McCarron Thinks Only Sugar Bowl

One would expect senior Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron to have a nice memory of his last visit to the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. That's where the Crimson Tide will meet Oklahoma on January 2 in the Sugar Bowl.

A.J. McCarron is finishing up his Alabama career. He will be the starting quarterback for the 40th time for the Crimson Tide when Bama takes on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl. One of the best of those previous 39 games came at the end of McCarron's sophomore year when Alabama took on LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.

McCarron led Bama to a 21-0 win over LSU as the Crimson Tide won the national championship. McCarron completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and was selected the Most Valuable Player in the game.

That may or may not mean anything when Bama takes on the Sooners in two weeks, but McCarron likes things about playing in the dome in New Orleans. "It's close to home, where I won the first national championship," he said. "Being close to home again is good for my family. I'll have a lot of family at the game. It's a special place to play at, especially for The University. They always show that highlight (on the Bryant-Denny Stadium jumbotrons at Bama games) of George Teague stripping the ball (from Miami's Lamar Thomas as Alabama won the 1992 national championship). It's a lot of tradition in that dome and it's a good chance for us to get a win."

That MVP award for McCarron at the end of the 2011 season has been followed by many more, including this year's Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (given to the nation's best senior quarterback) and first team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation and by the Football Coaches Association of America. He has also been second team All-America in other rankings and finished second in the Heisman Trophy vote.

Most of all, of course, McCarron is known for winning. He has led Alabama to two national championships and has been the winning quarterback in 36 games, the loser only three times.

His record this year has had him making the rounds for awards competition, from Orlando to Baltimore to New York.

He found New York "awesome." There were a couple of negatives. One, it was cold, snowing. The other was New York style pizza being "unbelievable. I love it." So much so that when he weighed before leaving for New York, he said he was "probably 214, 216. I came back and weighed with my shoulder pads on – my shoulder pads are four pounds at the most – and I was 230. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.' The first day back at practice (Tuesday) I could feel it. I was big. But I was moving fine. I was back down today to 224. That's good."

McCarron called the Heisman ceremony "an honor, no matter if I won or not. Whatever happened happened. I wasn't going to worry about it. Not many people can say they are a Heisman finalist and finished number two, second best in school history, which is pretty cool with all the great players who have played here. I had fun."

In addition to various football awards from outside, McCarron (along with linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Kevin Norwood) was elected a permanent captain. He seemed to be happier for Mosley and Norwood than he was for himself.

He pointed out that he and Mosley are best friends and both from Mobile and that he and Norwood were both born in Mississippi.

McCarron said he didn't have any trouble getting back to football when he returned from New York. He was back on track "as soon as I got back," he said. "For me as a leader I have to be that way. That's the way Coach Saban thinks. As soon as it's over you have a 24-hour rule. You treat it like a game. I did that. I'm back to focusing on ball and getting ready to play the Sugar Bowl."

Although he has just a few more practices in Tuscaloosa (through Monday, after which the Tide will have a brief Christmas break, then reassemble in New Orleans), McCarron is not feeling nostalgic. "I'm just focused," he said. "I want to go out the right way. I want to send these seniors out the right way. I feel it's only right for our class, my class that came in, and C.J. (Mosley) came in a year after but also a senior. We put a lot of work into this program to make it what it is today. It's only right we finish out on top. We still have a chance for a 12-win season, Sugar Bowl championship, which is huge. It's a BCS bowl. Not a lot of teams in Alabama history have won 12 games.

"Not only that, I saw something someone sent me, that Vegas said if we played Florida State or Auburn again we'd still be favored in points. So we have a chance to show the country we are the best team. We might not win the national championship, but we can have everyone talking about us more than the national championship team. And that's happened in the past. We still have the opportunity to do that. So we have to go our the right away."

It will also be a chance for McCarron to impress NFL scouts, but that is not on his mind.

Asked whether that would be on his mind, McCarron said, "No. I'm committed to this team. That's my job. Play my game and play the best I can for us. Whatever happens, happens in the future. I'm pretty sure if (draft anaylyst) Mel Kiper thinks I'm fourth round still, then one game isn't going to chance his mind. There's nothing I can do but play for my team."

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