Clash of the Titans

With all due respect to programs like TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State, I was thrilled the Longhorns pulled out a last-second victory against an inspired Nebraska team. Playing one of these teams for the national title is about as exciting as preparing your income tax return.


I'm a fan of dynasties – the Alabama teams of the 1970's, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angels Lakers and the New York Yankees. Parity is overrated. The very mention of Alabama and Texas stirs the passion and imagination of every serious football fan, much to the chagrin of the non-BCS conferences.

The numbers provide evidence that the BCS Championship Game is a clash between two of college football's elite programs. Texas ranks second in all-time wins with 844 games, while Alabama ranks sixth with 811 wins. The Horns have a 72.7 winning percentage, while the Tide has a 72 percent winning percentage.

You can't think about Texas without recalling the glory years of Darrell Royal, Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Vince Young. To visit Austin on game day is one of the great experiences in the sport. The burnt orange uniforms, Bevo, the Texas band wearing cowboy hats and a horde of passionate fans make Texas one of the most storied programs in the history of college football.

My memories of previous Alabama and Texas match-ups are filled with recollections of heartbreaking defeats. I recently spoke with Joe Namath about Alabama's loss to Texas and the infamous no-call on his touchdown run. He swears to this day that he scored. And I tend to believe him. Coach Paul Bryant, however, offered no excuses.

"If you can't jam it in from there without leaving any doubt," Bryant told him, "you don't deserve to win."

Thankfully, ancient history will have no part in the upcoming battle with the Horns. This is a contest between the two best teams in America. Alabama versus Texas conjures up memories that comprise the very fabric of college football history. And there are more plot twists in this game than a Dan Brown novel.

The fact that Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite are disciples of Nick Saban adds to the intrigue of the matchup. While there is a perceived advantage for Texas in this scenario, it's a double-edged sword.

Saban helped groom Muschamp into the coach he is today, and you can be certain that Saban and Jim McElwain are painstakingly crafting an offensive game plan that will attempt to exploit Muschamp's tendencies.

Another subplot is the psychological warfare being waged between Saban and Texas coach Mack Brown. Don't let Brown's folksy demeanor fool you. The "David versus Goliath" angle is most certainly being used to motivate the Horns.

Add to that the perceived snub of Colt McCoy's failed Heisman bid, and the fact that the Heisman winner stars for Alabama, and you have all the makings of Brown turning this into a "we don't get enough respect" game.

Saban bristles at the David and Goliath comparison, and will take extra precautions to guard the team against this mindset. In a recent interview on ESPN, he became visibly irritated at the notion, calling it "a setup" designed to cultivate an attitude of overconfidence within his team.

Count on Nick Saban to utilize his laser-focused intensity to ensure the Tide doesn't fall into this trap.


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