Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy breaks down every angle of Monday's BCS National Championship game featuring No. 1 LSU against the second-ranked Crimson Tide. McElroy, who won this very game in 2010, just finished his first season with the New York Jets after being selected in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Compare the two quarterbacks, A.J. McCarron and Jordan Jefferson.
I think obviously A.J. has had a great first year as a starter. I also think Jordan Jefferson has some of the talent that can exploit a defense relatively quick and Jordan is really kind of a streaky player. If he starts the game hot, then he is going be lights out the rest of the game. I think he is really, really talented.
He was able to go into Tuscaloosa the first game and honestly, having very few reps (It was only his fourth game back from suspension) up until that point, and he took over the team. He's been the starter ever since. I think Alabama will have a great plan for him, but LSU has been giving Jordan the reps during the past 15 practices. I think it's a very even matchup at quarterback.
Given that LSU has already beaten Alabama once already this season, does it make it more difficult to beat them again?
I think every game has nothing to do with the past. I think this game will be completely different than the first game. I don't think it matters at all who won the first one. It's just going to come down to whoever executes better this time around. Honestly, in the first game, I felt Alabama executed better offensively and defensively. However, they turned the ball over, and they were less than adequate in the kicking game. LSU -- and they did it time and time again this year -- they found a way to win. You can see it in several games; in the Alabama game they turned it on, the Georgia game and the Arkansas game. It's like when thing started to get difficult, they became another team.
What adjustments will Alabama coach Nick Saban make? Will Alabama change formations or run some gimmick plays?
They'll have a great plan. Coach Saban will find ways to exploit what very, very few weaknesses LSU has. I think they will have some variations and some things that they might not have shown all year. That's just because of the long layover; you allow your mind to go to work and think of creative ways to maybe run a play, or different formation or a shift. I think both teams will have some wrinkles and I wouldn't be surprised to see one of those wrinkles end up playing a huge factor in the game.
What will Saban be saying to McCarron during the game? What is he like on the sidelines during the national championship?
I'll tell you the truth: Coach Saban I don't think said a single word to me during the  national championship. I remember one thing that he said and it was in the fourth quarter. There were seven minutes left or so and we had just gotten the ball. [Texas] had put together a couple touchdown drives in a row. I think the score was 24-21, and he said, "Hey, we need a drive right here. The defense is reeling. We got to get a couple first downs here." We got a couple first downs and we pinned them inside the five, which led to a sack-fumble and us recovering the ball at the two. That was really the only thing he ever said to me the entire game. He's a focused individual, and he knows how much these games mean to the fan base, the state of Alabama and every individual's legacy and team as well.
Did you mainly speak with your quarterback coach during that game then?
Yeah, they would just give me the headset. You'd talk to the offense; you'd talk to the offensive line and the running backs to see about protection and things they like. You know, maybe a route that they might have an option on, talk about what they're going to be doing. Really, we just talked a lot about the run checks. I had two broken ribs and I knew I wasn't going to be as effective throwing the football as I would have liked to have been.
What will the LSU defense try and do to McCarron, who is a first-year starter at quarterback?
I see them really blitzing a lot. I look back at the first game and I saw a lot of bluff blitzes. The way you beat a young quarterback is by disguising blitzes, making him feel uncomfortable and simulating pressure, where you have guys walk up the line of scrimmage but then they drop out. That got A.J. the last game. What I think their game plan will be is to try and pressure with their four-down personnel, pressure with their defensive line and pressure without blitzing. I think that's a big key for them. If they can do that, it will be difficult. Obviously, wrap up anytime they get past the line of scrimmage. Trent Richardson is probably the best guy in the entire country at breaking tackles. I mean, he is just a monster. LSU has to capitalize on mistakes without question. I think there will be opportunities for both teams. And that's not necessarily a turnover. That could be a three-and-out inside their own 20. That's a mistake as well -- then you go down on a short field and score.
The last one is the number one thing. If you look back throughout the course of the season, A.J. really relies on Richardson in the passing game. I think LSU has to take him out of the passing game whatsoever. Those are the easiest completions and he is by far the best ball carrier on the field. If you do that, then that significantly limits the production you can get with very, very easy passes. Everything else is throwing the ball outside the numbers and the hashes -- a lot more difficult throws. That could throw A.J. off his rhythm and be a big factor.
What is your final prediction?
I think Alabama is going to win. I think it's going to be 17-10.
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