No. 1 Alabama is coming off a 19-point defeat of unbeaten, formerly top-ranked Florida. The Crimson Tide swept the six computer ratings that participate in the BCS. They received 54 of 59 first-place votes from the coaches’ poll used by the BCS, and 58 of 60 first-place votes in the Associated Press poll.
No. 2 Texas needed a clock mulligan to beat Nebraska in the Game That Offense Forgot. When Hunter Lawrence’s 46-yard field goal slipped inside the left upright, Orangebloods across America let out their breath in unison: One Sigh Fits All.
All of which means the Longhorns have the Crimson Tide right where they want them.
This will be the fifth time in 50 seasons that Alabama and Texas have played in a bowl game. In the previous four, the Longhorns came in as the lower-ranked team. Texas earned three victories and a tie. In fact, since the teams first met in 1902 — around the time that Alabama became associated with crimson and one year before a sportswriter referred to Texas as the Longhorns — Alabama is 0-7-1 against Texas.
The unveiling of the BCS pairings promises a revival of that 2004 comedy smash, “Three’s A Crowd.” Cincinnati is playing the role that Auburn made so memorable — the cuckolded suitor. The Bearcats, No. 4 TCU and No. 6 Boise State may snipe about the injustice of being left out of the BCS Championship Game. And they have a case.
The problem is not new. The BCS Championship Game has only two sidelines. And the teams that will fill them bring not only well-coached talent but history and tradition. Texas will try to win its fifth national championship since the wire-service polls began in 1936. If the Longhorns win, they will still be one title shy of the Crimson Tide.
The coaches are equals. Mack Brown has won at least 10 games for nine consecutive seasons. After Texas slumped its way through the 1990s, Brown came in and restored the Longhorns to greatness. The burnishing has worked both ways. When Brown arrived from North Carolina, he came as a coach who could win but not win it all. No one says that any longer.
Nick Saban looks to become the first coach in the modern era to win national championships at two different schools. After Alabama slumped its way through this decade, Saban arrived and over the last two seasons has restored the Crimson Tide to greatness. After going 6-6 in the 2007 regular season, Saban’s first year, Alabama has gone 25-2.
The defenses are equals, and not just statistically. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp held that job under Saban at LSU when the Tigers won the 2003 BCS title. He and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart worked together on the LSU staff the following year.
The Longhorns and the Crimson Tide rank 1-2 in rushing defense. Alabama is second and Texas third in total defense. Both defenses are ballhawks — the Tide are plus-16 in turnovers, the Longhorns are plus-12.
Surely the rest of college football would like to see Texas win and deny the Southeastern Conference the bragging rights that would come with an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship. That would also be five in seven years.
Alabama last played in a January game in the Rose Bowl 64 seasons ago. Before the Big Ten and Pacific-10 made the game their own, the Crimson Tide played in the Rose Bowl six times in 21 years. But the last team to win a national championship in the Arroyo Seco wore burnt orange four years ago.
Both Alabama and Texas, it appears, will be at home.
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