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Colt McCoy was standing on the Rose Bowl sideline that night four years ago when Vince Young’s legend was born.

“Watch this. We’re going to win the national championship,” Young announced as the Longhorns trotted onto the field for that final possession against USC.

At that magical moment, the standard was set for every future Texas quarterback. What would Vince do?

McCoy was once booed off the field during a bad performance because he’d played the kind of game Vince would never have played. Never mind that Vince wasn’t always perfect. How you leave ’em is how they remember you.

Now it’s McCoy’s turn. He has won 45 games, more than any college quarterback ever, and he won them after being asked to replace the greatest Longhorn of them all.

Four seasons later, having carved out a nice legacy of his own, he has this one bit of unfinished business. If you’re inclined to believe Texas will win again, he’s where you start. Actually, you start with his entire senior class.

McCoy and the 20 other Texas seniors have lived in a different world than any Alabama player. Another national championship was expected, and anything less was unacceptable.

This is the moment they’ve worked for, sweated for, bled for. This is the opportunity they believe they were robbed of by 0.128 points in the BCS standings a year ago.

Alabama is in a different place. The Crimson Tide haven’t played for a national championship in 17 years, and just three years ago, Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa with the immediate goal of making Alabama football respectable again.

He did that faster than almost anyone thought, and Alabama is better than Texas at some of the basic things. Alabama’s offensive line and running game are better. Alabama’s defense is better.

Pressure grows with success

But Alabama is two years removed from a 7-6 season, three years removed from 6-7. While Texas has been focused on this game and this game alone, Alabama has ridden a magic carpet back onto the national stage.

This game is a wonderful reward for Alabama. It’s a mission for Texas.

McCoy is one of seven Longhorns who were standing on the sidelines when Texas beat USC and part of a senior class that will have its careers measured by whether it beats Alabama.

Life isn’t fair, right? McCoy’s class has gone 45-7 in four years. No Texas senior class has won more games. But to a lot of Texas fans, this is the only one that counts.

These Texas seniors must win this game, or those 45 other victories will be diminished. Inside the program, the pressure has been stifling at times.

At one point this season, head coach Mack Brown pulled McCoy aside and said, “I haven’t seen you smile in a month.”

Brown hasn’t smiled much, either. After UT beat Nebraska to earn a berth in the BCS national title game, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis asked Brown if 2009 had been as much fun as 2005.

“No,” Brown said.

He said not playing in the national championship game a year ago had been such a bitter disappointment that getting here this time has been more a relief than a celebration.

Texas played like a team feeling the pressure. Brown believes some of that pressure will be removed by finally being here.

This week has become a celebration of sorts as 19 former Longhorns in the NFL, including Young and Ricky Williams, have returned to tell their guys they’re proud of what they’ve done.

McCoy holds the key

Texas believes it belongs here, believes it was meant to win this game, believes in some larger destiny, and all of that begins with McCoy.

If he plays well, Texas will win. He’s the one guy who can make up for some of the Longhorns’ flaws that have been exposed this last month.

Even if Alabama has the speed to cover Texas’ wideouts, even if Alabama’s front four manhandles Texas, McCoy is capable of winning the game with some combination of his arm, legs and experience.

Alabama’s advantage is a power running game and a dominant defense. Texas’ advantage is the ability to score points in bunches, whether on special teams, defense or by McCoy.

In the end, though, it’s probably going to come down to a handful of plays. Somewhere along the way, McCoy will have the opportunity he has envisioned since the moment Young departed.

These two teams are so good and so well-coached that it’s probably going to be big players doing the things they’re supposed to do. Colt McCoy’s moment awaits.