Knee injury? Please.
After all the drama surrounding AJ McCarron's knee, we've been told that he just suffered a "bruised knee" in the win against Missouri. Whether there's more to it or not, don't expect it to really bother McCarron at Tennessee on Saturday. This is the perfect situation for Nick Saban and his junior quarterback to air it out a bit. What better way to show people just how "healthy" his knee is?
And against Tennessee's defense, he'll have plenty of opportunities to stretch the field. We all know how much Alabama loves to run the ball. Wearing down opponents is the Saban way, and it's worked for years. But Saban has been itching to be more of a downfield passing team. He knows McCarron can orchestrate it for him, and he'll take the cuffs off of him inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
McCarron has been incredibly efficient this season. He has a quarterback rating of 171.9, which tops the SEC and is fourth nationally. He has also passed for 12 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Every other starter in the SEC has thrown at least one interception this season.
But McCarron is only averaging 195 passing yards a game and has 1,170 this the season. He has eclipsed the 200-yard mark just twice ... against Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic.
He's been far from flashy, but McCarron will finally unleash that stellar arm of his Saturday. Expect to see a lot of him and a lot of freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper has proved to be Alabama's top deep threat this season, and he should have every opportunity to make plays against a Tennessee defense that is struggling in all areas. The Vols rank 13th in the SEC in total defense and are 12th in pass defense.
On Saturday, we won't see the conventional McCarron going through the motions. We'll see a guy with the plan in his head to dismantle this Tennessee secondary, and his coach will allow it. Alabama's punch-you-in-the-mouth rushing approached has worked all season, and the Tide won't stray too far from it, but expect to see more out of McCarron this weekend. Knee injury and all.