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Iron Bowl QBs at very different stages of careers

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Iron Bowl QBs at very different stages of careers

Jonathan Wallace was still in high school with no clue he'd wind up playing for Auburn when AJ McCarron was leading Alabama to a national title.

Now, the Tigers' freshman quarterback is set to start in the first Iron Bowl he's ever attended Saturday against the second-ranked Crimson Tide and one of the nation's best defenses - in front of some 102,000 mostly hostile fans.

``It's a pretty good position to be in, I would say,'' Wallace said. ``It's really a blessing. I'm very excited. I can't wait.''

McCarron is in a pretty good position, too.

He has the Tide (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) two wins away from a return trip to the national title game, where he was MVP last season.

The two quarterbacks are at very different stages of their careers leading teams having even more disparate seasons. Wallace has three career starts and none on the road for the Tigers (3-8, 0-7).

McCarron has started 24 games, winning 22 of them, and has 36 career touchdown passes compared to Wallace's four. He just set Alabama's single-season record with passing touchdown No. 21 last weekend against Western Carolina, a week after his school mark of 291 passes without an interception ended.

McCarron is one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award given to the nation's top junior or senior quarterback.

``I think everything with their offense starts with their offensive line,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ``I think it's an extremely talented, well-coached offensive line. I think for a quarterback there's great comfort in that, but he's been very, very efficient. He's very good at protecting the football. McCarron has done everything that I think you do in games to win.''

McCarron is third nationally in passing efficiency, completing 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,291 yards with two interceptions.

Wallace's ride has been unpredictable. He was bound for Central Florida until Auburn offered the player from nearby Central-Phenix City a scholarship on the eve of national signing day.

He took over the offense after both Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier struggled, but hasn't started in an unfriendly environment yet.

``Jonathan is one of these guys that's mature beyond his years,'' Chizik said. ``But it's going to be a different environment. A kid that grows up this close to Auburn and growing up in this state knowing what this game is and what this game means, it will be different for him. My gut is to say that he'll handle it wise beyond his years. He'll know that it's a different deal. He'll be excited about it, but he'll handle it well.''

Wallace was primarily used as the Wildcat quarterback and had only attempted one pass before taking over in the second half of a blowout loss to Texas A&M. Now, he'll be the third freshman quarterback to start for the Tigers in an Iron Bowl.

Gabe Gross, a baseball star who eventually went on to spend seven years in the major league, started the 1998 game after coach Terry Bowden had already left the team during a 3-8 season. The Tigers lost 31-17.

Ken Hobby started the 1981 game against the fourth-ranked Tide, and lost 28-17.

Wallace hasn't reached 200 yards passing in a game yet but has also thrown just two interceptions.

``He's done a really good job of managing the game for them,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``That's a good thing to me. Don't take that the wrong way. He's done a good job of throwing the football. He is doing all the quarterback runs that they do.

``And he's athletic enough to do it and makes good decisions about it. ``

Wallace now faces a defense that yields the nation's fewest points and is second in yards allowed.

``I'm seeing everything you can imagine that a defense can run,'' Wallace, who was coached in high school by three-time Alabama All-American linebacker Woodrow Lowe, said. ``They have an NFL-type defense. They bring everything. They do a lot of things. It's going to be kind of like Georgia, maybe a little more. Other than that, it's just one of those things where you've just got to take it a play at a time.''

Wallace gets more designed runs of the two quarterbacks, but McCarron has shown an ability to escape the rush. He even scrambled for 24 yards against Western Carolina in his longest run of the season.

Saban made it clear before the play was even over that's not his role - especially in blowout wins.

``He told me he was screaming for me to get out of bounds the whole time,'' McCarron said. ``And I kept going. I came off after we scored on that long drive, came over and he met me. I knew what he was about to say, so I said, `I just wanted to show you who was the real athlete out of us two.' He started laughing and just walked away, couldn't do anything but smile.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?

In this week's mailbag podcast, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir answer several questions about the Caps' prospects and Hershey.

How does the future look on the farm? Plus, they talk about potential weaknesses, their biggest surprises and more!

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

For well over six seasons, Manny Machado's value to the Baltimore Orioles has been solely his ability to hit and play the field.

All that has changed, now that the Orioles are looking to receive a huge return for their All-Star shortstop in a blockbuster trade.

Machado homered before being removed on a wet day, Adam Jones hit a three-run double and Baltimore rallied past the Texas Rangers 6-5 Sunday.

Machado was taken out of the game in the fifth inning by manager Buck Showalter after a 26-minute rain delay. The move was designed to get their star player off a sloppy field, because the last-place Orioles are entertaining offers for Machado before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"Obviously there's a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that," Showalter said. "That had a lot to do with it."

Plain and simple, the Orioles can't afford to have Machado get hurt. Now, more than ever.

"A month ago he wouldn't have come out of the game," Showalter acknowledged. "We know that. You know it."

After being replaced by Jace Peterson, Machado sat in the dugout, wearing a sweatshirt and joking with his teammates.

"I don't know why (Showalter) did it or not," Machado said. "He just told me, `I'm going to take you out. You had a good first half and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'"

Machado is Baltimore's lone representative for Tuesday's showcase. He has spent his entire career in Baltimore, but his contract expires after this season and the Orioles don't appear interested in locking him up with a long-term deal.

"I'm going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It's just always a blessing," Machado said. "I thank God. I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization. I mean it's just been very incredible."

In a matchup between two teams staggering into the break, Texas got a first-inning grand slam from rookie Ronald Guzman but quickly gave the lead away in losing for the seventh time in nine games.

Machado ignited the comeback with his 24th homer, and Jones' bases-clearing double in the third off Mike Minor (6-6) put Baltimore ahead to stay.

"I'll be fine," said Minor, who yielded five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. "I'll reflect a little bit and then get back to it."

The game ended when Texas pinch-runner Carlos Tocci was thrown out at the plate on a double by Elvis Andrus. Running from first base, Tocci was tagged out by catcher Caleb Joseph following throws by right fielder Mark Trumbo and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

"Textbook," Showalter said.

Texas manager Jeff Bannister called it a "situation where they had to throw it on line to throw Tocci out. They executed well."

Tanner Scott (1-1), the first of four Baltimore relievers, earned his first big league win.

Zach Britton, another Oriole supposedly on the trading block, worked the ninth for his fourth save, the second in two days.

Texas broke on top when Miguel Castro issued three straight walks and Guzman sent a one-out drive over the right-field wall for his first career grand slam.

It was 4-1 in the third when Joseph hit an RBI double and Jones doubled down the left-field line following a walk to Machado.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers to 6-5.

STREAKY

Choo opened the game with a walk, extending to 51 his single-season club record streak of games reaching base via a hit, walk or HBP. ... Texas' Delino DeShields went 0 for 3, stretching his hitless drought to 28 at-bats. ... Jones snapped a 1-for-16 skid with his third-inning double.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: RF Nomar Mazara was given the day off after hurting his hand Saturday night in the outfield.

Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (back) was set to make his final rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. ... INF Steve Wilkerson (oblique) and OF Craig Gentry (rib fracture) likely won't come off the DL before August, Showalter said. ... RHP Andrew Cashner (neck strain) will be activated from the DL on Saturday or Sunday to face Toronto, Showalter said.

UP NEXT

Rangers: The rotation after the All-Star break, beginning Friday against visiting Cleveland: Martin Perez, Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and Minor.

Orioles: After the All-Star break, Dylan Bundy will start at Toronto on Friday night.