Let’s face it; no one likes to lose in college football. It doesn’t matter if it’s accomplishing a winning season or racking up on multiple awards, coaches and players relish the thought of being a champion at the end of each season. Though any award in football is good, there is two that standout from the rest. Despite whether both awards spark a heated conversation or not, fans of college football can’t deny that the two most coveted awards are the BCS title trophy and the Heisman Trophy.
While the national title trophy is awarded to the best team in college football, the Heisman is awarded to the most outstanding player in the sport. However, where greatness lies, controversy is there too. In recent years, the Heisman Trophy has been awarded to the player that not only means the most to the team, but has provided the biggest impact on college football. Nowadays, the competition for the coveted bronze award has become a beauty pageant or a popularity contest.
For quarterbacks, it seemed simpler to accomplish the Heisman in the past. All that was need was a good completion percentage, between 3,000-5,000 passing yards, 30-50 touchdown passes, 3-10 interceptions and a good quarterback rating. With the evolution of the spread offense and dual threat quarterbacks, it now takes more to accomplish a Heisman Trophy. Dual threat quarterbacks have the ability to extend plays with their athleticism and aggravate defenses. In a spread offense, its pick your poison if you’re a defense. The quarterback can either annihilate you passing the ball accurately or slash and gash you in the run game.
As for the typical pocket passer, it becomes harder for them to accomplish a Heisman because of their lack of mobility. They really have to depend on arm strength, accuracy, precision and ball placement. It is imperative for them to constantly read defenses, use check downs wisely and not make foolish mistakes. In order to compete with a mobile quarterback for the Heisman, a pocket passer will have to have a better completion percentage and quarterback rating along with more passing yards and touchdowns.
Some college football analysts have even gotten to the point where they believe that “style points” for teams will be pivotal in a quarterback’s chances of winning the Heisman. The definition of style points is when you completely dominate an opponent that you are vastly better than. Many people will argue with this information because in order to win the Heisman, one must have a Heisman moment. The moment can occur in any game and at any given time.
While most individuals believe that a Heisman moment for a player should be when he is completely dominating the competition, the true mark of a moment is when a player may not have his best game, but still finds a way to tough it out and get the job done. For example, Alabama’s quarterback AJ McCarron.
As a three-year starter for the Tide, the road to being a leader hasn’t been easy for McCarron. He’s had his share of highs and lows, yet he continues to be the cornerstone of the Crimson Tide’s offense. Earlier in his career, McCarron was known as a “questionable game manager.” Two BCS titles and one SEC title later, he has gone from being game manager to undisputed leader of the team, despite the opinions of most college football analysts.
Though he hasn’t captured a Heisman yet, ESPN analysts have finally decided to place in the top five of the conversation. He was in the same situation last season. After the 21-17 thrilling victory for Alabama against LSU, McCarron was placed as a “dark horse” in the Heisman race. He was place there in his ability to lead the team on a final drive that would cap off with a game-winning screen pass to TJ Yeldon. Despite the matchup with LSU being one of McCarron’s worst games statistically (completion percentage: 51 percent), he still managed to rally the troops around him, put the team on his back and deliver a victory against LSU in Tiger Stadium.
This season, McCarron has outdueled Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger and Bo Wallace, but his moment of toughness came against Mississippi State. It was mentioned earlier that you may have to tough it out in games in order to win the Heisman. In the matchup with the Bulldogs, McCarron encountered intense pressure and knocked around a lot. Despite being only sacked once, the offensive line didn’t provide a crisp pocket for him to work through. Nevertheless, McCarron still tossed two touchdown passes (two interceptions) and helped Alabama escape Starkville with a 20-7 win.
Of the top five quarterbacks in the Heisman conversation, McCarron is the only won with a national title. Though Manziel (19-5 as a starter) is the reigning Heisman winner, with losses to Auburn, Alabama and LSU (six interceptions combined), he may have played his way out of a shot at repeating.
Coming into the season, ESPN College GameDay analysts were raving about Marcus Mariota. They praised him on his accuracy, precision, arm strength and his ability to extend plays with his legs. Despite him being 21-3 as a sophomore starter, Oregon lost to Stanford for the second year in a row. In order to win the Heisman, one must not only dominate the opponent statistics, but also win the game. In the matchup against Arizona, Oregon was taken to the woodshed 42-16. Though Mariota completed 65.9 percent of his passes, he tossed two critical interceptions.
After seeing Robert Griffin III get drafted to the NFL, many people thought that Baylor would fall off the map. Little did they know that head coach Art Briles had a ram in the bush? The ram’s name is Bryce Petty and this season he has put on a show. The Baylor Bears have the No.1 ranked offense in college football, averaging 56.8 points per game. The majority of this success falls on Petty. The Bears are fourth in the nation in passing yards, averaging 381.9 per game.
Despite Petty having a stellar season, the 49-17 loss against Oklahoma State on the College GameDay stage, may hurt his opportunity of taking home the hardware.
Last season it was Manziel, this season a new freshman quarterback is drinking the miracle water. Jameis Winston is an extraordinary talent. He has single-handedly put Florida State back on the map. He has a lot of poise and confidence for a freshman and that has helped him gain the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has kept nothing away from Winston. He’s even allowed him to run the playbook. Winston’s numbers this season have been remarkable. He’s completing 69.6 (70 percent) percent of his passed for 3,163 yards, 32 touchdowns, seven interceptions with quarterback rating 194.5.
Winston is 11-0 as a starter and has the Seminoles locked in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game along with an opportunity to play for a national title. The only thing that stands in his way is off-the-field issues. If these issues prove accurately, Winston may not walk home with the award.
As for McCarron, Alabama fans have gotten the joy of watching him grow and mature as a player and a person. In his first BCS title as a starter in 2011, analysts claimed that it was the defense that guided the Tide there. McCarron finished the season completing 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,634 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions with a quarterback rating of 147.3.
The criticism of sports media outlets sparked McCarron into action in 2012. With a young defense, Alabama leaned on McCarron for leadership and he didn’t let them down. Statistics wise, McCarron vastly improved in 2013. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,933 yards, 30 touchdowns, three interceptions (175.3 quarterback rating) and led the Tide to its 15th national title.
This season, McCarron has picked up where he left off. Though some of his receivers were slow coming out of the gate, he still managed to display trust in them and get them the ball. Thus far, McCarron is completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 2,399 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions (165.1 quarterback rating) and is in route to a fourth national title (third as a starting quarterback).
Though winning the Heisman would be nice for McCarron, many are reminded of his interview with ESPN analysts Chris Fowler in which he said “I really don’t care. All my teammates and I want is another crystal ball (national title).” While the Heisman is concerned about stats, McCarron is concerned about winning. You can have all the stats in the world, but it means nothing if you can’t win. The numbers don’t lie, McCarron is a winner. He is 35-2 as a starter with championship experience to his name. If this doesn’t impress Heisman voters or NFL scouts, nothing will.