Column: Crimson Tide may have second Heisman trophy winner

By Chad Haynie

Normally, I would use this column to tell you how nice it will be to finally watch Alabama play a competitive game against a top-15 team. Well, I can’t really do that with a straight face. Alabama will embarrass Mississippi State Saturday.

Instead, I think I’ll spend a few minutes talking about the Crimson Tide’s second Heisman Trophy winner. Soon to be second Heisman winner, that is. While most of the national attention has centered on Geno Smith of West Virginia, Braxton Miller of Ohio State and Collin Klein of Kansas State, AJ McCarron has been making a strong case to bring another stiff-armed trophy back to Tuscaloosa.

McCarron is at a natural disadvantage in the Heisman race being a quarterback from the Southeastern Conference. Only two SEC quarterbacks have won the trophy in the past 10 years, and both were student athletes known more for their running abilities than their passing abilities – Tim Tebow and Cam Newton.

While I don’t see AJ downing any “Cammy-Cam juice” and rushing for 500 yards and six touchdowns in the next six games, I honestly don’t think he will need it.

Alabama is in the midst of the most dominant college football campaign since Tom Osborne’s 1995 Nebraska team. Washington State came the closest to beating the Cornhuskers that year but still fell by two touchdowns. Thus far in 2012, Alabama’s slimmest margin of victory was 19 against Ole Miss.

Within that team, AJ McCarron is undoubtedly the most valuable player. If you feel differently, just think back to what you were thinking when the Mobile native hit the turf holding his knee two weeks ago in Missouri.

Don’t get me wrong, this team would still be a good one, even with Blake Sims at quarterback, but it would not be one of the best teams in at least the modern history of college football. McCarron is a huge part of what makes this Alabama team what it is.

Not only was he the first starting quarterback to win the BCS National Championship as a sophomore, but he also followed that performance with an impressive junior season.

McCarron may not have the video game numbers that Smith and Klein have put up so far this year, but if you go off of passing efficiency and quarterback ratings, he has been better than the “media darlings.” The Tide quarterback is ranked first in the nation in passing efficiency and quarterback rating (183.63). He has thrown 16 touchdown passes without a single interception this season.

McCarron has now thrown 239 consecutive passes without an interception. Big 12 fans might tell you that is because the system he is in does not put him in a position to throw interceptions. That could be true, but it is no different than fact that the Big 12 quarterbacks in the race have the numbers they do because of the systems they play in.

You can debate statistics until you turn blue in the face when it comes to the Heisman race, but it doesn’t matter that much at the end of the day. It comes down to the climate of college football (SEC fatigue likely cost Trent Richardson the award last year), the team a player is on and the likability of the player. Those last two aren’t always true – Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton come to mind – but those are exceptions to the rule.

McCarron has what a player needs to win: a legitimate statistical case, likability and the fact that he is the best player on the best team in the nation. Will he become the first non-running SEC quarterback to win since Danny Wuerffel? We’ll know in December, but we know now he has what it takes to take the stage in New York.

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