If you were to ask Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron whether he would prefer stomping first LSU and then Notre Dame for back-to-back titles or instead winning the Heisman but playing in the Cotton Bowl (what Johnny Manziel enjoyed in his fantastic freshman season at Texas A&M) the young star would choose crystal footballs over Heismans 10 times out of 10.
Entering his senior and final year in Tuscaloosa, McCarron’s Tide will once again be favored to at least compete for a national crown. A third consecutive victory in the BCS title game would be absolutely unprecedented.
But what about his chances at garnering elite individual recognition for his efforts?
There will be plenty of quarterbacks putting up huge numbers in the fall, such as Manziel, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Blistering running backs will be piling up yardage and touchdown totals, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee will be on another level and even defensive superstars (Jadeveon Clowney, we’re looking in your direction) may wind up keeping McCarron from being given the individual credit he may be due.
The same may be true of uber-talented sophomore running back TJ Yeldon.
“McCarron could be in the driver’s seat after the (Texas) A&M game, but he’ll likely be going against QBs and others who put up bigger numbers that will be tough for voters, especially ones outside the Southeast, to overlook,” Andrew Gribble of Al.com wrote. “Yeldon could be a candidate as well, but I’m envisioning another year that includes multiple RBs getting significant carries.”
All of that being said, McCarron’s numbers – and championship rings – speak for themselves. The signal caller threw 30 touchdown passes compared to only three interceptions in 2012, and his passer rating of 175.3 led the nation.
As ESPN SEC blogger Edward Aschoff points out, it’s not exactly as if coach Nick Saban has trotted a janitor out under center and has simply been hoping for the best. Yes, Alabama leans on its elite run game, but McCarron has proven himself to be a leader, as well as a successful quarterback in his own right.
“McCarron is easily the most talented college quarterback Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has worked with since he had JaMarcus Russell at LSU, and he’s been given more control and responsibility. McCarron has great arm strength, can make the tough throws and has evolved from a player who pressed too much in sticky situations. He has the kind of mechanics pro scouts drool over and has slowly helped Alabama transition to a more downfield passing game.
If it’s so easy for Alabama quarterbacks, then Saban’s former signal-callers would have multiple BCS titles. They don’t. McCarron has won two straight and is looking for a third. Yes, he’s had a lot to work with, but Alabama isn’t 25-2 with McCarron under center without McCarron’s brain and arm.
At the end of the day, will another 30-touchdown campaign and No. 1-national ranking be enough to hoist the nation’s most prestigious individual award?
That much, of course, remains to be seen. However, from what we as Tide fans have seen from McCarron already, it simply will not matter.
As long as McCarron is back at the White House, shaking Obama’s hand for a third and final time.