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December 6, 2009
It's official: Alabama vs. Texas
TUSCALOOSA _ It was an extremely hectic night for University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, the first of many this upcoming month.
In addition to the Crimson Tide celebrating the undefeated season with its annual awards banquet Sunday at The Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham, he did live interviews with Fox and ESPN, a conference call with national media and, oh yeah, accepted the official invitation for Alabama to play in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.
As expected, No. 1 Alabama (13-0) will face No. 2 Texas (13-0) on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
"We're truly honored," Saban said. "We think the Tournament of Roses is the Granddaddy of them all and my years in the Big Ten we did have several opportunities to play in the Rose Bowl. It's first-class all the way."
Meanwhile, senior cornerback Javier Arenas, senior guard Mike Johnson and junior linebacker Rolando McClain were elected permanent team captains, while McClain and sophomore running back Mark Ingram were named the Tide's most valuable players.
"I've never been prouder of a team in terms of just everyone playing great," Saban said less than 24 hours after Alabama beat Florida in the SEC Championship game, 32-13.
The Tide won't practice for two weeks, but hasn't solidified its schedule yet. Both teams must arrive in California by Jan. 2.
Alabama's 31 bowl wins lead the nation, but the Tide has never beaten Texas (0-7-1). The Longhorns were also a statistical nemesis for Paul W. "Bear" Bryant, who enjoyed only one victory in nine attempts, 34-21 in 1956 when he coached Texas A&M.
The series is highlighted by the 1965 Orange Bowl, where Texas won 21-17, and the teams last played in the 1982 Cotton Bowl, a 14-12 win for the Longhorns.
Among the other obvious story lines:
Ingram and Texas senior quarterback Colt McCoy are considered by many to be the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded Saturday.
"If I was to vote (on the Heisman), I would vote for Mark Ingram," Saban said.
Alabama will be playing at the Rose Bowl for the eighth time, seven in a bowl matchup (1926, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1938 and 1946). The 1926 victory against Washington was the breakthrough game for Southern college football.
Two former Saban assistants are on the Texas staff. Will Muschamp, the head coach-in-waiting, was his defensive coordinator at LSU and with him for a year on the Miami Dolphins. They usually get together once a year and Saban called him one of the best assistant coaches he's ever had.
Running backs coach Major Applewhite was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2007.
"It might scare them to death, because Major knows their personnel," Texas coach Mack Brown quipped.
Saban said he didn't think it would give the Longhorns an advantage because he's familiar with them as well and told ESPN there's "no David and Goliath in this game" even though the Tide is considered an early favorite.
"Texas probably has as good as an offense as we've played all year," Saban said. "I know they have a great defense, Will Muschamp does a fantastic job and Mack does a great job with the overall program. This is going to be a challenging game for us."
For the first time the top 10 teams in the BCS standings are in its five bowls. The other games feature Oregon vs. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl; Iowa vs. Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl; Florida vs. Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl; and TCU vs. Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
After never playing in the Rose Bowl through its entire history, the Longhorns will be making their third appearance in six years.
In 2005, Texas replaced Southern California, which played in the BCS title game, and pulled out a 38-37 victory against Michigan on a 37-yard field goal by Dusty Mangum as time expired. Sophomore quarterback Vince Young accounted for 372 yards of total offense (192 rushing, 180 passing) and all five Longhorn touchdowns.
The following year, Texas returned and beat the Trojans 41-38 to win the national championship, its first since 1970. The teams combined to set Rose Bowl records for most yards (1,130) and first downs (60). Young had 467 yards of total offense (267 passing and 200 rushing), and scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard run with 19 seconds remaining.
Last year Texas narrowly missed out on the title game due to losing a three-way tiebreaker for the Big 12 South title.
Texas secured the No. 2 spot after surviving Saturday's controversial Big 12 Championship Game when officials put a second back on the clock and Hunter Lawrence made a 46-yard field goal for the 13-12 victory. Nebraska limited the Longhorns to 202 total yards and McCoy was sacked nine times.
"I would think Alabama is as good as anybody in the country," Brown said. "Nebraska's got a great defense, Oklahoma's got a great defense, we know Florida has a great defense, but when you look at Alabama week in and week out, they coach them up and (defensive coordinator) Kirby Smart played with Will Muschamp at Georgia, they line them up right, they know what to do, they have great athletes. They're always ready to play and be motivated.
"We'll have our hands full. I'm not sure last night that our offense gave Nebraska the respect before the game it needed because they moved the ball so easily the week before against Texas A&M, but I'll tell you after the game they gave them the respect."
Alabama team awards
Iron Man Award: Marcell Dareus, William Vlachos, Trent Richardson, Barrett Jones, Roy Upchurch
Commitment to Academic Excellence Award: Mike Johnson, Julio Jones, Rolando McClain, Javier Arenas, Barrett Jones, and Greg McElroy
Outstanding Senior Scholar: Brian Selman and Colin Peek
Unsung Hero Award: Darius Hanks, Robby Green, Marquis Johnson, Preston Dial, Courtney Upshaw, and Justin Woodall
Outstanding Defensive Performer Award: Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas
Up-Front Award: Brandon Deaderick and Lorenzo Washington; James Carpenter and Mike Johnson
Most Inspiring Player: Rolando McClain
Defensive Achievement Award: Marcell Dareus, Mark Barron and Eryk Anders
Offensive Achievement Award: Greg McElroy, Julio Jones and Colin Peek
President's Award: Kareem Jackson, Marquis Maze, Ali Sharrief and William Vlachos
Special Teams Award: Javier Arenas, P. J. Fitzgerald and Leigh Tiffin
Defensive Player of the Year: Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody
Offensive Player of the Year: Mark Ingram and Mike Johnson
Pat Trammell Award: Drew Davis and Cory Reamer
Jefferson County Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award: John Croyle
Most Valuable Player: Mark Ingram and Rolando McClain
Captain Awards: Javier Arenas, Mike Johnson and Rolando McClain