By Michael Casagrande
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Five weeks of waiting, talking and disposing of clutter ends tonight in the Rose Bowl.
For a state with football in its bloodlines, the wait reaches much longer than 32 days.
Try 17 years or 204 months since championship No. 12 came home to Tuscaloosa.
By 11:30 p.m., those streaks could end and the number 13 would take on a luckier connotation for those in crimson and white.
"Just to be part of the team that restored the legacy is something that could last with you a lifetime," Alabama tight end Colin Peek said.
Tonight, that slice waits in the same Rose Bowl Stadium where Alabama lore took off 84 years ago.
Reaching that mountain top means going through No. 2 Texas, which brings an identical 13-0 record to Pasadena where it won its last national title in 2005.
College football's grandest stage is a common intersection for the two of the sport's blue bloods.
Entering the 7:38 p.m. showdown of traditional college football powers, the intertwining storylines are plentiful. Alabama needs to avoid the letdown following the emotion-filled beating of Florida in the SEC Championship.
The Longhorns, on the other hand, limped to California.
An uninspiring 13-12 win over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game required a convenient bounce and a last-second field goal that snuck inside an upright.
Then there's the showdown of the two stars who'll never see the field at the same time. Twice a bridesmaid at the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy will look to channel his inner Vince Young and take down winner Mark Ingram with the national championship on the line.
Again, the Rose Bowl was the scene of Young's revenge on Reggie Bush on Jan. 4, 2006.
Just like this year, the Longhorns are considered an underdog.
Once more, they could care less.
"The '05 team was a great team," receiver Malcolm Williams said. "And we know they were underdogs to SC, and we're underdogs as well. We don't really worry about that. That's the past. We're living in the now and we have to play now. So it's something that we're just trying to get better now and play."
Ingram, on the other hand, wants to brush off the bad vibes recent Heisman winners carried into bowl games. Seven of the past nine lost their buzz and their next game after claiming the famous statue the previous December.
Realistically, with so much time between games -- both to game plan and potentially lose the rhythm of a football season -- there are so many unknowns.
Texas tweaked how it used Young before the 2006 Rose Bowl, where he threw for 267 yards, ran for 200, capped by the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.
It will come down to who can out-maneuver who and execute whichever game plan is used.
In the SEC Championship Game, Alabama had just a week to modify play calling against Florida when it came out throwing all over the field instead of relying on the running game.
McCoy expects a similar defensive wrinkle when facing an Alabama unit that is thrives on confusing quarterbacks with its multiple looks.
How McCoy's blockers deal with those disguised looks and the pressure of overcoming the nine-sack outing it allowed Nebraska in the conference title game.
One way or the other, the Alabama's dream 2009 season will end after the sun sets on Day 7 of 2010.
Whether or not Saban gets his statue and the string of frustrating season ends at 17 will be known a little before midnight.
Legacy restored or misery extended?
That answer isn't far away.