Defenses never rest

LOS ANGELES - Say what you will about the Bowl Championship Series, but this is a worthy matchup for the national title. Alabama is seeking its first BCS championship. Texas defeated USC in the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl four years ago. Some of the game's key issues and matchups:

Wait a minute

Quarterbacks usually start off the preview, so consider this a tip of the hat to the defenses that are expected to dictate the outcome.


Coordinators for both teams were members of Alabama coach Nick Saban's former staff at Louisiana State.

Alabama ranks second nationally in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The Crimson Tide is fifth in turnover margin.


Linebacker Rolando McClain, the Butkus Award winner, tackle Terrence Cody and defensive backs Mark Barron and Javier Arenas are among the playmakers for a unit that is coordinated by Kirby Smart and has not given up more than 24 points in a game.

Texas, under defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, ranks first in rushing defense and third in total defense.

End Sam Acho has a team-best nine sacks. Tackle Lamarr Houston has seven sacks and he and end Sergio Kindle have combined for 38 tackles for losses.

Safety Earl Thomas has intercepted eight passes.

Armed for action

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy lacks the resume of his Texas counterpart but has been an effective, efficient leader and clutch performer down the stretch.

The fourth-year junior has passed for 17 touchdowns and completed 61 percent of his passes with four interceptions. He averages 197 yards in total offense a game.

McElroy finished the regular season by directing a game-winning drive against Auburn and then leading the Crimson Tide over Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The Longhorns' Colt McCoy has twice been a Heisman Trophy finalist.


The fifth-year senior has completed 71 percent of his passes for 27 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Averaging 297 yards in total offense, he also has rushed for three touchdowns.

In January 2006, McCoy was on the Rose Bowl sideline when Vince Young willed the Longhorns to victory.

Can McCoy do the same?

On the run

Mark Ingram, Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner, averages 118.6 yards a game rushing and has run for 15 touchdowns.

Ingram, who has gained a school-record 1,542 yards, runs behind an offensive line led by All-American left guard Mike Johnson.

Texas rushes by committee.


Tre' Newton averages 39 yards, McCoy 27.

The Longhorns' line is seeking redemption after giving up nine sacks against Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.

Catching on

Alabama's passing game is a secondary option behind Ingram, but it can be effective.

Receiver Julio Jones has caught 42 passes, four for touchdowns.

Marquis Maze and Ingram each have 30 receptions.

Jordan Shipley is McCoy's favorite target.


The All-American sixth-year senior has 106 receptions, 11 for touchdowns.

James Kirkendoll and Dan Buckner have 48 and 44 catches, respectively.

Special forces

Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin has made 29 of 33 field-goal attempts and is within two field goals of tying the NCAA single-season record and five from trying the career record of 87.

Punter P.J. Fitzgerald averages 42.1 yards per kick.

Arenas ranks third nationally in punt returns, ninth in kickoff returns.

Texas' Hunter Lawrence has made 22 of 25 field-goal attempts, including a 46-yarder with one second left that won the Big 12 title game.


Punter Justin Tucker averages 40.6 yards a kick.

D.J. Monroe is second nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 35.8 yards per return with two for touchdowns.

Shipley has returned two punts for touchdowns.


For what it's worth, Texas has been here before: At the Rose Bowl and playing for a national title. Whether that translates to an advantage remains to be seen, but coach Mack Brown has been through the process.

So, of course, has Saban.

This is Alabama's first BCS title shot, but Saban won the 2004 BCS title game with LSU at the Superdome in New Orleans.