Tonight, in front of over 90,000 fans, the Alabama Crimson Tide flexed their seemingly endless muscle in a 41-14 rout over eighth ranked Michigan.
The Wolverines were led by Heisman candidate Denard Robinson—the quarterback with as much preseason hype as just about any passer in the country. But on this night, under-appreciated Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was the better man.
Both of the two offensive leaders started slowly. McCarron missed on each of his two opening drive attempts while Robinson completed just 1-of-4 for nine yards. From there, the night belonged to the Alabama junior, McCarron.
By the time Alabama closed out the first quarter with a three-touchdown lead, McCarron had thrown a pair of touchdown passes, including a 51-yard strike to sophomore DeAndrew White. Robinson, on the other hand, was just 3-of-11 for 26 yards, including a back-breaking interception to Alabama's Dee Milliner that set up the Tide in the red zone for its third score.
In the second quarter, when C.J. Mosley returned Robinson's second interception for a fourth 'Bama touchdown, the game was all but over. The dual-threat Robinson finished the first half with nine yards rushing on just two carries, the exact same statistics as McCarron. While Robinson was just 5-of-16 for 99 yards through the air, McCarron was 8-of-15 for 140 yards and the two touchdowns, and the Tide led 31-7.
To give Robinson some credit, the Alabama defense was clearly a tougher opponent than the defense that McCarron was working against. The Tide was clearly the better team in this one, as the scoreboard proved. Still, as time expired, McCarron had bested Robinson in pretty much every measurable passing category.
The most glaring difference between the two was the interceptions. McCarron has been given the tag of "game manager" by more than a few national analysts, but that was exactly what the Tide needed on this night. McCarron finished the game an acceptable 11-of-21 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. The frustrated Robinson completed just 11-of-26 passes for 200 yards and a third quarter score, but the two picks played a huge role in the early knockout of the Wolverines.
Robinson fought through a pair of injuries in this game. The first came to his shoulder as he tried to tackle Milliner after the first interception. In the third quarter, Robinson suffered a lower back injury while stretching in an effort to make a first down run. "Shoelace", as he is called, had the heart of a warrior in this game, but McCarron had the mind of a champion.
McCarron threw the ball away three times during the course of the game, fighting the urge to try and force a play where there was not one to be made. This smart play by the underrated junior is the kind of decision making that could eventually lead his Tide to yet another BCS title.
Once again, a guy, who for some reason fails to get the respect of the national media, came through for Alabama. In the first ever Cowboy Classic, the better quarterback led the better team to a well-deserved victory.