First and foremost, I want to congratulate the University of Texas football team, their fans, their alumni. Regardless of how it got done, on Saturday night you scored 13 points, Nebraska scored 12, and by virtue of 13 being greater than 12, you now find yourselves making reservations for Pasadena the first week of January. (Actually from what I hear, most of you made reservations a month ago, so perhaps "re-confirming reservations" is more appropriate.)
I'll even put away the arguments and schedule comparisons of TCU and Cincinnati with your burnt-orange-clad bunch, and conveniently forget the fact that when compared to both of those teams, the primary things Texas has going for it are (a) being ranked higher than them to start the season and (b) a known brand name. There's a month until the game, and that's another blog post for another time.
For now, Texas, I congratulate you!
(You can't see me, but I'm typing with my left hand, making the "HOOK EM" sign with my right hand, while humming "The Eyes of Texas." I swear to Darrell Royal, I am.)
I can imagine right now you must feel like you're playing with house money. Think of everything that the Longhorns overcame to get the magical trip to the championship game:
Shoddy offensive line play. Actually, to call it merely "shoddy" isn't doing justice to the level of suck that the UT o-line came to work with on Saturday. Colt McCoy was sacked nine times (4.5 by Ndamukong Suh, who was without question, the best player on any field Saturday), the run game never got going, and Texas' big guys up front got pushed around all night.
Questionable play calling. Against a Nebraska team whose defensive strength is their front four, UT offensive coordinator Greg Davis apparently thought the best thing to do was pound UT's nonexistent running game into the Nebraska line 38 times to the tune of 18 yards. As a result, McCoy and the Texas offense found itself in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long all night, leading to numerous pass plays which can only be classified as successful if the goal was to see how much physical abuse the human body could withstand.
Suicidal end-of-game management. Maybe it was the fact that they hadn't been behind late in a game all year or maybe it was because Mack Brown chooses to outsource every aspect of his football team (except for recruiting and encouraging hand clapping) including late game-clock management, but they may want to work on that whole "clock running down at the end of the game" thing before January 7. Put it this way -- I don't think that the Texas coaching staff is going to be asked to come to any coaching clinics this summer to show everyone the "roll out and heave the ball into the stands with one second left while still having a time out left" method of setting up their final field-goal attempt.
So you needed a little luck along the way; I get it, Longhorn Fan. Nebraska kicks the ball out of bounds, Shipley gets horse-collared and gets you set up in field goal range. Losing teams make losing plays, and Nebraska deserved to lose as much as UT deserved to win. Besides, with Colt making all those plays on that last drive....wait what's that? Oh THAT'S right, he made one play -- the throw to Shipley. Other than that, he was busy burning the clock down by getting sacked (again), and rolling out and heaving the ball, meticulously leaving one second left for Texas to try a 46-yard field goal. Time out, shmime out!! Colt didn't need it. Whatever.
Understand this, Longhorn Fan -- all kidding aside, you've now won a do-or-die game that you had absolutely no business winning. You let an inferior opponent -- one that had THREE plays all night for over ten yards, and none for more than 17 yards -- hang around, take a lead on you, and then hand the game back over to you on a silver platter. This still wasn't good enough for you, as Colt, Mack, and Greg Davis did everything short of taking a knee on 4th down to give it back to Nebraska.
So now that karma dropped a big, fat lotto ticket in your lap, understand that it can only go one of two ways. Either karma has dubbed you a team of destiny, and the championship game will be won by UT in a similar improbable, nerve-wracking manner (like 2005)....or you overextended the karma on Saturday night, and it will be waiting in Pasadena with a receipt -- a receipt where the refund will be a 20+ point ass-kicking.
I'm going to go with the latter.
I'm sorry Longhorn Fan, but January 7 is going to be a long night, and I'm not talking about a post-game celebration into the wee hours. Whatever you saw this past Saturday, go ahead and ratchet the speed up another half turn, sprinkle in some exotic blitz schemes, and add an actual offense with a good quarterback, a Heisman Trophy-caliber running back, and playmakers at wide receiver. Alabama has players all over the field, and they smell blood.
It will come down to Texas having to find a way to game-plan around their fluffy soft offensive line, pedestrian running game, and dearth of tight ends. Essentially, it'll be incumbent upon one of two things happening:
(1) Greg Davis needs to come up with a killer game plan, and I'm sorry but if I had to take Greg Davis' name and Nick Saban's name and fill one of them in each of the blanks in this sentence --- "You know that _______ is gonna have something ready for ________." Well, you know how that's gonna go. Saban is to chess what Davis is to Candy Land.
(2) Colt needs to go make it happen, and I'm sorry, but it's not happening this year. I saw enough "deer in the headlights" from McCoy on Saturday and against OU in October (again, the two defenses that most closely resemble the one he'll see on January 7) to know how this movie will end. Lots of bruises, lots of grass stains, maybe a bible verse, and not nearly enough points. Not even close.
Blame the Big XXII for only giving you two games all season that were played at the speed you'll see on January 7. Blame your out-of-conference opponents that bailed on you this season, leaving you with a melange of directional suck to supplement a depleted Big XII schedule. Blame the system again just for the hell of it, even though this year you seem pretty happy with it.
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I'd tell you to pack a lunch, but I think Terrance Cody would eat it, and then use Colt McCoy to clean his teeth.
I know the Rose Bowl is the home to one of your finest moments, Longhorn Fan. Indeed, Pasadena was once your playground, but not anymore. This time, Vince isn't here to bail you out. Mack can't clap-clap-clap-clap-clap his way to a win. Darth Saban awaits. All he asks is that you take your ass kicking like a man.
Don't worry, you'll always have Arlington. Hook 'em.
Listen to Sean Pendergast from 3-7PM weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" on 1560 The Game, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.