national college football

Alabama ready for big test at LSU

Alabama’s AJ McCarron has gone 262 pass attempts without throwing an interception, dating to last season.
dave martin/associated press
Alabama’s AJ McCarron has gone 262 pass attempts without throwing an interception, dating to last season.

A quarterback described as a game manager can often be perceived as someone who’s mostly responsible for super­vising plays and not making them.

Unless the quarterback is AJ McCarron and he plays for Nick Saban.

The coach of top-ranked Alabama considers it the highest praise. No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) would love to get a McCarron-like, efficient performance from Zach Mettenberger Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., where both passers will be supported by punishing tailbacks and terrific defenses.


McCarron has been the consummate game manager, even with 18 touchdown passes.

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‘‘I don’t think it’s fair to AJ that because I said he’s a really good game manager for us that it’s like that means he doesn’t do anything,’’ Saban said. ‘‘He does everything. I don’t think you can be a good quarterback unless you’re a really good game manager. That’s the ultimate compliment, to me.’’

McCarron has been the nation’s most efficient passer with a quarterback rating of 182.4 for Alabama (8-0, 5-0). He’s thrown 262 passes without an interception dating to last season, the second-longest streak in SEC history.

McCarron wants to clear up what being a game manager means in his eyes.

‘‘What I think and then what the media tries to make a game manager out to be is two totally different things,’’ he said. ‘‘I probably think more along the lines of Coach Saban.”


The strong-armed Mettenberger might still be finding his way toward the game-manager role in his first year as starter. He hasn’t completed 50 percent of his passes in any of the last three games — all against ranked SEC teams — and has one touchdown pass, two interceptions, and a modest 403 passing yards during that stretch.

It’s Mettenberger’s first time playing in an Alabama-LSU confrontation. He knows the big-game drill, though.

‘‘You have to be levelheaded,’’ Mettenberger said. ‘‘You can’t get too jacked up or you will start throwing balls in the stands. You can’t play with your tail tucked between legs or you’ll play too timid. It’s a fine line, between looking too relaxed and being too jacked up.”

Alabama’s defense leads the SEC with 14 interceptions and LSU is second with 13.

McCarron was solid in the first meeting last season and was offensive MVP of the BCS championship game.


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It might surprise many to know that Illinois has won three of the last five meetings in Ohio Stadium, and seven of 11 dating to 1988. Even though sixth-ranked Ohio State is again unbeaten and Illinois is struggling, the Illini have some history of playing over their heads in the Horseshoe. But Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer doesn’t believe one team has another’s ‘‘number.’’

‘‘I don’t really buy into that,’’ he said.

The Illini are plumbing the depths of the Big Ten standings (2-6, 0-4) and Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) is alone atop the Leaders Division. Even though that should point to Saturdays’ game being a blowout — the Buckeyes are favored by 27½ points — the ledger in recent years isn’t nearly so definitive.

‘‘They've struggled, obviously,’’ Buckeyes cornerback Bradley Roby said. ‘‘But any team can win any Saturday; you see it all the time. So you can’t take anybody lightly.’’