AJ McCarron will lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1. That will help send the Tide to the school’s third appearance in the title game over the past four seasons.
That’s a testament to the system and coaching of Nick Saban as much as it is to the players that fill the Xs and Os for Alabama.
The junior quarterback hasn’t been the key to the Alabama Crimson Tide’s impressive two-year run. However, his play is vital to the success of the Tide in big games.
They don’t get much bigger than this, other than the BCS Championship Game, of course.
Despite being overlooked for the most part, McCarron has begun to get recognition for his excellent play behind center. He’s benefited from an NFL-bound offensive line that’s produced the nation’s best running attack.
But will he be able to put his team on his shoulders when the game is on the line and the team needs its quarterback to win the game for it?
His 4th-and-goal interception in the waning moments of the team’s early November loss to Texas A&M nearly cost the Crimson Tide their national title hopes.
Saban attributed the interception to poor execution by the team, not necessarily that McCarron is to blame, according to Mark Edwards of TimesDaily.com:
It was a pick play. They were in man-to-man. The guy that had the first guy is the guy who took the guy in the flats. They kind of pushed it off. We didn’t execute the pick well enough and didn’t get the play executed.
McCarron isn’t completely free of fault; he threw the pass after all.
But what is lost in that lone play is everything else that the Tide’s quarterback has achieved this season.
Plus, McCarron has likely learned from the mistakes he made down the stretch in that game. After all, he’s shown he has the ability to win under pressure in the comeback win earlier in the season against LSU.
So there’s no reason to think that if the game is on the line he won’t be able to lead his team to victory over the Bulldogs.
He’ll certainly have the opportunity to do great things against Georgia. The Bulldogs rush defense has been less than spectacular this season. They are giving up over 160 yards per game on the ground.
If the Tide are going to win, they’ll need to pound the football and rely on the excellent decision making of McCarron. If the QB can manage the game and take timely shots down field, the Bulldogs have little chance of keeping pace with the Crimson Tide in this one.
That’s what he does best, too. McCarron keeps drives alive by making plays when he needs to and by not trying to do too much. Once the Bulldogs step up and try to take away the run, McCarron has to and will make them pay for it.