32-13 win.


Total offense16 (432.38)32 (413.77)
Rushing offense55 (152.69)12 (215.85)
Passing offense18 (279.69)83 (197.92)
Total defense3 (251.08)2 (241.69)
Rushing defense1 (62.15)2 (77.92)
Passing defense25 (188.92)8 (163.77)
Sacks5 (3.0)32 (2.38)
Turnover margin8 (.92)5 (1.23)
Total points (offense)3 (40.69)25 (31.69)
Points allowed8 (15.15)2 (11.0)
 rank (stats)rank (stats)

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