This is the second part of a series on who should start against Alabama. I'll choose a side tomorrow and provide a rationale. You can vote in the poll and continue to provide your take in the comments section.
We know what we're getting with Stephen Garcia, and while it may include some good play from time to time, we can probably assume it will also include some serious mistakes that we can't afford to make in a game in which the margin for error will be razor thin. We don't know exactly what we'll get if Connor Shaw starts, but it may--emphasis on may--be better than what Garcia brings.
Shaw, from the limited amount of evidence we have available to us, makes better decisions on his feet. This is really important considering our line woes in pass protection and the new zone-read philosophy behind our offense. Shaw seems to make better option reads and have a better sense of when to scramble on passing plays. He also made a wise decision to go out of bounds on a run last week, which is exactly the kind of thing Garcia has tended to choose not to do.
Shaw has never started a game, and this one is against what will likely be the top-ranked team in the country. Starting him here would be tantamount to throwing him to the wolves. Garcia, on the other hand, has started before, and although his ability to perform well under pressure is questionable, he does seem to play better at home--see Tennessee 2008, Ole Miss 2009, Clemson 2009, etc. I believe he has something like a 10-2 home record as starter, with the losses being LSU 2008 and Florida 2009, in both of which he had some positive moments.
We know we're going to get some mistakes with Garcia, but we'll probably get them with Shaw, too. He's a true freshman, after all, and he'll be going up against a Saban defense that is bound to confuse him with its unpredictable blitz and coverage schemes. Shaw may protect the ball better on the run, but his first interception against Auburn suggests that he may not be ready to face SEC coverage schemes, especially against 'Bama.