NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - If No. 2 Texas is going to take the BCS national title back to Austin, Colt McCoy may well have to carry the Longhorns to victory Vince Young-style. Top-ranked Alabama simply needs Greg McElroy to avoid losing the championship with critical mistakes.
The All-American against the Game Manager.
This may be the era of Tim Tebow in college football, but it will end with either McCoy or McElroy leaving the Rose Bowl with a career-defining victory.
Other than Texas roots, winning is the one thing McElroy and McCoy have in common.
No college quarterback has won more games as a starter than McCoy. His total stands at 45. McElroy, meanwhile, hasn't lost a game he has started in high school or college - though he had to wait to get the ball in his hands.
Patience has defined his career. At Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll High School in the Dallas/Fort Worth-area, he backed up future Missouri star and Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel until his senior year.
With just one season to impress recruiters, he made the most of it, throwing a state-record 56 touchdown passes and leading his team to a 16-0 record and a championship.
When Alabama finished second to Florida in the Tebow recruiting sweepstakes in 2006, McElroy was the Tide's fallback plan.
Then it was back to waiting, watching, and learning.
He redshirted as a freshman, then spent two seasons backing up John Parker Wilson.
"Anything you want to do that means a lot to you is worth waiting for. I think as a player I was able to learn from the people around me," McElroy said yes
-terday during media day for the BCS championship game.
Alabama came into this season with championship hopes, but fans were concerned a new quarterback would keep the talented Tide from winning their first national title since 1992.
McElroy's teammates and coaches weren't worried. They knew that while every backup says they prepare like a starter, their new quarterback actually did.
McElroy started the year strong but hit a rough patch around midseason where he went three games without throwing a touchdown pass.
McElroy righted himself, re-embraced his role in Alabama's run-first offense, and finished the season with his best two games. Against Auburn and in the Southeastern Conference title game against Florida, he passed for 457 yards and three touchdowns and did not throw an interception.
What McCoy had to manage this season was hype, and the pressure that comes with being one of the biggest football stars in Texas' glorious history.
But it wasn't so much the expectations of Longhorns fans, which could not have been much higher with their team entering the season No. 2 in the nation, that wore on McCoy.
No, what the small-town kid from West Texas battled this season was the pressure of trying to live up to his own lofty standards. In 2008, McCoy completed an NCAA-record 77 percent of his passes and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
He ended up completing 70 percent of his passes this season, for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns. He was a Heisman finalist again, though this time he finished third in the voting.
With a national championship on his resume, there will be no questioning McCoy's legacy as one of college's greatest quarterbacks.
And unlike Alabama, which can lean on a powerful running game led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram if McElroy is spotty, it's hard to envision a scenario where Texas beats the Tide while McCoy has an off night.