Prior to the season, this quarterback match-up was supposed to be the other way around.
After treading water for the past four seasons under Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, the Tigers were supposed to go to another level under Zach Mettenberger. Finally, LSU would have a quarterback who could keep defenses honest with his ability to throw deep, making a Tiger offense that struggled for an identity a bit more fierce.
Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa it was the story of “yeah, but” when it came to AJ McCarron. “Yeah he’s good, but he’s too much of a game manager.” Then it was “Yeah, he won a national championship, but it was on a bunch of dink and dunk passes.” It seemed like McCarron wasn’t getting the credit he deserved.
Eight games into the season the script has been flipped.
Mettenberger looked like he would live up to the hype in the first three games, finishing with a completion percentage near 70 in each outing. Then, it was a turn for the worst starting with week four’s match-up at Auburn as his completion percentage started to dwindle, slipping all the way down into the 30’s in his most recent outing against Texas A&M. Mettenberger’s struggles have led many to question his confidence at this stage of the season as well as the confidence the LSU coaching staff is in him.
Meanwhile McCarron is a Heisman front runner. He’s not put up video game numbers, but he has turned being a game manager into the new “cool thing.” His quarterback rating tops the country as he as been aggressively efficient, taking more chances than ever, but throwing fewer interceptions than he had at this point of the season last year.
Saturday night, Mettenberger will need to play the game of his life and deliver numbers he has not put up since his junior college days to keep the LSU Tigers in the game. For McCarron, it’s just a case of keep on doing what you’ve been doing, take chances when they are there, but play smart.
While the offensive and defensive lines will have an impact this game will be decided by the quarterbacks. If the first eight games of the season are any indication, well you know where this game is headed.