By Hunter Ford
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is looking to finish a brilliant college career on a high note, while Big 12 foes look for respect.
“I want to send these seniors out the right way,” McCarron was recently quoted in USA Today. “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 on top.”
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban agreed with those sentiments.
“I think we have a great opportunity against a really good team to prove that we are a good football team,” Saban said. “I think the seniors here have done such a great job, it would really be a shame if our entire team didn’t try to finish this season the right way.”
McCarron noted that Alabama would be favored (according to Las Vegas oddsmakers) to beat either Auburn or Florida State if given a rematch against the Tigers or a matchup with the Seminoles.
“So, we have a chance to show the country we are the best team,” he said. “We might not be in the national championship game, but we can have everybody talking about us more than the national championship. And that’s happened in the past. We still have the opportunity to do that.”
McCarron said playing in the Super Dome, close to his home in Mobile, would be special for several reasons. He said he expects to have family on hand, and that The Alabama Crimson Tide has a lot of history in New Orleans.
“It’s close to home, where I won the first national championship (2011 season),” he said. “I’ll have a lot of family at the game. It’s a special place to play, especially for the university. It’s a lot of tradtion in that dome and it’s a good chance for us to get a win.”
In 2010, Alabama fell from an undefeated season to a three-loss season and suffered a loss to Auburn that sent the Tigers to the SEC and BCS championships. The Tide took out its frustrations in a mauling of Big 10 co-champ Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.
Radio personality Paul Finebaum sees a similar scenario for the Sugar Bowl this year.
“I’ll be shocked if Alabama doesn’t unleash unholy anxiety on the Sooners,” Finebaum said.
But Oklahomans have a different perspective on the game. According to John Helsley, a reporter and columnist for The Oklahoman newspaper, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want to prove they are worthy foes for the SEC. While the Sooners take on the Tide, the Cowboys will meet former Big 12 rival Missouri, in the Cotton Bowl.
“The perception once was that the SEC had strong defenses and the Big 12 didn’t,” Helsley said in a recent column. “But a scoring trend hit the SEC this season, bringing more hope that the Big 12 can compete.”
Helsley used the 59-42 point fest that was the SEC Championship game, as evidence the SEC looked a lot like the Big 12 this year.
“In a highly partisan college football universe, the spin always shines favor on the SEC,” Helsley said.
Football players in Oklahoma are looking to redirect the light their way.
“It’s going to be a good challenge,” Oklahoma defensive back Gabe Lynn said. “But, yeah, we’re tired of being overlooked.”
Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis said, “I’ve had a chance to watch some of these SEC teams. I mean, they’re good, but, I think we can compete over there too.”