If you haven’t placed your bets on the BCS National Championship Game by now, your head is probably spinning.
When the line opened at Alabama -4, you watched everyone pound the Crimson Tide, pushing the line up to as much as -6. But now, everyone loves Texas and the line has dipped back down to -3.5 in some places.
“We've been at -4 since December 18 and although the market is showing some -3.5’s, we are still heavier on Bama and plan to stay where it is,” said betED.com sportsbook manager Randy Scott.
Throughout it all, you had talking heads bombarding you with meaningless clichés; forum experts insisting they’re on the right side and touts are begging you to believe in their “Game of the Year.”
You’re hearing trends like Heisman trophy winners are 1-6 ATS against the spread in BCS title games. (What does Jason White have to do with Alabama-Texas?)
It all equals information overload and it can lead to second guessing.
Don’t let that happen to you, especially when all you need to know to be on the right side of biggest game of the year is the answers to these three questions, more clichés included.
Who will win the war in the trenches?
Texas’ offensive line is experienced (three seniors, two juniors) and big, averaging 6-foot-5, 310 pounds. But it’s not overly talented, with only center Chad Hall considered to be rated in the Top 10 at his position.
Still, the Horns surrendered more than three sacks only once all season, before Ndamukong Suh and Nebraska got a hold of them. Suh and the Cornhuskers pummeled Colt McCoy for nine sacks.
But just because Suh shredded Texas’ offensive line that does not mean Terrence Cody and Alabama will too.
Suh is one of the most dominant defensive players we’ve seen in quite a while. The fact that he’s even being considered a No. 1 overall pick is proof.
While Cody, at 6-foot-7 and 345 pounds, is a mammoth force in the middle, he might not even be taken in the first round and is considered by most draft pundits the fourth or fifth best defensive tackle in this year’s class. He won’t dominate like Suh did.
On the other side, the Crimson Tide’s offensive line (comprised of two seniors, a junior and two sophomores) is not as experienced or as big as Texas, but it’s probably more talented. Left guard Mike Johnson (6-foot-6, 305 pounds) is considered a first-day draft pick.
The Longhorns defensive line features senior end Sergio Kindle, a first-round pick who moves all around the field and will likely play linebacker in the NFL. Kindle, along with sophomore NT Kheeston Randall (6-foot-5, 288 pounds) and senior tackle Lamar Houston (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) helped the Longhorns finish fifth in the nation in sacks at three per game.
Alabama allowed three sacks in only one game this season, at Auburn, where the Tide squeaked out a 26-21 victory.
Advantage: Alabama, barely.
Who has more game-changers?
I eliminated all cupcake games and broke down the scoring summaries from each team’s games against their toughest competition to find the players that step up in big situations. A lot of players can score touchdowns against UTEP and Chattanooga, but only the true game-changers show up in the biggest games.
The following are players that scored touchdowns against their team’s most-talented opponents:
Alabama game-changers: QB Greg McElroy, RB Mark Ingram, RB Roy Upchurch, TE Colin Peek, RB Trent Richardson.
Texas game-changers: QB Colt McCoy, WR Marquise Williams, WR Malcolm Williams, DB Earl Thomas, RB Cody Johnson, DB Curtis Brown.
Texas has one more game-changer.
Notice, not one Alabama receiver scored a touchdown against Virginia Tech, Auburn or Florida.
Obviously, Tide wideout Julio Jones has game-changing ability, as does Texas receiver Jordan Shipley. You could probably throw Alabama punt returner Javier Arenas in this mix, too. But none of those players scored a touchdown against their toughest opponents this year, which shows that they can be taken out of a game.
Advantage: Texas, barely.
Who will win the chess match?
By now, you should be well aware of how familiar these two coaching staffs are with each other. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is a disciple of Nick Saban, as is Longhorns running back coach Major Applewhite, who spent two seasons as Alabama offensive coordinator under Saban.
Trying to get a handle on who has a coaching advantage can be mind-numbing. Saban knows what Muschamp likes to do, but Muschamp knows that Saban knows … you get the idea.
The winner of the chess match will be the gustiest coach. It will be the coach that gambles on fourth down or pulls out the trick play at precisely the right time.
Advantage: Saban, significantly.
Bowl record: 21-11. Season record: 42-38-3
Alabama -3.5: In a close game, I believe the more balanced team will prevail.
Forum Capper of the Year
Two of the best handicappers on the Covers Forum give their picks on the side and total of National Championship Game. The winner of the bowl contest will be inducted into David Payne’s Handicapping Hall of Fame. As if that’s not a glorious enough honor, a charitable donation will also be made in the winner’s name.
Boom_Boom: (Last week: 2-1. Contest: 6-2) Alabama -4, Over 45.5
WahooS: (Last week: 2-2. Contest: 4-5) Texas + 4, Under 46.
Best of luck everyone and thanks for another successful season of Cram Session. I hope you enjoy this column as much as I enjoy writing it.
As always, if you ever have questions or suggestions, feel free to message David Payne. You can also follow him on Twitter @Payne_Covers.