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 Southeastern Conference title game with the winner moving on to face No. 1 Notre Dame for the national title.
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. It’s just another game, just another Saturday. Go out and play, do our job, execute plays and let the chips fall where they fall.
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.
The normally media-friendly Murray opted out of talking to reporters this week.
His teammates spoke for him, and talked about the comfort of having a star quarterback in games like this.
It’s very valuable, tight end Jay Rome said. You have to have a quarterback who’s not only a good athlete and can throw the ball, but a quarterback who knows where to go with the ball. Whether he needs to hand it off or check to a pass or recognize blitzes, you have to have a smart guy back there. I feel like Murray is definitely that.