December 31, 2009

New Year's BREAKDOWN for BCS title game

1. Will Muschamp says there will be "a lot of wasted ink" dedicated to Muschamp's relationship with Nick Saban and how Texas can use it to the Longhorns' advantage.

Muschamp said there are a lot of similarities in how he approaches football compared to how Nick Saban approaches it.

But he said Alabama will have a feel for how Muschamp approaches things, too.

"James Willis, their linebacker coach, worked for me for two years at Auburn, so there's carryover on both sides," Muschamp said. "I've also worked with Bo Davis, their defensive line coach (when Davis was the assistant strength and conditioning coach at LSU from 2002-04).

"Philosophically, there's a lot of carryover because you've got people in the meeting room who approach things the same way," Muschamp said. "Fundamentals. How you play blocks. Coverage and leverage and different things that you teach fundamentally are being taught the same.

"Schematically there's some carryover but there's some differences based on talent.

"I think the game will be decided by execution and those five to seven plays that will determine the outcome and who comes out on top in those five to seven plays."

2. Muschamp met Nick Saban for the first time when Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at Valdosta State (with current Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as his defensive backs coach at Valdosta) and Saban was at LSU.

Muschamp was recommended to Saban by Jimbo Fisher, LSU's offensive coordinator at the time.

Here's how Muschamp described the job interview when Saban had an opening on his staff coaching linebackers.

"He was looking for presentation and how I presented it," Muschamp said. "If he was a player sitting in the room, he wanted me to make a recruiting pitch. I wrote up an evaluation of a player off of tape.

"He had me present a player evaluation of a couple high school players. He had me present special teams. He wanted to know my approach in recruiting.

"It was very thorough, and it should have been. I was 27. But I don't know how many guys would give a guy that young that opportunity. I guess he trusted the guys on his staff."

3. Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the similarities between the defenses at Alabama and Texas. Saban gives a lot of credit for Texas' defensive success to Will Muschamp.

"First of all, I think they have good players and I think we have good players and it starts with that," Saban said.

"I think in both cases those players are pretty well coached in terms of how they play in the scheme that they play and what they do and there are some similarities in the backgrounds and all that, but I don't think that's what makes it that way.

"I think it's the fact that they do a really good job of coaching their players. Will (Muschamp) does a really good job. I don't know everybody else on their staff and he's done that just about every place he's been and they have very good players.

"Their players play hard, they play with a lot of toughness and they play with a lot of discipline and doing what they're supposed to do, so the scheme works well for them. They have good players, and those players play well together."

4. Nick Saban has a reputation as a taskmaster who burns out assistant coaches.

But Muschamp said Saban knows what he wants. Muschamp was with Saban at LSU from 2001-04 and as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2005.

"Nick never asked me to do anything that he wasn't doing himself from the work standpoint, recruiting standpoint," Muschamp said. "If you didn't like to work, it wasn't a good place to be. But I like to work.

"Philosophically and schematically we believe a lot of the same things. We believe in the same way to coach and motivate. That's probably why we got along.

"I was 27 years old, and when you get there and are able to get exposed to a lot of things schematically. That's probably where I formed my ideas about how you play and what you have to do to be successful."

When asked what stands out about Saban as a coach, Muschamp said, "Having a plan for everything. In situations in games. Recruiting. Public relations. From a total program standpoint, always having a plan.

"Those would be the things that jump out at me aside from just football."

5. Muschamp said he talks to Saban about once a month.

Muschamp was asked if he sends text messages to Saban.

"He doesn't know how to text, so it's not worth texting," Muschamp laughed.

6. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram has the full attention of the Texas defense.

"He's outstanding," Muschamp said. "He's the Heisman Trophy winner. Their line does a great job of getting a hat on a hat. They get good movement. They climb on the second level, and Ingram is a great one-cut runner.

"When he sees the hole, he does a great job of getting north and south. That's what jumps out at you when you watch him on tape over and over again. He really can get vertical.

"And (Trent) Richardson would be starting at a lot of other places in the country. He's outstanding and has a similar style to Ingram. He can slash, get north and south and get the pads downhill. His low center of gravity is hard because he doesn't he doesn't give you any soft areas to hit."

Sergio Kindle said you can't describe Ingram's style with one word.

"I mean, if there's a word for all styles, then that is probably what he is," Kindle said. "He can do it all. Run in between the tackle, outside. Make moves, catch real well, not afraid to step up and take on blitzes. I mean, what more can you want? Doesn't turn the ball over, so, total package."

LB Emmanuel Acho said of facing Ingram, "It's a really good challenge. Really exciting. Always good to play against the best. It's going to be fun to go up against one of the best running backs in the nation.

"Coach (Muschamp) has really emphasized adding to the ball and trying to get all our jerseys around the ball to bring him down. So just like in any other game with any other back, you want to make sure you're hustling after every play to bring them down. With him especially, he's a very tough runner, so we'll always try to make sure we're going to rally to the ball."

"He's a workhorse," said S Blake Gideon of Ingram. "He always wants the ball in tight situations, and that's the earmark of a great player. And he's obviously proved that with whether it be the numbers he's put down on paper or the trophy he picked up a couple weeks ago. He's proved it. He deserves everything he gets. He works hard. We're looking forward to the challenge of competing with him."

7. Alabama has only turned the ball over 10 times ALL SEASON, which is tied for first nationally with Cincinnati. (Texas has turned the ball over 23 times.)

But the Longhorns' defense is No. 1 nationally in interceptions (24) and No. 2 nationally in turnovers gained (35) behind Ohio (37).

"They really take care of the ball, and that's going to be a key part of the game," Muschamp said.

Greg McElroy has thrown only four interceptions this season.

--He had one picked off by Virginia Tech in the opener

--2 picked off by South Carolina in a 20-6 win on Oct. 17

--And one picked off by LSU in a 24-15 victory on Nov. 7.

Of those interceptions, only one (against Va. Tech) led to three points for the opponent, and that was after the INT came at Alabama's 14. (The defense held Va. Tech to 3 yards and forced a FG.)

Bama has only fumbled the ball six times this season:

-- 2 by Greg McElroy (against North Texas and South Carolina)

-- 1 by RB Trent Richardson (vs. Ole Miss)

-- 1 by RB Roy Upchurch (vs. Va. Tech)

-- 1 by the team (vs. South Carolina)

-- 1 by Mark Ingram (vs. Tennessee)

Of all those fumbles, only Ingram's against Tennessee was converted into points by the opponent (a touchdown).

So opponents were only able to convert 10 points out of Bama's 10 turnovers this season.

This will be the biggest challenge the Legion of Boom has had all year in trying to get the ball loose from an offense and convert it into points.

8. The last time Mack Brown faced Nick Saban was in the 2003 Cotton Bowl, a 35-20 victory by the Longhorns against an LSU defensive coordinator named Will Muschamp.

LSU outgained Texas in that game, 441 yards to 382 yards, but LSU turned the ball over three times, and Texas was able to convert those miscues into points.

"I hope we have the same results," Muschamp said.

When pressed about who "we" is, Muschamp smiled and tugged on his burnt orange pullover.

"We," he said.

9. Colt McCoy learned a lot as a redshirt freshman from Vince Young during the BCS national title game against USC.

This is what Colt McCoy told me about being on the sideline for that title game back in the 2005 season.

"The only thing I remember from that game is we make the stop (on fourth-and-2)," McCoy said. "We come back. Vince scores on third-down. We run the same play two times in a row. And during a timeout - you've got to understand that Vince and I were really close.

"He kind of took me under his wing, which was the best thing that ever happened to me. When he came back in the huddle off timeout, just his attitude about how he knew he was going to get in the end zone.

"The way that he led the team all year long. At that moment, that's when I realized, 'We're about to win this thing.'

"It was pretty special, and from that point on, I always want to put myself in that position because I know the way he handled it. I've watched people in that position my whole life handle that situation, and that's where I always want to be."

10. I always felt like there was something Colt wanted to say when he was telling me the story about the BCS national title game against USC.

Now, here's the rest of the story from Colt McCoy (now that the season is over) about what he learned from Vince Young in the BCS national title game.

"Vince and I had a great relationship," McCoy said. "You know, he kind of took me in and taught me everything he knew. I feel like he did. Everything but his athletic ability. But in that game, you know, they were driving down to go score. It was right after we had gotten the fourth-down stop.

"We had gotten the ball, and there was a TV timeout. They were getting ready to go. He just looked up at me and said, 'Hey, you'll be in this position some day.'

"Basically after the game was over, he had remembered that he told me that, and he kind of handed it over to me. I knew he was going to the NFL. It was time to go back to work and get ready. You know, that was pretty special for me."

BONUS NUGGET: That ought to put some chills down the ol' spine. Next up, my first BREAKDOWN from Pasadena tomorrow night (Jan. 1) when the team arrives in California. Happy New Year everyone!!!!!!!

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