SEC championship QBs eyeing big prize
TribLIVE Sports Videos
AJ McCarron's standard reply about handling big-game pressure is a shrug and a look that says, What's the big deal?
It's an attitude that has served No. 2 Alabama's quarterback pretty well so far. McCarron and Aaron Murray, his counterpart for No. 3 Georgia, have played on plenty of huge stages with varying results and a couple of performances they wouldn't mind forgetting.
The nation's two top-rated passers will square off in Saturday's SEC championship game with the winner moving on to face No. 1 Notre Dame for the national title.
Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones said succeeding in such games is about controlling emotions and focusing on execution rather than the hype. Then he's asked about McCarron.
“I think he exemplifies everything I've been talking about,” Jones said. “He doesn't get caught up in the hype. He stays calm. A lot of people — it's a weird phenomenon — when they get in big games like this, in big moments, they go, as coach (Nick) Saban says, ‘rat trap.' They forget everything they've learned, they forget their reads, they try to do things they didn't do at practice. AJ's not one of those guys.”
McCarron has been MVP of the BCS championship game, shaken out of a second-half slump to lead the winning touchdown drive against LSU and also thrown his only two interceptions of the season in a loss to No. 9 Texas A&M. His only other career defeat came against LSU in 2011 before his superb showing in the national title rematch.
Like Murray, he's no stranger to the spotlight of big games.
“I don't think there's a big key in anything,” said McCarron, who's 23-2 as a starter. “It's another game. I think that's what hurt us back last year in the LSU game: we tried to make the game bigger than it was.”
This game is a chance for Murray to shine against the nation's top defense and maybe cancel out some bad memories from an otherwise sparkling career.
Murray is the nation's highest rated quarterback — McCarron is second — and the SEC's active leader in a number of categories, including passing yards (9,399) and touchdowns (89). He's already passed for 3,201 yards and 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions this season and boosted his win total as a starter to 27.
A title or two would polish off the resume nicely.
Avoiding costly mistakes will be key in a game featuring the SEC's two top pass defenses.
“I think all QBs want to make a big play in a big game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “All players want to make a big play in a big game. There's a time and place for everything. You have to understand when a play presents itself, then you make the big play. If it doesn't present itself, burn the ball, get rid of it. “
A win might also wipe out some forgettable performances in key games for Murray. He was 16 of 40 passing with two interceptions in a loss to LSU in last season's SEC championship game and was picked off twice again in a bowl defeat to Michigan State.
This season, he completed just more than a third of his passes for career-low 109 yards in a blowout loss to South Carolina and threw three first-half interceptions before righting himself in a 17-9 win over Florida.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Tabata rediscovering his power
- Pirates sickened by pic of ‘Jihadi John’ wearing Bucs ball cap
- AG Kane’s spokesman leaving after 2 months on the job
- At Pitt, a chance to make early impression under Narduzzi
- Highmark lays off nearly 100 workers, mostly in IT, as membership declines
- Seton-La Salle girls defeat rival Bishop Canevin to capture 7th WPIAL title
- Podiatrist, 6 others charged in prescription painkiller scheme
- Why would GOP candidate for Missouri governor Schweich kill himself?
- Two charged with selling heroin that killed Lower Burrell woman
- Trade for Winnik gives Penguins competition among bottom six
- Obama pitches privacy bill, Democrats say