BCS TITLE GAME: How Alabama and Texas match up

BCS title game scouting report

When Texas runs

There won’t be much here for the Longhorns, who average 152 yards per game. No team gained that many against ‘Bama, with huge Terrence Cody in the middle. The Longhorns’ top threat is Tre Newton, son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton, who is the leading rusher at 513 yards. But the top running threat is quarterback Colt McCoy, who has rushed for 1,571 yards and 20 touchdowns his career.

Edge: Alabama

When Texas passes

The key for the Longhorns is the offensive line giving McCoy enough time to operate. It didn’t happen in the Big 12 title game against Nebraska, and McCoy was sacked nine times. Jordan Shipley is McCoy’s favorite target but many receivers get involved. Oh, and the Crimson Tide defends the pass well also. It is tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with 20.

Edge: Texas

When Alabama runs

It doesn’t get better than Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Ingram is averaging 6.2 yards per tote in his Heisman-winning year. Richardson spells him and averages 5.1 per carry. Texas’ best chance to win is to load the box and put the game in the right arm of Tide quarterback Greg McElroy.

Edge: Alabama

When Alabama passes

McElroy has done everything asked. He hits a high percentage (61.1) and with four interceptions doesn’t make many mistakes. But he often isn’t asked to win games, and Texas’ pass defense is strong. All-America safety Earl Thomas leads a ball-hawking secondary that came up with 24 picks this season.

Edge: Texas

Special teams

For Texas, place-kicker Hunter Lawrence is money, but punter Justin Tucker is so-so. The return game is special with sure-handed Shipley on punts. Kick returner D.J. Monroe and his 35.8-yard average is back after serving a three-game suspension for driving while intoxicated and he’ll go against an Alabama return team that ranked 116th in coverage while allowing two touchdowns. Tide kicker Leigh Tiffin is one of the game’s best.

Edge: Texas

Coaching

Mack Brown used to be “Coach February” because his greatest successes were on national signing day. Nobody calls him that anymore. The Longhorns have won five straight bowls and seven of eight. They’ve defeated arch rival Oklahoma three of four and won the national championship four years ago. Nick Saban bids to win his second national title at his second SEC school after taking the 2003 prize at LSU.

Edge: Even

Intangibles

Texas is 7-0-1 all-time against Alabama. Means nothing. The Longhorns have won in their last two trips to Pasadena. Nobody on this team played in either game. Alabama was stronger in its last game, but that was more than a month ago. The most telling advantage: SEC teams are 2-0 against the Big 12 in bowl games this year.

Edge: Alabama

Three reasons Texas will win

1. Nobody knows the directions to Victory Lane better than Colt McCoy, who has won more games than any quarterback in major college history.

2. The Texas defense has been overshadowed in Pasadena, but it’s the best Alabama will have seen this season.

3. Alabama’s defense doesn’t see teams that play like Texas. The Longhorns’ receivers will find space, and McCoy is the master at short-gain passing. Long layoffs affect tackling fundamentals and this favors Texas.

Three reasons Alabama will win

1. This is a powerful team that took apart Florida in the SEC championship. If the Tide brings that game, this one’s over by halftime.

2. Texas’ offensive line had problems with the tough front lines of Oklahoma and Nebraska, and Alabama’s is just as good. The Longhorns, who weren’t held to fewer than 34 points in any other game, combined to score 29 against those opponents.

3. The SEC is rolling. Three straight national titles and four of six. The conference is 5-0 all time in title games during the BCS era.

Blair Kerkhoff’s prediction: Alabama 20-16

Texas is one second away from being undefeated over the past two seasons. This program knows how to win. Alabama is coming off a resounding victory and we’re influenced by latest impressions. Alabama wins a defensive-minded game.

Blair Kerkhoff/Kansas City Star (MCT)