Alabama wins battle of unbeatens; Texas beats Nebraska on final play
ATLANTA – Texas vs. Alabama for the national championship.
And let the complaining by TCU and Cincinnati – even Boise State – begin.
The Crimson Tide romped past Florida 32-13 and into its first BCS title game on championship Saturday. The Longhorns likely locked up their spot with a last-second, tougher-than-expected 13-12 victory against Nebraska that left plenty of opportunity for debate about which is the second-best team in the country.
The regular season ends with five unbeatens in major college football, but only two can play for the national championship.
No one will argue about Alabama (13-0) playing in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7. Some might take issue with Texas (13-0) getting the nod over the Horned Frogs (12-0), Bearcats (12-0) and Broncos (13-0).
“You’re undefeated, you have an argument,” BCS numbers-cruncher Jerry Palm said.
Not any time soon.
Colt McCoy and the Longhorns came into the Big 12 title game at Cowboys Stadium third in the Bowl Championship Series standings, but with the top two teams in the country meeting in the Southeastern Conference championship, all Texas needed was a victory over a two-touchdown underdog to earn a trip to Pasadena, Calif.
After the Tide had a surprisingly easy time knocking off Tim Tebow and the defending national champions, the Longhorns needed a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the game’s final play to survive against a nasty Nebraska defense.
“I’m really proud of the guys and excited about playing Alabama for the national championship,” Longhorns coach Mack Brown said.
Texas barely averted becoming the latest team to trip on its last step to the BCS title game, joining the likes of West Virginia in 2007 and USC in 2006.
On Sunday, the final BCS standings come out. Alabama will no doubt be first when the poll votes and computer ratings are tabulated. Texas probably will be second. It’s not quite the slam dunk most thought it would be, though.
A Nebraska upset of Texas would have made for a rare suspenseful selection Sunday for the BCS, with TCU and Cincinnati vying for the spot opposite Alabama in the title game.
The Horned Frogs and Bearcats came just a few feet or a tick of the clock from getting the result they needed in Arlington, Texas. Now there has to be a least a few voters who are reconsidering the way they lined up Texas, TCU and Cincinnati on their ballots in the coaches’ and Harris polls.
Palm said Texas is highly unlikely to be past in the BCS standings.
“I can’t imagine it. It’s not what voters do,” he said. “There’s no precedent for that to happen.
“It’s not like Texas was playing New Mexico State today.”
Palm said the Longhorns might lose some support, but they should still be a “solid” No. 2 in the BCS.
The Horned Frogs and Bearcats most likely will have to settle for playing in BCS games outside of Southern California.
TCU appears headed for a matchup of unbeatens against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Call it the BCS buster bowl, with both teams from conferences without automatic bids.
Cincinnati figures to be the opponent for Florida in the Sugar Bowl in Tebow’s final college game.
Georgia Tech earned an Orange Bowl bid with a 39-34 victory against C.J. Spiller and Clemson. The Yellow Jackets’ first BCS appearance likely will be against a Big Ten team, either Iowa or Penn State.
Pac-10 champion Oregon will play Big Ten champ Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
The selections become official Sunday night.
Alabama will take its 22nd SEC title to the West Coast. As the Tide players cleared out of their locker room at the Georgia Dome, a few such as Julio Jones and Trent Richardson posed for pictures with the long-stemmed red roses that were handed out during the postgame party.
“We’re happy about this championship right now but we still want to accomplish bigger things,” said running back Mark Ingram, who bolstered his Heisman hopes with three touchdowns against Florida.
Earlier in the day, Cincinnati kept its national championship hopes alive with a stunning rally to beat Pittsburgh, 45-44.
“I think we got enough on our resume to play for the national title,” Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard said. “We just have one little wrinkle to iron out, and that’s Nebraska taking care of Texas, we can argue the fact about strength of schedule with TCU, but it’s up to the voters and the computers now.”
Coach Brian Kelly’s Bearcats are Big East champions for the second straight season.
Not long after the Bearcats wrapped up a thriller in the snow at Pittsburgh, the Gators and Crimson Tide kicked off the marquee game of the day in the Georgia Dome.
The Southeastern Conference championship, for the second year in a row, was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between Alabama and Florida.
Last year, Florida beat the Tide on the way to a national title. This year the Tide rolled, pulling away in the second half.
“Ever since last year, everything we did was to beat Florida,” Ingram said. “Everything we did was to be better than Florida.”
For the fourth straight season, the SEC will have a team in the national title game. The league has won the last three championships.
Last season, Florida beat Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Another SEC-Big 12 matchup is in the cards, with Texas and Alabama, two storied programs, getting together at the site of the Longhorns’ last national title game victory in 2005.
The two teams last played in the 1982 Cotton Bowl, and Texas is 7-0-1 all-time against the Tide.
While the Bearcats and Horned Frogs were rooting against Texas, Boise State probably needed to root for the Longhorns.
The Broncos, who beat New Mexico State 42-7 to complete an undefeated season, were in danger of getting shut out of the BCS altogether if Nebraska played its way in and Texas was nudged into the at-large pool.
— AP Sports Writers Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh and Jaime Aron in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.
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