We're getting into title game mode now folks and we've got five match ups that everyone should tune into during the game. Here at ITB, just like the rest of the blogosphere, we love the lists so we'll be dropping one of these five up until title time folks. The five match ups we're most looking forward to for the BCS Championship Game are:
Terrence Cody vs Huey, Hall & Tanner
Jordan Shipley vs Javier Arenas
Sergio Kindle vs Davis & Carpenter
Earl Thomas vs Greg McElroy
Rolando McClain vs Colt McCoy
Each of these match ups will be crucial to the success of both teams and are at the heart of Nick Saban and Mack Brown's gameplans. Later is now folks and with kickoff just a few short hours away we'll take our first look at the quarterbacks and how they will impact the BCS National Championship Game. First we'll start with the lesser known of the two; Greg McElroy the junior quarterback for the Crimson Tide and his match up against Texas phenom Earl Thomas.
The sophomore safety is among the nation's best pass defenders so he will play a major role in how Greg McElroy performs tonight.
Read more for interception machine Earl Thomas' match up with Bama quarterback Greg McElroy...
Why this match up is important?
McElroy has been impressive but Earl Thomas presents the most daunting individual task in the secondary since Tennessee's Eric Berry. If Thomas can get a bead on McElroy the safety can add to the eight interceptions that he's already amassed in the 2009 season.
Who will win this match up and how?
Earl Thomas is built like a corner but is put into the safety role because of his ability to cover a lot of ground in the back end. He's a lot more Ed Reed than Brian Dawkins in that he is a ballhawk that is always looking to get his hands on the football. Thomas is the nation's best cover safety and, like the aforementioned Reed, has a knack for turning defense into offense as evidenced by his two interceptions for touchdowns this season.
Entering the season the Crimson Tide had a huge question mark hanging over the quarterback position. The fans, the staff and the players weren't certain as to how the new starter would perform. In his first game the new starter was mediocre going 15-30 for 230 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. However, as the season progressed he won the hearts of the Tide faithful and finished on a strong note with no interceptions in his last four games and an undefeated season.
McElroy is this new found commodity in Crimson and his SEC title game performance, going 12-18 for 239 yards and 1 TD, was the flourish he needed to end the season after the come from behind Auburn win.
Look for this match up to come down to a couple things; McElroy's progressions versus Thomas' ability to diagnose the situation. What this means is McElroy is going to be disciplined in going through his progressions and make sure that he not only finds Thomas before every snap but also looks off the sophomore sensation. The junior quarterback cannot force the ball to Julio Jones or Marquis Maze as he's done at times (LSU game!).
In Will Muschamp's dynamic scheme Thomas is utilized in a myriad of ways; from playing man to man on slot receivers or tight ends to playing cover-2 or the deep middle. This shifting of coverages and schemes helps Muschamp get his ballhawk all over the field and into the mix from different areas allowing him to be more effective and get his hands on more balls.
Expect to see Thomas rolled to Julio Jones for much of the game. What this means is the safety will have an over the top technique on the big, physical Alabama receiver, giving help to his cornerbacks. The safety has a knack for jumping routes and he will get his hands on a couple footballs if McElroy is not extremely careful.
From the Alabama sidelines we will see McElroy's awareness of Thomas on every play and then we'll see offensive coordinator Jim McElwain help out the quarterback. Watch for McElwain to throw short and intermediate routes to draw Thomas up and set up the double move. Another addition to the Bama arsenal in disarming Thomas will be their potent run game.
Thomas is a true ballhawk and forcing him to be active in the run, adding himself to the run-fits and sucking him into the box will help loosen his grip on the passing game. McElwain will pound the football, run play action passes off of the run game success and look to take his shots in a calculated fashion.
I predict that Thomas' impact on this game is seen more by Alabama's play calling and savvy football minds than the average fan. Similar to Ed Reed, if Thomas has early success batting balls, covering down Julio Jones or making an early interception then Bama will shut down passing plays to Thomas' half of the field completely.
Eric Berry's presence on the field gave McElroy and McElwain pause during the Bama contest with Tennessee and I believe Earl Thomas' presence will do the same. Thomas is an active ballhawk who runs to the football well and can shut down a whole side of the field just by early success and alignment. McElroy will have his hands full and it will be wise for the Bama junior to avoid throwing the football in Thomas' vicinity regardless of how tall Julio Jones might be.