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Entries in BCS Championship Game (4)


Alabama Beats Texas In BCS Championship Game, 37-21

Nick Saban

One Great Season

Heading into the season, most figured Thursday night's BCS championship game would feature the Alabama-Florida winner and Texas.

That's exactly what the great sport got, but the game played out in a way that was anything but predictable.

Texas lost star quarterback Colt McCoy to a serious shoulder injury on his team's first offensive series, and while the Longhorns came to life in the second half, Alabama got a pair of late touchdowns to salt away the school's first national championship in nearly two decades.

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Heisman winner Mark Ingram scored on two short touchdown runs for the Tide, which completed only the third 14-0 season in the history of major college football.

"We had our eyes set on this since the beginning of the year," Ingram told ABC's John Saunders during the postgame trophy presentation. "It was truly a team effort. I'm just proud of everybody."

Ingram, just a sophomore, ran 22 times for 116 yards, while his backfield buddy, Trent Richardson, had 19 carries for 109 yards and two more scores.

Led by future NFL stars Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody, Alabama's stout defense hogged the headlines in the weeks leading up to the game. But it was Marcell Dareus who blasted McCoy on a keeper on Texas' fifth play, knocking major-college football's winningest quarterback out of his career finale with 56 minutes left.

Despite the injury and the heartbreaking loss, McCoy manned up after the game and spoke to ESPN's Lisa Salters, holding back tears, regaining his composure, then giving credit to Alabama. Then he described his injury.

"There's no pain in my arm," he told Salters. "I just can't feel my arm ... My arm's dead."

Dareus wasn't done making big plays after McCoy's departure. With just a few seconds left before halftime, Dareus intercepted an ill-advised shovel pass from McCoy's replacement, Garrett Gilbert, and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving Alabama a 24-6 lead heading into the locker room.

It took a while after the break, but eventually Gilbert gained some confidence and connected with Jordan Shipley for a touchdown late in the third quarter and another one midway through the fourth. Texas pulled to within 24-21, but Gilbert's four interceptions -- and a late fumble he lost inside his own 5-yard line -- proved to be too much to overcome, and Alabama added those late scores to finish off its first championship since the 1992 season, and the school's eighth in the major poll era.

Alabama started very curiously, returning a short kickoff only six yards, then dialing up a fake punt on 4th and 23 at its own 20-yard line on its initial series. Coach Nick Saban called a pass that was intercepted, and Texas marched for an early field goal.

"I think we had a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the game," Saban said. "We made some mistakes."

The Longhorns tacked on another three points before Ingram scored on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter. The Tide would tally 24 points in that quarter to seemingly put it away, but Gilbert and the Longhorns made it interesting in the final two quarters.


+ Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had a subpar game, but managed it effectively enough to get the win. The Texas native who was not recruited by the Longhorns told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game that he's "so glad to be able to add to the history of Alabama football."

+ Saban becomes the first coach in the modern era to win national championships at two different schools. He also guided LSU to the 2003 national championship. Saban didn't, however, seem to enjoy the Gatorade bath that ruined his precious white shirt in the game's closing seconds. "I wish they'd do the water," he said at the postgame press conference. "The Gatorade's awful sticky. But I'm a lot happier with the bath than I would have been if I didn't get one."

+ With McElroy, Ingram, Richardson and star wideout Julio Jones all returning, Alabama seems a likely No. 1 preseason pick next summer.

+ Prior to the game, football fans were treated to a banner flown above the Rose Bowl blasting Alabama's governor.

+ And during the game, a man dressed like he should have played a role in the "I cast a level 2 charm spell" commercial had to be corralled and escorted off the field.


QB Will Be The Difference Tonight, Just Not The One You Think

Greg McElroy

One Great Season

BROOKLYN -- Just a few minutes after Hunter Lawrence's game-winning kick in the Big 12 championship game pushed Texas into the BCS title game, many thought the the Longhorns would be heavily overmatched.

The easy logic was, "If they could only score 13 points against Nebraska, how would they score against Alabama?"

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Sure Alabama has a relentless defense, just like Nebraska's. But what few seem to be talking about is that Texas can get nasty on that side of the ball as well. In fact, the Longhorns have the nation's top run defense, allowing only 62 yards per game, well ahead of Alabama's No. 2 run-stopping unit that yields 78 yards per game.

So in the matchup many should be excited to watch -- Alabama's Heisman Trophy-winning Mark Ingram against Texas' run defense -- I give the edge to the Longhorns.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Who Will Win Tonight?

But I think the Alabama run defense will limit Texas' far-weaker rushing game in even more dominant fashion. That means UT quarterback Colt McCoy will see many 3rd-down-and long situations. Texas is a solid team when it comes to third-down conversions (46 percent, 15th in the country), but McCoy averaged about an interception a game and the Horns' offensive line ranked 82nd in protecting its quarterback, allowing 2.31 sacks per game. Did you see that Big 12 championship game? The Huskers overpowered Texas' offensive line and treated McCoy like a rag doll.

I've got to think the Tide will rattle McCoy into an interception or two, or at the very least into many three-and-out possessions.

So if the run defenses cancel each other out and Alabama boasts the edge in the department of pass defense, how can Texas overcome potential shortages in the turnover and time of possession battles? That's easy: special teams.

The Longhorns returned four punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. And that's where Alabama could be vulnerable; the Tide ranks 64th in punt return defense this year, and even worse -- 116th -- in kickoff return defense. If Texas can make a big play on special teams, the Longhorns will stay in the game.

But that could be a big if, and even if Texas does take one back, just keeping it close won't be enough. That's because Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy does his best work when the pressure is on.

Thanks to the bruising Ingram, the junior isn't asked to do nearly as much as McCoy, but operating such a balanced offense that also features wideout Julio Jones, among other capable targets, gives McElroy great confidence. He threw only four interceptions this season, including just one in his final six games.

When the game was on the line against Auburn, McElroy drove Alabama 79 yards, chewing up more than seven minutes on a 15-play drive that culminated in the game-winning score with 1:24 left.

Three weeks earlier against LSU, McElroy led three scoring drives in the fourth quarter alone as Alabama held the ball for 11 minutes and turned a 15-10 deficit into a 24-15 victory.

That's right: a quarterback will be the difference in tonight's national championship game. Only it won't be the winningest player in college football history, the highly decorated McCoy. Instead it will be McElroy, who, like his friends Ingram and Jones, will return next season to try to lead the Tide to back-to-back championships. Alabama wins a close one, 21-17.


Tuesday Notebook: Eugene, BCS and Sam Bradford

Columbia River

One Great Season

EUGENE, Oregon -- I made it.

After waking up Monday in Cincinnati, driving to Dayton, flying to Washington, D.C., flying to Phoenix, flying to Portland and crashing at a hotel there late last night, I drove down picturesque Interstate 5 this afternoon and arrived at my hotel at about 5 p.m. Pacific time.

I can tell the Canon 50D is going to be busier this week than my liver was last week. Great to see old friends in the Queen City, sure, but equally certain is how badly I need a break from all that fun, and signs point to such relief here in this sleepy pocket of the very scenic Pacific Northwest where I know exactly nobody.

Efforts to secure a credential for Saturday's USC at Oregon game have been shut down, but the investigation into a reasonably priced single ticket is pending. Not only will this game likely decide the PAC 10 champion, but it's Halloween and the fans at Autzen Stadium are notorious party people, so keep your eyes open for some good imagery this weekend.

Until then, it looks like I'll get some post-practice interviews Wednesday, but before I get that far, here are some other tidbits to consider this week:

Columbia River

+ Many are talking about how a USC win makes it a serious BCS National Championship game contender, but you know what? I'll say the same about the Trojans' opponent Saturday. Oregon is No. 10 in the BCS rankings, and beating Pete Carroll's highly ranked USC gang would shoot those Ducks squarely into the mix, and very deservedly so.

+ Wouldn't it be funny to see Oregon leapfrog ahead of Boise State in the BCS standings?

+ Iowa, Cincinnati, Boise State and TCU are the second-tier contenders for a spot in the BCS title game. Those entirely in control of their destiny include Florida, Alabama, Texas and most likely LSU and possibly USC. I think Florida or Alabama might actually need to lose twice for one of those second-tier squads to jump ahead. That means that heading into the last month of the season, no fewer than seven and maybe as many as nine losses are needed among the elite names currently among the Top 10 for, say, Iowa or Cincinnati to earn a trip to Pasadena. Such a feat would be just as dramatic than what happened down the stretch in 2007. But don't expect that scenario to materialize. I still think it's going to be Florida and Texas, though I'd prefer to watch Florida and USC.

Columbia River

+ Please stop with the second-guessing of Sam Bradford. Too often we hear the TV pretties talk about the importance of staying in school to get that education, if not to at least enjoy the college experience. Bradford did exactly that, and now Todd McShay, who I typically like, leads the pack of those repeatedly broadcasting the disappointing truths about millions of dollars lost. Tyler Hansbrough came back twice when experts thought he was ready for the next level, and the only reason people don't rip him is because he didn't get hurt. Don't go hindsight and blast a kid barely out of his teens for wanting more school. Bradford knows his decision to stay will cost him in the long run, but he'll still be a good NFL quarterback.


BCS Bowl Game Projections

One Great Season

NEW YORK -- Once again, it seems doubtful that we'll have an unbeaten national champion this year. If you lose one game, like USC often seems to, then you better pray you're in the SEC or the Big XII. Once-beaten teams from any other conference don't have the strength of schedule each week to merit the BCS points.

And while the PAC 10, much like the ACC, boasts decent top-to-bottom depth, a one-loss team from Florida or Oklahoma State -- you read that correctly -- is clearly more deserving than a one-loss team from USC or Virginia Tech.

Texas vs. Boise State
Texas makes its second straight trip to Glendale, and disposes of the Broncos quite handily.

USC vs. Penn State

USC's trend of losing one regular-season game it shouldn't keeps the Trojans out of the national championship, but an inferior Big Ten champ -- in this case Penn State for the second straight year -- is no match for Pete Carroll's speedy bunch. Southern Cal continues its January dominance and wins another Rose Bowl.

Ohio State vs. Alabama

The Buckeyes get another chance at redemption against an SEC team in a bowl game, and Terrelle Pryor launches his 2010 Heisman campaign with a huge individual performance. Alabama has been known for its solid defense over the years, but its offense can sometimes disappear. That will be the case and OSU will finally beat a team from the South.

Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia
The Hokies come out of an ACC that is becoming more competitive, while West Virginia reps the floundering Big East in a game that reads like a decent rivalry on paper, but delivers a disinteresting Virginia Tech wallop.

Florida vs. Oklahoma State
The Gators show high-octane Oklahoma State what it hasn't seen all season -- a bully of a defense that mixes speed and athleticism with strength and overall nastiness. The Cowboys put some points on the board, but Florida can score too, and the Gators win another national championship.