Five keys to an Alabama victory

Tom Dienhart
Yahoo! Sports

Here are a handful of things Alabama needs to do to beat Texas and win its first national championship since 1992.

1. Run the ball. It's no secret that Texas will slide an extra man into the box in an effort to mute the Alabama running game. That could make room to run even scarcer for the Crimson Tide, who will be facing the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation (62.2 yards per game). Opponents are gaining just 1.9 yards per carry against the Longhorns, but Texas hasn't faced an offense as physical as Alabama's downhill, punch-you-in-the-nose attack. This isn't some fancy, Big 12 spread attack.

2. Go Javier! Go. With yards seemingly difficult to come by in this battle of rugged defenses, it may be up to the special teams to provide some big plays and some key points. Knowing that, keep your eye on Arenas. He'll leave Alabama as one of college football's all-time best punt return men. This season, he averages 16.3 yards on punt returns with a touchdown, along with 29 yards on kickoff returns. Arenas holds SEC career marks for punt return yards (1,733) and touchdowns (7). And he needs only 29 yards to become the NCAA career leader in punt return yards.

3. Up and over. If Texas insists on committing an extra man to stop the run, Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy must make them pay by throwing downfield to targets such as Julio Jones and Marquis Maze. McElroy has finished the season with a flurry after a midseason slump. A few long gains surely will loosen up that Texas defense. And underrated tight end Colin Peek could end up being a key weapon in this game with routes over the middle and down the seam. If Alabama is hitting passes, the Longhorns will be forced to defend the field more evenly, creating room for that battering Alabama rushing attack.

4. Control the line. The Texas offensive line struggled in a 13-12 win over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. Texas allowed nine sacks and rushed for only 18 yards. If the Alabama defensive line isn't as good as Nebraska's, it's not far behind. Massive nose tackle Terrence Cody and his line mates need to overwhelm a good-but-not-great Texas front, shut down a pedestrian group of running backs and come after Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy.

5. Bring the heat. If there is one commodity Alabama lacks on defense, it's a primo pass rusher. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower was the team's top threat, but he's out for the season with a knee injury suffered in the fourth game. Ends Marcell Dareus, Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick need to generate a push, collapse the pocket and pressure Texas' top weapon: McCoy. Alabama has to contain McCoy and not let him crack off big runs.

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