I’ve seen a lot of Internet sentiment similar to that expressed this week by Stewart Mandel:
Conversely, Texas’ closest thing to a “statement” victory was a 41-14 win at Oklahoma State, a team that lost its last regular-season game 27-0. If the Longhorns had some equivalent to Alabama’s Florida win — or even its Virginia Tech or LSU wins — I’d be more likely to chalk up the Nebraska game as a fluke. As it is, the Longhorns basically faced two elite defenses the entire season, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and Colt McCoy and the offense struggled miserably against both. [Emphasis added.]
And that’s true. Bill Connelly spells it out a little more over at Football Outsiders.
… Meanwhile, Texas has faced two of the country’s top four defenses in terms of Defensive S&P+, second-ranked Oklahoma and fourth-ranked Nebraska. Their combined output? A whopping 29 points, 471 yards (311 passing yards, 55 percent completion rate, 4.1 yards per pass, one touchdown pass and four interceptions from Heisman Finalist Colt McCoy), six turnovers, and two wins saved by a dominant Texas defense. The good news: Texas did indeed win these games, and their seventh-ranked defense rose to the occasion each time. The bad news: Alabama’s defense is ranked first in the country, ahead of both Oklahoma’s and Nebraska’s. We will get into how Alabama’s defense differs from that of Nebraska and Oklahoma later; for now, Texas is indeed resting most of its title hopes on “Hey, we just have to better than them once.”
So here’s my question – is this an issue of Texas being overrated, or simply that no team can be expected to play with ‘Bama’s defense? Keep in mind that the top four teams nationally in total defense have combined to lose only one game, Florida’s loss to Alabama in the SECCG. Is Texas being written off prematurely in the way that Florida was in 2006? Is there a good case to be made that there’s a team out there that would fare better against the Tide than the ‘Horns? I honestly don’t know, but I’d be curious to hear what everyone thinks.