Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron gladly accepts the title of game manager.
That’s because he rejects the popular image of a game manager — a less-than-dynamic stiff who quickly liberates himself from the ball and gets out of the way.
“That’s kind of funny to me,” McCarron said. “I think you throw the ball 50 times a game and lead your team to victory by throwing it. Or you can hand it off 30 times and only throw it 20.
“I think people try to label it as a guy that doesn’t really do much for his offense, just kind of takes care of everything, tries to get everybody in their right position.”
That’s what a quarterback does, and the numbers say few in college football do it better than McCarron. He’s bidding to become the first quarterback to lead his team to consecutive BCS national championships when the Crimson Tide meets Notre Dame on Monday.
McCarron, a junior, is 24-2 as a starter. He leads major-college football in passing efficiency, which takes into account several categories. The bigges: 26 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 66.8 completion percentage. He also became something of a Captain Comeback this season, leading the Crimson Tide to some big fourth-quarter victories.
At LSU, McCarron completed four of five passes on the game-winning drive, with the final one going to T.J. Yeldon for a 28-yard touchdown.
In the SEC championship game, McCarron found Amari Cooper on a 45-yard strike with 3:15 remaining for the game-winner.
All of this while working with a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this season, Doug Nussmeier, who was hired from Washington to replace Jim McElwain, who had become Colorado State’s head coach.
In his travels, Nussmeier had worked with several quarterbacks who went on to the NFL, including Jake Locker, Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte. Nussmeier saw in McCarron a player who shares the type of work ethic that made others successful.
“His willingness to spend extra time when people don’t know what he’s doing,” Nussmeier said. “He has brought our offense together.”
McCarron knows that for the second straight season, he’s working behind perhaps the game’s best offensive line. Center Barrett Jones was last year’s Outland Trophy winner. This year, left guard Chance Warmack was the most highly decorated. The five regulars up front have combined for 160 career starts.
It also helps to have one of the nation’s top defenses on your side. Alabama leads the nation in fewest total and rushing yards allowed. McCarron, who faces top defenses in the Southeastern Conference, will operate against perhaps the best he’s seen this season in Notre Dame, led by linebacker Manti Te’o. The Irish lead the nation in scoring defense.
McCarron is confident. He’s got one national championship ring and believes he’ll soon have another.
“Me personally, I think it’s just another game,” McCarron said. “Yeah, you’re playing for a national championship, but it’s another football game. I don’t really pay much attention to the title of the game, I guess.”
In other words, McCarron will manage.