Don't look now, but Alabama has one of those undefeated quarterback things going again.
A year after former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy extended his undefeated streak as a starter to 19 games, AJ McCarron is 7-0 in his first year in the role. Considered the biggest question mark before the season as to Alabama's 2011 championship hopes, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound redshirt sophomore from Mobile is guiding an offense that has gone 50 consecutive possessions without a turnover and 77 straight without an interception.
"I think he's improved in every game, and he's done a really good job in managing the game," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I think the players have confidence in him. We're executing better as a group, and he's certainly doing his part."
Though Alabama's defense has been second to none nationally through the first half of the college football season, the Crimson Tide offense is plenty healthy, averaging 460.6 yards and 39.7 points per game.
McCarron shared snaps with Phillip Sims in the Sept. 3 opener, when Alabama defeated Kent State 48-7 despite two interceptions apiece by the quarterbacks. McCarron took the reins the next week in a 27-11 win at Penn State, and he enters Saturday night's game against Tennessee having gone 151 attempts without getting picked off.
That ranks third in program history behind Brodie Croyle's 190 attempts and Jay Barker's 155, and it surpasses McElroy's streak of 149.
"You can definitely tell that he learned a couple things from Greg," junior linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "He is a great quarterback, and he is definitely growing up on us. He has shown a lot of maturity taking hold of the huddle. I feel like he is actually one of the leaders that has had to step it up on offense because they were kind of lacking on leadership.
"Ever since that third or fourth game, I feel like he has kind of stepped up a lot and just developed as a quarterback that we know he can be."
McCarron enters this week having completed 69 of 99 attempts (69.7 percent) the past four weeks against Southeastern Conference opposition with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The past two weeks against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, he completed 44 of 54 attempts (81.4 percent).
Though McElroy was a weekly staple at news conferences and after games, Saban has kept McCarron under wraps. He was allowed to speak once before the season and was made available after the win at Penn State.
Saban has been serving as McCarron's mouthpiece, and he's offering plenty of compliments on his quarterback and his offense in general.
"They've played better and better in each game, and I think they've bailed us out on the road," the coach said. "We've been giving up big plays early on defense and getting behind in games, and the key to those games is being able to control the ball and showing the maturity to come right back down the field and score. I don't see our defense any more successful than our offense at this point."