Heres your last minute news from Sin City.
Ive got a connection who is an oddsmaker in Vegas. He says that the big money players in Vegas have now jumped on the Longhorns late. A lot of these guys like Texas to win straight up and were holding out to see if the line would creep toward Bama the closer we got to game time. The line has held though, despite about 82% of the money betting on Bama. This has been because the oddsmakers like Texas just as much as the big money players do, and shifting the line risks the big money jumping on Texas at a more favorable spread.
See below his analysis of the game and why he likes Texas to win. Hook 'em.
14-2 on BCS Games now. I am also 4-0 on BCS Title Games, Looking to close the season strong. Got a good game tonight. Here we go....
Texas Longhorns +4 -110
The Line: After Texas escaped from Nebraska and Bama blew out Florida in the showdown between the 2 best teams, you would figure a 6+ here would be expected with how much the public loves Alabama right now. Instead, we see one of the tighter lines of the past few years with 3.5 -to- 4.5 out there. Florida was a 5.5 fave over Oklahoma and Heisman Winner Sam Bradford last year. LSU was a 5.5 fave over Ohio State. And USC was a 7 point fave over Texas. So this is the tightest line we have had in a title game in 3 or 4 years. As I was mentioning, the public only sees teams as good as their last game. You see it all the time. People try to compare conferences and how good teams are based on bowl performance. And people are trying to compare Texas and Alabama based on how they performed their last game out. I guess for Alabama, they are lucky that that Auburn game wasn't what they are being judged based off of. Needless to say, this line is pointing you in a certain direction and we'll break this game down. National Title games have A LOT of action on them, and the books know damn well who is going to take what side before they put a line out there. They knew and they know that Bama would be the public side here. The SEC continues to win national titles, but things always go in cycles, and nothing lasts forever. The key is to try to identify when things are going to shift, and stay AHEAD of the curve. We saw the Big Ten put together one of the best bowl seasons in recent memory, we saw the Pac-10 put together one of the worst in recent memory and the SEC has not been impressive in bowl games either. I think these are signs that the cycle could be coming to an end, and I see the "SEC" losing this title game.
Motivation: Texas. Obviously, this is a national title game, so motivation rarely comes into play. Both teams will be plenty motivated. But I think that when it comes to playoff time in NFL, or bowl time in college, the word motivation gets replaced with the words EXPERIENCE, INTANGIBLES and RESPECT. There are always outside factors that effect a football game. Always. People make the all-too-common mistake of thinking that because Team A is better than Team B, or because Team A's stats are better than Team Bs stats....that team A will cover. That doesn't always happen. That's why so many people lose at sports betting. These are human beings you are betting on, and there is always the human element involved - "and that's why they play the games." I really think that Bama beating Florida was their national championship. You also have Colt McCoy here and the 8 seniors on Texa's starting offense that came back (Colt came back as a 5th year senior) with one goal in mind and that was to win a national title. You didn't seen Tebow or LeFevour go out on a bad note, and I don't think you will see college football's all-time winnigest QB go out on a bad note either.
So why does Texas have the "motivation" (aka experience, intangibles and respect) edge? Let's go:
1. Experience - Mack Brown just seems to be a master at getting his teams ready to play for bowl games. Alabama is 0-2 in BCS games (most recently Bama's flop against Utah last year), while Texas is (3-0) in BCS games (most recently Texas' win over Ohio State last year.) Mack Brown is 8-3 at Texas in bowl games and has won 5 straight bowl games. He's also won 2 games in this venue at the Rose Bowl, including that memorable win over USC. Mack Brown has also defeated Nick Saban head to head. Saban was 0-3 in bowls at Michigan State, is 4-3 with LSU and Bama combined, 1-1 at Bama and 4-3 overall. So he has had mixed success in bowl games. I think part of the problem with Saban's teams is they are wound so tight, and as we saw with TCU, sometimes you gotta play loose. Mack Brown does a great job of that.
2. Intangibles - This is a big one. Alabama has not played a football game outside of the southeast since I don't even know when. Their out of conference games are always home and homes with Auburn (so they stay in the state of Alabama), or they bring cupcakes in. Every now and then they play a neutral site game (like how they did vs. Va Tech this year). Those neutral site games are played in the Georgia Dome, home of the SEC Championship game where Bama has played 3 of their past 13 games. In their bowl games, they have played in Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia. So this road trip for Bama all the way out to California is something very new for them and they are being taken out of their element here and into a completely different environment. Texas has been all over, specifically Mack Brown. They play in the Rose Bowl, they play in Wyoming, they play in Kansas, Arizona, they play neutral site games all of the time with Oklahoma and the Big 12 Championship, etc. Nothing new here for them. Another thing here is if anyone hates the SEC, it is Pac-10 fans. They despise the SEC, and if there are any Californians in the house, they will be cheering for Texas, IMO. Finally, Texas is 7-0 all time vs. Alabama. I realize the last time they faced each other was like 1982 or something. But I think it is an important trend to note. Of all of Alabama's tradition and greatness and championships, and Bear Bryant, and everything they have done, they have NEVER beat Texas. Very interesting to me. So you take Bama out of SEC Country, ship them to the west coast and put them against Texas, that usually isn't good for Bama.
3. Respect - HUGE. Texas got passed by for the national title game last year to Oklahoma - a team they beat head to head. They vowed this year that they would win all of their games and get into this title game and not leave it up to anyone else or any rules. Now they get here, and they are being told that they can't win. That Alabama is too physical for them. That Mark Ingram is the Heisman Winner, not Colt McCoy. That the SEC dominates. That the time expired on the clock and they shouldn't have beaten Nebraska. That they shouldn't even be here. That Alabama is going to impose their will on them. That Bama's defense is too tough. I promise you one thing: Texas will be ready to play tonight.
Forget the Conference Title Games: Get the title games out of your head. They are over. They were 32 days ago. Ancient history. But to ease your mind, let's do a quick examination as to why the results were what they were.
1. Bama vs. Florida - Florida had too much pressure on them all year. So much so, that Urban Meyer eventually stepped down. This team had major issues of being in the #1 pressure cooker and going undefeated. Dunlap was out getting drunk and suspended, they were coming off of senior day at UF where they were crying and saying their goodbyes to Tebow and the seniors, Tebow had to yell at this team pregame because they looked like they didn't care and were flat. And meanwhile, Bama had 1 mission all year: Beat Florida. Get revenge. And when you have those two powerful forces, sometimes you get ugly results. Throw in the fact that the SE Championship game was basically a home game for Bama with the crowd 70/30 Bama, and it snowballed out of control. Florida really beat themselves in that game. They are a running team and ran the ball an inexcusable 14 total times. It wasn't like they ran it 14 times because they got shut down, they ran it 14 times because they had a brain fart. They ran it 14 times for 88 yards, and were averaging 6.6 yards per carry. You can't be a running team, and run the ball 14 times and expect to win. Bama ran it 50 times by comparison. Problem 2 was Carlos Dunlap. This guy is a major piece on Florida's d-line, he is good in run support, and he leads the Gators with 9 sacks. So, don't take too much out of that game, that was an anomaly. If those two teams lined up tomorrow, it would be a much different result.
2. Nebraska vs. Texas - Nebraska has by far the most dominant D-line in football. And in a game that Texas just had to win and they were in the national championship game, sometimes it's easy to look past your nearly unranked opponent out of the "weak" Big 12 North. Nebraska's d-line is way more dominant than Alabama's, and they sacked McCoy a ridiculous 9 times. Still, Texas would not be denied, and they advanced.
Defense, defense, defense: This game is being billed as a low-scoring affair. A slugfest. A slobberknocker. I'll tell you one thing: Be careful betting on the under here. Teams break out new things for the title games, and both teams will be ready for each others defense. Remember, Will Muschamp, the defensive coordinator for Texas is a Nick Saban Prodigy. Saban hired him at LSU and gave Muschamp his first job in the SEC. Muschamp learned from Saban. When Saban went to the Dolphins, he brought Muschamp with him. Then Muschamp went to Auburn, and now Texas. Muschamp runs the same defense as Saban, and knows what Alabama likes to do defensively. I'm sure he was helping Colt McCoy and this offense prepare this past month for what he will see.
A lot of people are making a big deal out of McCoy being sacked 9 times last game vs. Nebraska - and rightfully so. That is a problem that Texas has. However, you'd have to be the worst coach in America if your QB was sacked 9 times, and you had 1 month to prepare for a tough defense and you didn't do anything to adjust. Texas will make adjustments here to give McCoy time to throw the ball. And even all considered, even though McCoy was sacked 9 times, even though he struggled vs. Oklahoma, etc, despite all of those horrible stats, this team is still undefeated. They have not been beaten.
Now, Nebraska's defensive line is the best in the country and they dominate just about everyone, including Texas. It's not just Suh, their line is loaded. Nebraska is #2 in the country in sacks and Oklahoma is #6. Alabama is #32. So while Nebraska and Texas were able to get some good pressure, they have outstanding D-Lines (better than Alabama's) and are great top 10 sack units. Bama brings pressure, but not the same amount. The other thing that I found funny this week is the talking heads comparing Cody to Suh. Suh is a disruptive, dominant playmaker. A disruptive force. Cody is a block eater. He has 25 tackles, 0 sacks this year, and it's just his job to eat up blockers and free up the linebackers. Finally, Alabama does not like to pressure running QBs like Tebow. They train their pass rushers NOT to run past the QB and contain him from scrambling. Despite Bama's dominance in the SEC Title Game, they had 0 sacks on Tebow and just 1 last year, because they do not want Tebow stepping up in the pocket and scrambling and I imagine they will treat McCoy the same way. SO I see McCoy having time to throw in this game because 1. Mack Browns adjustments, 2. Bamas D-Line and pass rush not being as good, and 3. Bamas philosophy of not running past the QB on pressure.
So as we all know, we've got 2 pretty damn good defenses here. Texas faced some better offenses, Bama faced some more conservative offenses. Texas better in sacks, run defense, etc. Bama better in total and scoring defense. Both defenses are legit. So what this game is going to come down to, is who is going to be able to generate more offense, and score more TDs. Let's examine.
QB and Running Game: A big deal being made in this game, and rightfully so, is the running game. Bama relies on it, and Texas is average at it. However, Texas can defend it. I don't believe Texas is the #1 running defense in the country because they play in the Big 12 which is a predominantly passing conference, but I do like the results this defense has done this year, holding their bowl opponents to 2.1 yards per carry, compared to Bama holding their bowl opponents to 3.1 yards per carry. I also think Texas is being disrespected in this game, and I think they will be able to slow Mark Ingram and co. in this game because if they don't, it will be a long night for them. So look for Texas to make a statement and stop the ground game. Alabama did not face a lot of good rush defenses this year. The SEC did not have many good rush defenses. This is the best rush D Bama has faced this year. Two games stand out to me: Auburn slowed Bama to 35 carries for 73 yards. Tennessee 30 for 136. That is a combined 3.2 yards per carry. When Bama has had success this year, it is because they are able to run the football 40-50 times. But when they have struggled (like the Auburn and Tennessee games) they have had to abandon the run, only run it 30 something times for small yardage, and they have had to rely on Greg McElroy. And THAT is the key to this game because Texas will not get run over in this game and at some point, McElroy is going to have to put the team on his shoulders against the toughest D he has faced this year.
When it comes BCS Time, when it comes Super Bowl Time, when Championships are on the line, 90% of the time the team with the better QB that can make plays for his team wins. That means improvising, that means making plays under pressure, that means experience, that means everything. Colt McCoy has that. He's been sacked 9 times and still won a big game. He's seen the pressure, he's carried this team on his back. Tebow over Bradford. Vince Young over Matt Leinart. Matt Flynn over Boeckman. Etc. Even look at this year's BCS Games: Stanzi over Nesbitt, Kellen Moore over Andy Dalton, Tebow over Pike, etc. McCoy over McElroy.
McElroy has not seen a lot of pressure this year, he has not had to perform with the game on his shoulders on this kind of stage. McCoy has been there done that plenty of times. McElroy attempted 18 passes in the SEC Title game, they never trailed. Sure, he had a nice drive vs. a horrible Auburn defense, but this is Texas' defense. The QBs will have to make big plays in this game, just like every big game, and I am not giving away points with the less experienced QB. McElroy NEEDS that running game to work, or he is in deep shit. McCoy doesn't NEED the running game to work for Texas to have success on offense.
Now two things will happen in this game once it is left up to the QBs: 1. Texas is #5 in the country in sacks with 39 sacks this year. McElory hasn't seen a lot of pressure this year, and we don't know how he will handle it. 2. Texas is #1 in the country in NON-OFFENSIVE TDs with 11 TDs this year coming from their defense, special teams, etc. So they find a way to get in the endzone besides their offense.
MISC: One last thing here: Alabama ranks #116 in the country in red zone TDs. This is a team that absolutely STRUGGLED all year long inside of the red zone. They just could NOT put TDs on the board. McElroy's completion percentage inside the red zone is like 29%. So, Bama is giving away points on the betting line and they will give away points inside the red zone in this game.
Texas also will not be giving away points via special teams tonight, especially in the kicking game. After Hunter Lawrence's game winning FG vs. Nebraska in that situation, I doubt any of his kicks tonight will be as tough as that one. This kid is Texas' all time most accurate kicker in history. He is 9 of 10 on 40+ yard FGs.
In Alabama's 9 games vs. bowl teams (+ their game vs. Miss State).....In those 10 games, Bama had 20 points or less going into the 4th quarter in 7 of those 10 games.
Texas is 27-13 ATS as an underdog and great at bouncing back as they are 4-0 ATS off win by 3pts or less.
Alabama is 2-8 ATS off Double Digit Straight Up win as an underdog like they were to Florida.
The only game this Texas team has lost the past 2 years was the Michael Crabtree miracle at Texas Tech in a wild game where Texas had a murderous 3 game back to back to back tough stretch. Otherwise, this team has won every game they have played. They could have easily lost that Nebraska game as well. Bama lost to Florida and Utah last year, could have easily lost at home to Tennessee if not for a blocked FG or on the road to Auburn.
Another little tidbit I like is that Greg McElroy was born and raised in Texas. Went to a bunch of Texas games as a kid, grew up idolizing these guys, knows the mascots name, the fight songs, etc. Don't be surprised if there is a little bit of intimidation going on here facing a team that he idolized and thought was the greatest thing ever growing up.
My Excel Sheet which has done very well ATS this bowl season: Texas -3
Bottom Line: Take the disrespected team, playing in a familiar place, with college football's all time winningest QB and the #1 run defense, getting more than a FG, going against an defensive minded team, playing out of their element, that can struggle to score points and has a 1st year QB.