The sellout crowd in the stadium for the Cowboys Classic football game between Alabama and Michigan Saturday night will be watching the Jumbotron. But what about A.J. McCarron if he throws a touchdown pass? Will he be looking up?
“Probably once I get to the sideline,” said McCarron, the junior Alabama quarterback. Before that, though, if McCarron sticks to his sophomore habit, he’ll race downfield to celebrate with his receiver.
“I do a lot of celebrating when I throw touchdowns and go crazy,” said McCarron. “At the time, I probably won't be paying attention to it.”
And then there’s the matter of holding for the extra point kick. McCarron does that, too.
But eventually he’ll probably watch some Jumbotron.
McCarron, who passed for 16 touchdowns last year and completed 219 of 328 passes (66.8 per cent) for 2,634 yards with only five interceptions, is more mature than he may look on his celebration sprint. He demonstrated that in earning Offensive Most Valuable Player in leading Bama to a 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.
He also showed that maturity this summer in breaking down film of all 2012 Crimson Tide opponents.
McCarron said he worked with Jeff Norrid, a graduate assistant football analyst. “He helps me a bunch,” McCarron said. “He knows everything there is about defense. Through the summer we broke down each opponent, week-by-week, but probably in the past two or two-and-a-half weeks, we’ve watched a ton of film on Michigan. Then we are up here at least three to fours hours a day, an hour before practice and then after practice.
“I think I know a lot about Michigan. I know what they like to do in certain situation.s I know how they’re going to play a lot of things.
“It will be exciting come Saturday to get out there and actually do it.”
He said that Michigan’s defense, reportedly patterned after the Baltimore Ravens, includes “a bunch of crazy things [to] try to confuse you. They'll spread everybody out, walk them around. Show different one way, blitz another. Do a bunch of different things, but I feel like our coaching staff has done a really good job of breaking them down, what they like to do. I guess we'll see what else they have in store for us come Saturday.”
McCarron doesn’t expect wholesale changes from the Wolverines.
“They’re Michigan,” he said. “They’re not going to change what they do. Anytime you play a big-time program like that, they know what they do and theyt know what they are capable of and they are going to do it.
“You’ve got to stop them.
“It’ll be a good challenge, something I’m looking forward to.”
McCarron is not concerned about putting last year in the past.
“There’s no reason to live in the past,” he said. “It’s a different team, different leaders. I think the biggest thing for us is we have a bunch of guys who are playing for the team. They want to do well for the team, not themselves.”
He doesn’t think that Michigan being the former big rival of Tide Coach Nick Saban when Saban was at Michigan State is any factor. “As many tough teams as we play, I don’t see a difference in this game,” McCarron said. “I don’t think Coach wants to come out and lose. So I think as long as we win, we’ll be fine.”
McCarron is not concerned about the stadium for Saturday’s opener. “It’s still 100 yards long and, what, 53-something yards wide. There’s no difference.
“You don’t focus on the other factors, like Coach says. Crowd, stadium, Jumbotron. None of that matters.”
Not even his counterpart, Michigan’s outstanding quarterback Denard Robinson, who has had the lion’s share of publicity coming into Saturday’s game.
“I don't really worry about everybody else,” McCarron said. “I just kind of go out and do what I'm capable of doing and play the way I can. I let my game talk for itself. More power to them. That's awesome that you get all that publicity.”
Perhaps McCarron will watch Robinson on the Jumbotron.