AJ McCarron has been the engine that has sparked Alabama to a 10-0 record and put the Tide on the doorstep of challenging for a third consecutive BCS title.
The race to determine Alabama’s 2013 MVP is a battle that comes down to two players who are pillars of a senior class that has fueled the program’s rise to a modern day dynasty.
Quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker CJ Mosley have led their respective units through various trials and tribulations this season. Both players have a case to the claim of being honored as the team’s MVP this season, but it’s McCarron who ultimately gets the slightest of nods.
The reasoning behind selecting McCarron for that honor is simple. Mosley is often mentioned as one of the nation’s best linebackers. On the other hand, most national pundits have seemingly been reluctant to recognize the Tide’s quarterback as one of the nation’s top talents.
Defense has always been the Tide's calling card under Saban. However, as Chris Vannini of coachingsearch.com illustrates, Alabama's offense has been on an upward trend with McCarron being the common denominator for a unit that has evolved into one of the nation's most potent attacks.
Saban: "Because of the offensive balance we try to create, AJ McCarron doesn't get credit for the quality of player that he is." #Bama— LivingTheCrimsonLife (@LivingCrimson) November 16, 2013
Entering the season opener against Virginia Tech, the Tide’s offensive line was among Saban’s most glaring concerns. After a putrid offensive showing against the Hokies, that concern appeared to be validated.
However, two weeks later against Texas A&M—in the toughest test Alabama has faced this season—it was McCarron who rose to the occasion and propelled the Tide to outlast the Aggies in a 49-42 shootout.
But there were still issues that lingered for the offense.
In the following weeks, the Tide’s offensive line continued to endure periods of struggle. Receivers, such as Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood, have dealt with nagging injuries. The running back combo of TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake took some lumps before developing a strong rotation in the backfield.
The one constant for the offense has been the leadership of McCarron.
In a four-game stretch in October that saw the Tide outscore their opponents 190-20, McCarron piloted the offense out of its funk by completing 70 of his 99 passes for 980 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception.
He continued that trend against LSU and stepped up against Mississippi State when his team needed him the most. After the Bulldogs scored to trim the Tide’s lead to 10-7 early in the third quarter, McCarron engineered a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ended with a perfect scoring strike to Kevin Norwood.
It was a drive that shut the door on the Bulldogs' upset bid and proved that he can respond to adversity even when he's not playing his A-game.
However, Mosley has been of equal importance to the defense.
Following the Tide’s poor outing at College Station, Mosley was a model of consistency and the glue that held Kirby Smart’s defense together.
Who is the Tide's MVP in 2013?
He's been the ringleader of a dramatic turnaround that saw Alabama give up a combined 50 points in the eight contests following the Aggies’ 42-point outburst.
As illustrated by cfbstats.com, Mosley is the Tide’s team leader in tackles by a wide margin, and he’s having another season worthy of All-American recognition.
Other players such as TJ Yeldon and Landon Collins have had standout seasons as well.
However, the Tide’s DNA possesses the fiery and competitive nature of McCarron and the relentless and workmanlike makeup of Mosley. It's their attitude to put aside the desire for individual awards that sets the tone for the rest of the team.
Considering that McCarron has never gotten his just due as an elite quarterback, it’s almost fitting that his teammates and the most passionate fanbase in the country provide him the respect and recognition he’s rightfully earned.