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BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Alabama's strategy in BCS title game: Stop the run and the pass

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart says the Crimson Tide will try to avoid forcing Texas quarterback Colt McCoy to do what he does best.

January 04, 2010|By Kevin Baxter

Alabama's smothering defense is designed primarily to stop the run and force opposing teams to pass -- which could play right into Texas' hands in Thursday's Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Longhorns have the sixth-most prolific passer in NCAA history in Colt McCoy, a two-time finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

"It's always a danger when you've got a great quarterback that throws the ball well, that scrambles well," Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said Sunday. "You may push him into his asset. You may force him to do what he does best. So you've got to be able to throw curveballs and stop the pass as much as stop the run."

McCoy this season passed for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns, averaging more than 270 yards a game. Texas averaged less than 153 yards a game on the ground.

"We're looking for the best thing to do against their scheme," Smart said. "What do they do best? How do you stop it? It just starts with that. Make them do something they don't do.

"And they're going to do the same to us. So at the end of the day it's going to come down to the players making the plays or not making the plays in the situations that we put them in."

Added Coach Nick Saban: "We won't change our defense, we'll just try to apply what we do to what they do and make it work."

Now what?

A loss to Florida in the 2008 Southeastern Conference championship game spoiled an unbeaten year for Alabama, leaving the Crimson Tide spoiling for a rematch. So after thumping Florida, 32-13, in last month's conference final, some players had to work hard to refocus on Texas.

"A lot of what we thought about this season was beating Florida," senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington said. "But it also was to get to the national championship game. Florida was the stepping stone to where we are right now."

Saban helped the top-ranked Tide regain its edge by giving his players just 24 hours to enjoy the SEC title before beginning preparation for second-ranked Texas.

"To say that you're SEC champions goes to say that you have an opportunity to do something even greater," All-American defensive back Javier Arenas said. "You kind of want to keep it in the back of your mind. But you don't want to sit there and think about a play that you made or a play that you didn't make in that game and beat yourself up or toot your horn.

"We beat Florida and we know it was an amazing team victory. That's over with now. So the day after that, we focused on preparing ourselves to get ready to play and try to win the national championship."

Suh them

The Texas offense stumbled in its final regular-season game, putting up season lows with 13 points and 202 total yards against a Nebraska defense led by tackle Ndamukong Suh. And after reviewing film from that game, some Alabama players have come away convinced Suh's performance holds valuable lessons.

"Nebraska's defensive line, they were just turned up every play. They just came off the ball . . . and the Texas offensive line just didn't match them that day," Washington said. "Suh, he went out there and just completely dominated the entire game. It shows us, 'Why can't we be the ones to go out there and dominate like that?' "

Grad school

Twenty-one players on the Crimson Tide roster have earned a degree from Alabama, and getting that pesky schoolwork out of the way proved helpful, linebacker Cory Reamer said.

"It's just wake up in the morning, go watch film and then get ready for practice," said Reamer, who completed his work for a degree in finance in May and is on schedule to finish work on a master's degree in sports management in the spring. "There's a lot of guys that have bought into that kind of schedule, that have really gotten to have a lot more time in the film room. I think it's really helped out our team a lot."

According to figures released by the NCAA in November, Alabama graduates 67% of its players, the third-best mark among the SEC's 12 schools.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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