One thing's certain: Tide, Horns will be ready to play on Thursday
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- While it doesn't formally say so in the name, Thursday's "BCS National Championship Game" is most definitely a bowl game. Alabama and Texas both spent part of the day Saturday at Disneyland (
"Is this fun?" Saban replied to that very question from a reporter. "You know, what's fun for me is practice. I really enjoy practice."
Said Brown: "We want them to enjoy Disneyland. It's one of the most wonderful places in the world for entertainment, and this is one of the rewards they get for winning, to be in the last game of the year."
You couldn't ask for two more diametrically opposite coaches on the sidelines Thursday night. Each has been wildly successful -- both have won BCS championships, both have won 25 games over the past two seasons -- but achieved that success with drastically different approaches.
Saban views anything that takes place outside the film room or the practice field as "clutter." He's here on a business trip.
"It was pretty funny when we were on the plane," said Tide linebacker
Saban told his team: "It's all about how important the game is; what winning or losing the game means; the consequences of the game, positively or negatively."
Brown, on the other hand, feels "it's too hard to get here not to enjoy it." His star quarterback feels the same way.
"Our mentality is, No. 1, to have fun," said McCoy, the sport's all-time winningest quarterback. "This whole week we're going to enjoy practice, we're going to enjoy being in the National Championship [Game]. It's been our goal all year long to get here."
Though his attitude may seem casual, past history tells us Brown knows what he's doing. He won back-to-back Rose Bowls in 2005 and '06, the latter a national-title upset of USC. He treats every bowl game the same ("The Fiesta Bowl last year [against Ohio State] was just as important to us as this one. ... I felt the same way for the Alamo Bowl when we played Iowa, and Iowa was 6-6.") and he's got a five-year bowl winning streak to back it up.
"When it is time to work, our guys have to work," said Brown. "When it is time to play and laugh and enjoy it, we can do that. But you have to make sure that you keep your edge and that you keep your focus."
Saban, meanwhile, has had mixed experiences in BCS games -- he won the 2002 and '04 Sugar Bowls at LSU but got drubbed by Utah last year -- but it's hard to argue with his more technical approach. He emphasizes psychology and motivation with his players as much as he does Xs and Os, with every little labored detail of his team's preparation geared toward a singular, final goal.
"What you want to think about is, what do I have to do to play my best game, my best football of the season?" he said. "The first thing I did when we came back from the SEC Championship game in the first meeting is I drew a line on the grease board all the way across the room, the team meeting room, and I said it's 32 days until we play the game ... How you manage those 32 days is going to determine how you play in the game."
I've said it before, and I'll say it a million times more: The way teams perform in bowl games is often loosely reflective of their prior 12 to 13 games. The BCS Championship Game is no exception. Was USC really 36 points better than Oklahoma in 2004? Probably not. Was Florida that much more dominant a team than Ohio State over the course of the '06 season? Hardly. While motivation isn't a factor like in many of the early bowl games, you can't take a 32-day break between games -- during which time players take finals, visit their hometowns, tour the banquet circuit, talk to agents -- without it affecting preparation.
Between that, and the extra practice time to install new wrinkles, there's really no way to say what versions of the Longhorns and Crimson Tide we'll see come Thursday.
However, the last title game in which both teams played to their full capabilities also involved Texas -- the
Whatever the result, it will be highly surprising if Brown and Saban don't have their teams ready to play Thursday night.
For BCS organizers, one set of numbers matter nearly as much as the scores: television ratings. Through two games, this year's set is off to a rousing start. FOX got off to a pleasant start with its Florida-Cincinnati Sugar Bowl broadcast, which earned that game's highest rating (8.5) in three years despite losing millions of viewers after halftime of the Gators' runaway blowout.
But now comes the most intriguing ratings challenge since the BCS' inception: Monday night's TCU-Boise State Fiesta Bowl.
The truth is, no one knows for sure the level of interest because this is the first BCS matchup of its kind. But administrators from the non-AQ leagues will be nervously awaiting the numbers Tuesday. Future hopefuls will undoubtedly be judged by them.
"As much as both Boise State and TCU would like to win by three touchdowns, from a television ratings standpoint, we need it to be a one-score game going into the fourth quarter," said WAC commissioner
His confidence is based largely on the fact that the Fiesta will be running unopposed, in the traditional Monday Night Football time slot. Others are more skeptical. "Cinderella teams just don't rate well," TV consultant
Historically, he's right. The four games to date involving non-BCS teams all rate among the 10 lowest BCS broadcasts, with the Oklahoma-Boise State classic faring the best (8.4). It's worth noting, however, that the other three -- Utah-Pittsburgh (7.4), Georgia-Hawaii (7.0) and Utah-Alabama (7.8) -- were blowouts.
My guess: Barring another blowout, this one will outperform the four previous games and possibly even fare best among FOX's three games this year. Love it or hate it, people have been talking about this game since the day it was announced and many are genuinely curious about TCU (whose league plays most of its games on second-tier cable networks).
The game will have one less TV viewer, though: Me. Following Monday morning's media session here, I'm taking a 24-hour jaunt to Phoenix to cover it in person.
A year after bottoming out with a 1-6 bowl record and running its BCS losing streak to six, the Big Ten has already enjoyed a somewhat redemptive bowl season, with Ohio State (against No. 7 Oregon), Penn State (against No. 13 LSU) and Wisconsin (against No. 14 Miami) all beating top 15 foes. An Iowa win over Georgia Tech in Tuesday night's Orange Bowl would give the league a second BCS win and, believe it or not, its first winning bowl season since 2002.
To do that, the Hawkeyes are going to have to slow down
Iowa defensive coordinator
The two most entertaining bowl games to date were decided by a pair of ballsy ploys the teams' coaches likely never would have attempted during the regular season. For Idaho's
Idaho's 43-42 Humanitarian Bowl shootout over Bowling Green featured five fourth-quarter touchdowns. When wide-open Falcons star
Akey -- who'd already won a lot of new fans with his halftime proclamation to "Watch the second half, you're gonna love it!" -- wasn't playing for overtime. Endlerle found
Northwestern's Fitzgerald ordered up his own remarkable two-pointer late in regulation of Friday's drama-filled Outback Bowl -- receiver
The Wildcats recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and had a chance to win in regulation, but kicker
With the Wildcats down to unused freshman walk-on kicker
"I said a month ago we were going to come here to play to win," said Fitzgerald, whose team was trying to end a 61-year bowl-win drought. "I'd do it again and twice on Sunday."
Kudos to both men. Bowl games are all about cutting loose -- on and off the field.
"Time to go home, baby," she told her 80-year-old husband. Her gain is our loss.
• We now know the secret to all those explosive Pac-10 offenses this season: They weren't exactly facing stellar defenses. Ohio State quarterback
• Despite losing stars
• Boy did Cincinnati's defense implode down the stretch. After allowing just 12.9 points per game during their first eight contests, the Bearcats gave up 45 to Connecticut, 36 to Illinois and 44 to Pittsburgh. Then came Mr. Tebow, who diced the Bearcats for 533 total yards in a 51-24 rout. Just think: Had the SEC and Big 12 title games gone differently, that might have been the national-title matchup.
• In the aforementioned Outback Bowl, Northwestern's Kafka compiled one of the strangest stat lines you'll ever see: He threw for 532 yards and four touchdowns on 47-of-78 passes (a bowl record for attempts), but he also tossed five interceptions, including one in the end zone that Auburn's
• Saturday's ugly Ole Miss-Oklahoma Cotton Bowl included 12 combined turnovers (including six by Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter alone) and 16 penalties. The one saving grace: Rebels star
• Nebraska finally produced the kind of rushing attack it's been lacking all season in its 33-0 Holiday Bowl pasting of Arizona. Freshman running back
• With his team's Chick-fil-A Bowl rout of Tennessee, Virginia Tech coach
• Just when you thought
• There's just something about
• Air Force showed why it's ranked first in the country in pass defense, intercepting Cougars star
• A TCU victory Monday would give the Mountain West its first 5-0 bowl season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the MAC
• People sometimes wonder why I gush so often about the Rose Bowl.
• People sometimes wonder why I complain about there being too many bowls.
Bowl-week festivities have led to all manner of infamous incidents at various games over the years, from Miami players' staged walkout of a Fiesta Bowl steak-fry in 1986 to Virginia Tech linebacker
This year's East Carolina Liberty Bowl dessert fracas may take the cake (hah!).
The cause of their dispute?
Williams and Paulk weren't the only Pirates who will leave Memphis with a bad taste (hah again!) Kicker
We know how Texas Tech fans feel about their coach's controversial dismissal: They're not happy. A Facebook group called "Team" Leach had drawn 46,000 members as of Sunday night. Pro-Leach signs filled the Alamodome for Saturday night's Red Raiders win over Michigan State, including the obvious "Bring Back Leach" sentiment, but as running back
The only connection between the school and The Pirate in the months and (possibly) years ahead is a sure-to-be contentious wrongful termination suit that's sure to bring out even more dirt-slinging by both sides. In the meantime, Leach may have to sit out of coaching next season while waiting for the smoke to clear. If and when it does, look for him to latch on with a mid-major or possibly a low-profile BCS school (here's looking at you, Washington State).
Florida's two-time national champion coach may not be on the sideline next fall, either, but if so, it will be of his own volition. While rumors run wild about the possible length of Meyer's forthcoming leave absence, it seems clear even Meyer himself doesn't know. He's yet to figure out how exactly what steps he plans to take to improve his mental health. He's continues to stick with the "In my gut, I'll be back next season" line, but that seems solely for recruiting purposes. As Florida president
Florida is expected to announce some of the details of Meyer's sabbatical soon (when he's leaving; what if any decision-making role he'll have while
We knew Connecticut's
The UCLA linebacker makes it into this space for the