LSU vs Alabama: Can AJ McCarron Make the Plays When Needed?

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LSU vs Alabama: Can AJ McCarron Make the Plays When Needed?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I'm sure if you asked Alabama head coach Nick Saban, he would rather just stay with the Tide's lethal ground attack to take down LSU on Saturday.

Yes, that would be nice, but in reality the LSU defense is too good to be beaten by one phase of offense.

Alabama's AJ McCarron is going to be called upon to make some big throws at some point this weekend, and when pressed, can he in fact deliver?

There are plenty of statistics that can be thrown out there to prove McCarron has been progressing nicely.

He has completed 67 percent of his passes.

Since throwing two interceptions in the opener against Kent State, he has only thrown one.

He is second in the SEC in passing efficiency behind only LSU's Jarrett Lee.

AJ is second in the SEC in passing yards per game.

He stepped up against Tennessee in the second half to lead Alabama to a 37-6 win.

Yes, I think we can all agree that AJ McCarron is moving along nicely in his first season as the Alabama starting quarterback, but against teams as good as LSU, it's the little things that can either win or lose the game for you.

Can AJ hit the open receiver?

LSU will no doubt have to show respect for Alabama's ground game, which means you'll find some Tide receivers open downfield.

AJ with a key strike against the Gators.

 

Against Tennessee, McCarron made a few second-half passes that Darius Hanks dove and grabbed. Passes that if they were on the money, would have led to yards-after-catch in the 10 to 15-yard variety.

In the second quarter he missed what seemed like a sure touchdown pass when he overthrew Michael Williams. Alabama had to settle for a field goal.

It's not that he can't make the throw when needed. One of the best throws AJ has made this season came at Florida when the game was sill in reach for the Gators. 

Leading 24-10, Alabama took over inside their own 10-yard line. Facing a 3rd-and-8 from the 10, AJ McCarron threw a strike on the deep out to Marquis Maze for a key first down on a drive that put Alabama up 31-10.

Throughout the season, McCarron seemed to struggle with the deep pass. He had a lot of near misses, but appeared to find that touch against Tennessee, stretching the Volunteer defense with passes of 69 and 39 yards, the second being a touchdown pass to Kenny Bell.

His decision-making has been excellent and again, against Tennessee, you saw improvisation skills with the first play of the second half when he came out of the pocket and hit Trent Richardson for a first down.

Can he play with the composure needed to make the easy throw? 

Alabama's receivers, especially Maze and Hanks, have the ability to hurt defenses after the catch, but if they have to dive to catch a pass in space, you take away that weapon.

It may sound like a tiny thing to pick at, but in a game of this magnitude it's the tiniest of misses that can make the difference between a win and a loss.

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