...a (mostly) tongue in cheek response.
Expecting the unexpected. All season long the Crimson Tide has managed to win in ways that no one expected; Greg McElroy lights up a Virginia Tech team known for defense in his first career start behind a rebuilt offensive line missing an All-American LT, an All-SEC Center, and a three year starter at RG. Mark Ingram runs his way to the Heisman Trophy despite no preseason hype. The defense loses a star in Dont'a Hightower and doesn't skip a beat with a true freshman in his place. Marquis Johnson turns into a shutdown corner. Leigh Tiffin kicks his way to redemption with all 12 points against Tennessee. McElroy throws his way out of a mid-season slump when the offense comes out five wide and blazing against LSU, and etc. This teams just plain finds ways to win. Hopefully that trends holds.
A reason to be our best. Although the "Alabama didn't want to be there" meme regarding last year's Sugar Bowl loss to Utah grew very annoying to me, it wasn't because there wasn't some truth to it. It completely disregarded Utah's accomplishments and I respected the hell out of them for coming into the game with the right attitude and game plan. They won because they outplayed us, not just in the Super Dome but also during pre-bowl preparations. Alabama just didn't show up, and the emotional letdown in Atlanta was a huge part of it. That team played their hearts out just like they had all season and still lost. It happens, and there's no shame in losing to a better team as Florida clearly was. There is shame in rolling over and allowing disappointment in the loss and (at least according to apocryphal "if we have to play Utah I'm not even gonna show up" quotes) the opponent, though, and every member of this year's team that is playing in the title game knows it. Even though much has been made about the year long focus on getting back to Atlanta and winning, that hasn't been the only goal. Washing away the stain of last year's late season collapse and finishing - that year long catch word uttered by every coach and player - have been first and foremost on the team's mind.
Their defense is comically overrated. Ok, "comically" is the wrong word to use here because they really do have a good, well coached defense, but all the attention thrown towards their top ranked run defense ignores two big factors. First, Texas has played with a lead most of the season and their opponents simply haven't had the luxury of running against them for large parts of the game. Second, the Big 12 is a pass happy league, no two ways about it. It's easy to stop the run when no one is running. I would dare say that this defense hasn't faced a running back the caliber of Mark Ingram all year long, and on top of that they haven't faced a backfield like Ingram and Trent Richardson (and Upchurch, for that matter. More below.). These guys make their living off of broken tackles and effort yards, and Texas just hasn't seen that all year.
Nick Saban is a stubborn freak. He insists on execution and discipline from his players, and he won't accept anything less than a full effort from anyone in the program, from the scout team on up to the head coach himself. The last month has been spent preparing the team for this game, starting basically from scratch. Early practices were devoted to nothing but fundamentals, a reminder of the lack of execution and poor tackling against Utah. Everyone has to know how to do their jobs before they can do them to the exacting standards of the Nicktator, and by refocusing on technique after a season's worth of focusing on game plans, it's like the team is fresh out of spring practice and fundamentally sound once again.
Further, Saban is a stubborn freak about having a plan in place for every eventuality. He and the staff have poured over game film for a month now and, like their masterful neutralizing of Tebow in the SEC Champoinship Game, if there's a way to shut the Texas offense down they have figured it out and have a plan in place to do so.
Roy Upchurch. Don't be surprised if we see a lot of Upchurch tonight, folks. He's arguably been the most well rounded and physically gifted running back at Alabama the last several years, and that includes Mark Ingram, but his traitorous ankles have never let him really show what he can do. When he's healthy, he's a special player. Recall the second half of last year's win at Tennessee. With Coffee injured and Ingram struggling, Upchurch came off the bench and took that game over. Recall the opener against Virginia Tech. Upchurch was the clear #2 at running back, carrying only seven times but gaining 90 yards for a ridiculous 12.9 ypc average, and Richardson only got in the game on the very last series to work the clock. He also took snaps in the Wildcat before an ankle injury the next week, and was essentially lost for the season until Auburn. But notice his role against both Auburn and Florida. He lined up at fullback in an I-Formation look that we haven't seen since Shula. He's no fullback, though, but he is physical enough to lead block from time to time, and he's also physical enough to take the quick fullback dive plays for good yardage (just ask Florida). The staff has also said several times that he's the best screen back on the roster, and he's solid in pass protection as well. What I am getting at here is that he represents a big question mark for defenses when he comes on the field because you never know what we are going to do with him, and with a month to put in some special packages for him that no one has film on don't think he won't play a big role tonight.
Going further, I wouldn't be surprised to see us pull out all the stops. Remember how we thought Earl Alexander might get a chance to pass out of the Wildcat? Look for it. Or how Terrence Cody lined up at TE at Auburn? Let's see if the big man has good hands. Its the national title on the line, here, there's no sense in holding back now.
Nebraska. And Oklahoma. And Texas A&M. Or in other words, the three Texas games I watched this year. Nebraska is a solid football team with a great defense, so playing close with them isn't something to hang your head over, but Texas was not impressive in that game. The Oklahoma game was an affront to good football with the kind of stupid turnovers and mistakes galore from both sides that you would expect from a Division II slap fight, not a grudge match between two elite programs loaded with blue chip talent and some of the finest coaches in the country walking the sidelines. And A&M? They had no business being on the same field with the Longhorns, but if not for the game of a lifetime from McCoy and a kickoff return for a TD that game is an upset. Those were arguably the three biggest games on the schedule for the 'Horns (two rivalries and a conference title game), and yet in none of them did they look like they were focused or prepared.
Prediction: Alabama wins.