January 07, 2010
College football is a year-round gig these days, as a coach, player, blogger and increasingly even for fans, and a huge share of the energy expended by all parties over the 12 months has has been in anticipation of this day. Specifically, in anticipation of the four hours tonight in the Rose Bowl that will cap and largely define the 2009 season. This is why coaches recruit till they drop (sometimes literally), players lift and run until they puke and flabbier people like me produce tens of thousands of words on kids in or barely out of their teens, most of them amounting to idle speculation: Four hours to make a year. Click clack, etc.
For these stakes, on this stage, you can't put that investment in better hands than Alabama and Texas. The BCS is a blight on the landscape, but don't mistake the flaws of the system for flaws of the teams. So much of that year-long effort is devoted to what certain teams are not or cannot do -- Texas is one-dimensional on offense, Alabama's offense sleepwalked through a significant stretch in which it had no passing game to speak of, Colt McCoy's numbers were way down from last year, Mark Ingram may not have deserved the Heisman, Texas' offensive line was thoroughly owned by Nebraska's front four in the Big 12 Championship game -- that it's easy to lose sight of how really good these outfits are when you step back to see the forest for the trees, and how forever great one of them will be after tonight. The Longhorns are averaging a hair over 40 points per game with a defense that came in among the top 10 nationally by every major measure. Alabama's defense has a chance to go down alongside the 1992 Tide as one of the great units ever assembled if it has its way with McCoy the way it did with his clean-cut counterpart at Florida, Tim Tebow. Both have proven vulnerable; neither has veered from the track it began laying to this day two years ago.
These are elite programs with the highest-paid coaches, the most coveted recruits, the most lavish facilities, the largest and most devoted fan bases and the weight of decades of championship tradition behind them, squaring off in the sport's own mythologized version of Mount Olympus. This is it; this is the point. And that's as true for millions of fans committed to following the sport through various screens as it is for the coaches and players who give most of their lives to it on the ground: Don't let the season pass without savoring this tiny window at the top.