Targeting Bama's Superhero

LSU's defense prepares to stop Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron

Updated: October 31, 2012, 12:29 PM ET
By Gary Laney | GeauxTigerNation

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When facing the nation's leader in passing efficiency this week, LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan knows 11 players might not be enough to bring the Kryptonite to stop the quarterback who's putting up Superman numbers.

"The fans will definitely be a big part of strategy of the game," said Logan, while calling for the Saturday night Tiger Stadium crowd to be as loud for Saturday's game against the top-ranked Crimson Tide as it was for the Tigers' last home game, a 23-21 win over South Carolina.

"We need the crowd to make it difficult for them," he said.

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery
AP Photo/Paul AbellLSU DE Sam Montgomery sacks Alabama QB AJ McCarron in the Tigers' regular-season win a year ago.
The reason? Logan's seen Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron work, both in person and on film. He's watched him check the Crimson Tide offense into the right play at the line of scrimmage time and again. He's noticed that McCarron does it nearly without error.

"He seems to make all the throws and he's a quality leader," LSU coach Les Miles said.

To this point, he's statistically nearly flawless. His 1,684 passing yards are deceivingly modest for a team that's played eight games. Alabama builds big leads early, so there's been little reason for the Tide to air it out.

The stat that really sticks out is his unreal 182.4 pass efficiency, the direct result of his absurd 18-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. When LSU players say Alabama's offense and McCarron are "efficient," it's quite the understatement.

"You have to get pressure on him," Logan said. "We have to get him rattled in the pocket because once he gets into a rhythm, it's hard to get him out of that rhythm."

LSU knows that better than anybody.

It was against the Tigers that McCarron had his coming out party last season, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards to earn MVP honors in the Tide's 21-0 win over LSU in the BCS championship game last season.

Closing out his sophomore season, McCarron grew up in the title game from a quarterback who conceded the bulk of the offensive work to Alabama's physical running game, earning him the label of a "game manager," to a veteran who would make reads at the line of scrimmage, make throws on first down and make plays to win games.

It was a step in McCarron's progress the Tigers knew would come, but hoped wouldn't come in time to win the national championship.

"Any quality quarterback that stays in the system and continues to call the same plays and develop the same reads and thought process will, in fact, mature and have growth as they continue," Miles said.

The perception of McCarron really hasn't changed much. At his core, he still manages Alabama's vast array of talented offensive players like running backs T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy and receiver Amari Cooper.

Call him the "uber game manager" -- one so good at checking his offense into the right plays and getting the ball into the right spot, that his management skills have evolved into a weapon as lethal as a rocket arm or lightning speed.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the "game manager" label is not one a quarterback should shy away from anyway.

"To me, you can't be a good quarterback unless you're a game manager," Saban said, "because you've got the ball in your hands every time and you're making some kind of choice and decision of what to do with it whether you hand it off, what play you hand it off on, where you throw it in the passing game."

That's where Logan said the Tiger Stadium crowd has to play a role.

It's a given that LSU is going to have to find a way to get McCarron out of a comfort zone. The Tigers defensive line can do it by applying pressure. One stat that sticks out as a negative for the Tide is the 16 sacks McCarron has taken this season.

Still, Logan said Alabama "definitely has the best offensive line we'll face all season," making that task far from easy.

So he's calling for an assist.

He noted that against South Carolina, Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw struggled so much with communication, "the (play) clock was running down to five seconds before they got some of their plays called."

He said noise might be exactly what the Tigers need to get an edge.

"In a loud stadium, he'll have to go tackle-to-tackle to get his play called and by the time he gets done, the clock will be winding down," he said. "So he might not be able to make the checks he makes in a normal game."

Against a player putting up comic-book numbers, that might be LSU's best hope at taking away his super powers.

Gary Laney | email

Reporter, GeauxTigerNation