Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Key matchups: McCarron vs. Claiborne

It is no secret the identities of both Alabama and LSU revolve heavily on how they run the football. Both offenses play a smash-mouth style ground game that tends to wear opposing defenses down and open big lanes for talented backs.

However, one of the most anticipated matchups of Monday’s championship game will come through the air, as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will face off against talented LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and a talented LSU secondary.

“Scary,” offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said about LSU’s secondary. “They’re the real guys. And I think that’s one thing even in this league that you see. I mean, the defenses in this league, you know, are really good, and these guys are at the top of that heap.”

When evaluating McCarron’s Nov. 5 performance, his stat-line of 16-28, 199 yards and one interception does not look terrible. However, it was more about the plays McCarron didn’t make than the ones he did. The redshirt sophomore looked tense in the game and did not capitalize on many big play opportunities.

During the game against Florida, head coach Nick Saban pulled McCarron aside to instruct him to calm down. During the LSU game the instruction was quite the opposite, as Saban called for more emotion in the young quarterback’s play.

“I’ve definitely got to come out and play with emotion in this game like I always do,” McCarron said. “Just play my game.”

Claiborne got the best of McCarron in the first meeting, when he intercepted a pass at the Alabama 48-yard line and returned it 33 yards. Despite winning the first battle against McCarron, Claiborne still recognized that the quarterback has talent and will be a tough competition.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Claiborne said. “He can throw the ball and he has Trent Richardson to complement that. But from what I’ve seen… from the first time we faced him, he is a great quarterback.”

Likewise, McCarron knows he is up against on of the best in Claiborne.

“You’ve got to respect him,” McCarron said. “You’ve got to respect his game. And at the same time every guy’s got a weakness, though, and you’ve got to know it and you’ve got to take advantage of it when you get the opportunity.”

McCarron has been making better reads, something evident in his Iron Bowl performance where he went 18-23 with 184 yards and three touchdowns, and more importantly for the Tide, threw no interceptions.

“I think [McCarron] is making better reads in the passing game,” defensive back Eric Reid said. “He knows the corners. He knows how to read safeties to know what coverage is there and whether it’s man or zone.”

McCarron and the Tide know they will have their hands full going up against possibly the best cornerback in the nation. However, this time McCarron hopes to learn from past mistakes and provide a different outcome for Claiborne and the Tigers.

“As a team we felt like we kind of let it slip through our fingers and get away from us at the end,” McCarron said. “And hopefully this time we won’t let that happen.”

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