Alabama Coach Nick "I'm Not Going to be the Alabama Coach" Saban
As there is no playoff, this game between the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide will be played for the Waterford Crystal football which indicates who the mythical national champion is for this season. If you're the betting sort, you would do well to put money down on Alabama. Why? First, let's look at the historical dominance of the SEC many people will likely want to dismiss.
The BCS is about to be 12 years old. On January 4, 1999, the Tennessee Volunteers beat Florida State 23-16 to win the first ever BCS title. The SEC would be back with Saban, then coaching LSU, in January 2004 to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners 21-14. After a very memorable Rose Bowl in January 2006, the SEC has won the last 3 BCS titles: Florida Gators 2006, LSU 2007, Florida Gators 2008--all the above adds up to 5 out of a possible 11 national championships for the SEC. Alabama will try to win their first BCS title and give the SEC half of the BCS titles and 4 straight BCS titles. The SEC is perfect in BCS title games at 5-0. No other conference even has 3 titles or is .500 in the title game (the Trojans are 1-1, once the Pac 10 proves itself to be more than a one team conference I'll revise that statement). If Alabama wins, both the SEC West and SEC East will have 3 BCS titles. If Texas wins, the Big 12 South will have 3 BCS titles (2 for Texas, 1 for OU) and improve to 3-4 in the BCS title game. In other words, the SEC has been automatic when it reaches the BCS championship game.
Reason 2: Defense wins championships. Alabama has the nation's 2nd ranked defense. Texas' is number 3. Texas has a better rushing defense by the numbers (about 15 yards per game of difference), but those figures don't tell you that the Big 12 is a pass happy league whereas the SEC is a league for running backs. The Big 12 teams were ranked 2, 7, 11, 14, 16, 18 (Texas), 37, 45, 94, 99, 101, and 106th in passing offense. The SEC teams ranked 9, 10, 12 (Bama), 13, 22, 32, 47, 49, 54, 81, 90, and 91st in the country in rushing offense. Texas has only played 3 teams that rank in the top 31 teams in terms of rushing offense (Oklahoma State, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Texas A&M) with none of them ranking higher than 23rd. Alabama has played 7 teams ranked 32nd or higher in rushing offense including 2 in the top 10 (Miss. St., UF). Therefore, rush defense advantage has to lean in Bama's favor. Alabama has a better pass efficiency defense than Texas by the numbers (88.81 to 101.25). However, Texas has played only 4 teams with QBs who had less than a 130 rating while Bama has only played 4 teams with a QB who sported a rating higher than 130. Alabama does allow 4.15 less points per game (against statistically similar scoring teams) than Texas so the defensive advantage overall has to go to Bama.
Reason 3: Colt McCoy has not performed well against top defenses. In 2009 McCoy played two top ten defenses (Nebraska, Oklahoma) and finished with QB ratings of 35.0 and 58.4, respectively. He threw for under 200 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs in those games. McCoy did not play a single defense in the top 10 in 2008, 2007 or 2006. If this range is extended to the top 15, McCoy's QB ratings are 69.0 v. Ohio St. 2006, 70.0 v. TCU 2007, 95.0 v. Ohio St. 2008. In the 5 total games of his career in which McCoy was up against a top 15 defense, he has thrown 5 TDs and 7 INTs. I realize Texas is 4-1 in those games (and won 4 in a row), but the point is that McCoy hasn't made it easy on the Horns. The Crimson Tide will have the best defense McCoy has seen in his career, Texas can't afford mistakes from their QB.
Alternatives: Bama has bought into the hype and karma is going to get them. In the 2004 Sugar Bowl the Oklahoma fan base was so overconfident of a sure victory against LSU that championship gear was printed up in advance of the actual game. Jason White won the Heisman Trophy that year and played a miserable game in the Sugar Bowl. OU lost 21-14. Bama's fans are awfully overconfident going into this game (premature celebration anyone?) considering the fact that this season was the Tide's first SEC title since 1999 and that the last Bama national title was in 1992. Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy for Alabama. Even worse for Bama than the OU-LSU scenario is that Texas won their last national championship when Vince Young got snubbed for the Heisman and Reggie Bush was seemingly struck by the Heisman curse. That's basically all I got. Sorry Texas. But don't take my word for it. Read a Horns fan on the situation. Ok, I was kidding. Texas needs to limit Mark Ingram's yards, easier said than done. Texas could allow Bama all the yards they want until they hit the red zone. It's an open secret that Bama has been terrible at scoring TDs in the red zone this year. The problem with this strategy is the Julio Jones screen play, see here. If all else fails, go all Utah bowl game buzzsaw on the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama wins by not as close an unspecified margin as the slim unspecified margin ESPN was saying Texas would win by during the GMAC Bowl in order to promote the BCS title game. Lincoln picked Texas.