Cram Session: BCS questions that must be answered

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.

Payneful Pick

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.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for our Editorial Team, please contact us at Editorial

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Posted by Boom_Boom
4 years ago

yo.........What do you think of that complete behind kicking at the line of scrimmage... Check Mate
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Posted by Boom_Boom
4 years ago

No DP... i m not giving you 10.5..LOL GL Tonight
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Posted by David_Payne
4 years ago

Interesting, Boom ... but I don't think Vegas would take any chances on not posting a line on a championship game that wouldn't attract equal action. One oddsmaker told me that it would have been -7, like you said, IF the game would have been played right after the SEC / Big 12 title games. But the big gap in between games has a tendency to even things out a little bit. That said, I'll take Texas and your +10.5 ... thanks .. I'm also on the Tide -4 ... Let's roll ..
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Posted by dwasserb
4 years ago

How quickly the bama fans forget about the near miss against Tenn and the struggle to put LSU away. Fact is the Horns have been a dominant team for years and you should give them respect. Dogging them just because they are not in the SEC is so 3rd grade. Bama may win, and they may not. But y'all are swept up in the tide of the moment and not looking at the bigger picture. My bet: Texas wins the game straight up. Hook em...
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Posted by TSD04GT
4 years ago

Agree completely with BOOM (above). I have seen Texas struggle against Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Alabama by at least 10.
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Posted by Boom_Boom
4 years ago

DP.......I think the books want you to believe sharp money is or was coming in in Texas. The truth is they know they couldn't set this line high enough. The line should of been set at Bama -7 (They know that ). If they set the line at 4 or 5 they know that most public bettors would see this line and say well, Vegas must believe it will be a close game....and in most situations people will take the points. But i m here to tell you....Bama is at least 10 points better if not more than Texas. After a few series in this game...Texas will know along with the nation who is the better team. Bama will physically intimidate Texas and bully them all night.
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Posted by hvacdawg
4 years ago

better qb is mccoy. texas stops ala. running attack and they're done for. ala. has to stop tex passing attack, mccoy running , and texas will to win. i like texas.
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Posted by hvacdawg
4 years ago

should be a 27-13 game.....but who wins ???
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Posted by David_Payne
4 years ago

Got some interesting comments from a couple sportsbook managers that I thought I'd pass on: From BoDog's Richard Gardner: "The early action was on Alabama but right before Christams money started coming in on Texas which caused the line to drop from 5 to 4.5 and then more action came as people where betting on the other BCS games right at the turn of the New Year. Currently we are seeing a little more handle on Alabama, but still close to even." From BetED's Randy Scott: "The opening number for this game was Bama -5 and all the early money was on Bama which pushed the line up to -6 for a moment, some wise stuff came in on +6 and was moved back down to -5. The number stayed that way for over a week as both sides were seeing even action. By Dec 13, Texas was getting majority the bets at +5, which move the number down to 4.5 and shortly afterwards down to the market price of 4. We've been at 4 since Dec 18th and although the market is showing some 3.5, we are still heavier on Bama and plan to stay where it is."
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Posted by mrpaperstax
4 years ago

roll up the longhorns and smoke em!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Posted by mrpaperstax
4 years ago

BAMA .....GONNA ROLL UP THE HORNS AND SMOKE EM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SABAN BAMA SEC INGRAM!!!!!!!TO MUCH 4 texas short horns...Mcoy cant do it all
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Top Response

Posted by mrpaperstax
4 years ago

"BAMA .....GONNA ROLL UP THE HORNS AND SMOKE EM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SABAN BAMA SEC INGRAM!!!!!!!TO MUCH 4 texas short horns...Mcoy cant do it all"