Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bowl Preview IV

BCS National Championship Game
January 7
Alabama vs Texas
Alabama -4
The curtain goes down on the college football season on Thursday night, and for the first time since 2005, we will be guaranteed and undefeated national champion. This game has a lot of interesting factoids. For starters, the SEC will be seeking its 4th straight BCS National Title with its 3rd different university. The last non-SEC school to win the national championship? Texas of course. Mark Ingram of Alabama will attempt to become the first Heisman Trophy winner to also don a national championship ring since Matt Leinart in 2004. Colt McCoy of Texas will attempt to become only the 2nd quarterback ever to win 4 bowl games. Mack Brown and Nick Saban will be seeking to win their 2nd national title each. The winner of this game will also join Ohio State from 2002 and Boise State from this season as the only 14-0 teams in IA history. So with that out of the way, who's gonna win? In a somewhat shocking development, neither of these teams finished as the best team in their conference according to my SDPI statistic. SDPI is far from a perfect measure of team strength, but its very interesting that neither undefeated conference champion finished as the best in their league. Alabama finished second behind Florida in the SEC, but humbled the Gators in the SEC Championship Game. Texas actually finished 3rd in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma and Texas Tech. As always, Tech's numbers are inflated by the type of offense they play, but the Longhorns still finished well behind Oklahoma, a team they beat on the field. So how did these teams win their respective conferences? Alabama finished a little behind Florida in both offense (5th in the SEC) and defense (2nd in the SEC), but led the conference in turnover margin at +12. They also won both one-score conference games they played in (versus Tennessee and Auburn), and then used a fantastic gameplan to upset the Gators to earn a spot in Pasadena. Texas finished a little behind Oklahoma in both offense (5th in the Big 12) and defense (3rd in the Big 12), but they also led the league in turnover margin (+11), non-offensive touchdowns (11), and defeated Oklahoma in their only one-score game in the regular season (won despite being slightly outgained thanks to a +2 turnover margin). As you may have heard, Texas played another one-score game in the Big 12 Championship Game, narrowly edging Nebraska on a field goal as time expired. If we go by resumes, Alabama is certainly the superior team. They have beaten 3 top-15 teams (Virgina Tech, LSU, and Florida), with 2 coming at a neutral site. 9 of their 13 wins were over teams with winning records, and those 9 teams all came from BCS conferences. Texas has beaten 2 teams in the top-25 (Oklahoma State and Nebraska) with both coming either on the road or on a neutral site. I'll also give Texas credit for beating Oklahoma, a team much better than their 8-5 record would indicate. All told, Texas defeated 8 bowl teams (7 finished with winning records), but only 6 of those bowl teams hailed from BCS conferences. Still, Texas is probably a little undervalued because their last game happened to be one of the worst they have played all season, while Alabama's last game was arguably their best. Texas at +4 is a good value. Alabama is probably not as good as they showed against Florida, and conversely Texas is probably not as bad, particularly on offense, as they showed against Nebraska. If you're feeling extra lucky, try the Longhorns on the moneyline.

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