For Texas To Win: The defense that showed up on the field on Thanksgiving night against Texas A&M needs to be locked away. The Longhorn defense was otherwise impeccable this season. They were dominant against the run. Their secondary made interceptions, notably against Oklahoma State. Except that one game against A&M where the Aggies ran up and down the field. If the real UT defense shows up ready to play, they can shut down Mark Ingram. Remember, Auburn took Ingram out of the game too, only they didn’t have the playmakers in the secondary to stop the ‘Bama passing game. Texas does.
The Texas offense that showed up against Nebraska needs to be locked away too, although this one might be more difficult. The Cornhusker defense was truly outstanding, and so is Alabama’s. The Longhorn attack can be a little too one-dimensional, relying on Colt McCoy playing catch with Jordan Shipley. But if the Texas defense does its job and McCoy doesn’t make mistakes, he can find Shipley for enough points to win.
For Alabama To Win: Greg McElroy needs to show the same grace under pressure he did against Florida. As good as Ingram is, a top defense can stop a good back if it can give him exclusive focus, as the Auburn example showed. Julio Jones is a prime receiving threat and McElroy will need to hook up with him. Do that, and Ingram will have the running room to be a devastating force.
The Crimson Tide defense’s task is more straightforward. They just need to play up their capability. Their unit is better than the Texas offense, and as long they don’t make mistakes like blown coverages or missed tackles, they can keep McCoy and Shipley under control.
On the surface, things favor Alabama. But remember, the surface view is not necessarily the most accurate. There is no guarantee that ‘Bama will play just like they did against Florida or that Texas will play just like they did against Nebraska, and those two games are motivating public perceptions. What if the Alabama team that showed up against Tennessee appears tonight? You have a whole different story. If the Texas run defense that played all year long shows up, a lot of pressure will come down on McElroy. And if it becomes a battle of quarterbacks, you have to give Texas the edge.
There’s no denying this fact in favor of Alabama—they’ve beaten better teams (LSU & Florida vs. Oklahoma & Nebraska) and often looked more impressive. But Texas hasn’t had the same opportunities. To pick the ‘Horns requires a certain leap of faith, while Alabama is the more stable choice. But back in August, I came here in this space and said Texas was going to win the national championship. I’m not changing now. Look for the defense to stop Ingram, the secondary to get 2-3 picks and Texas to hoist the trophy in a 20-10 game.