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Stars Aligning: AJ McCarron’s Heisman Chances

by Craig Stephens
May 21, 2013 2:49 AM EDT



If Alabama rolls to another national championship, the Downtown Athletic Club may have to give their award to AJ McCarron. He is not a flashy quarterback, but with a dominating season from his team, similar numbers to last year and a down year for the competition, McCarron might have something worth talking about more than his girlfriend and BCS wins.

The Heisman Trophy is an individual award. It is supposed to go to the best player in college football. However, a great team record can garner an invitation for the team’s leader. This is the route that will most likely lead McCarron to New York. If a team is consistently dominant without a star player, the starting quarterback will get a nod for Heisman. With some players like former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, team success can create a stage and lead to a Heisman.

Alabama is the best team in college football. They have won three of the last four championships. They have won the last two with AJ McCarron at the helm. If nothing else, McCarron might win the Heisman as a testament to the team’s dominance. The nation might hand him the trophy as a way to bookmark the team’s historical stretch of success.

The performance of the team brings McCarron more exposure, but it is not to say that he isn’t qualified in his own right. McCarron is a fine quarterback, but other than his tattoo, there is nothing flashy about him. His stats are not eye-popping and certainly lag behind some of the gaudy passing statistics from recent quarterbacks that won the Heisman. McCarron’s 2012 totals: 211-of-314, 2,933 yards, 67.2 completion percentage, 30 touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions. Those are solid numbers, but nothing close to the total yardage and touchdowns of recent winners Johnny Manziel (5,116 total yards 47 total touchdowns), Robert Griffin III (4,992 total yards 47 touchdowns), and Cam Newton (4,327 yards 51 touchdowns).

The closest comparison to McCarron is Ohio State’s Troy Smith. Smith won the trophy in 2006 under similar circumstances. He threw for 2,542 yards and 30 touchdowns, strong numbers but not extraordinary. However, he was the starting quarterback on the No. 1 team during a season without a major statistical outburst from anyone on another contender. In essence, there was no one else to give it to.

In addition to Alabama’s pole position for next season, it looks to be a down year for the competition. The two players receiving the most preseason Heisman buzz are Manziel and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Manziel had an amazing season last year, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman. With that season, he set a high standard to match. Heisman voters know the historical meaning of a two-time winner, and won’t give Manziel the trophy again unless he has a better season than last year. He needs to put up similar statistics and Texas A&M needs to be in the national title hunt for Manziel to have a legitimate shot at joining Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners.

Clowney’s road to the Heisman is even tougher than Manziel’s. Football.com's Dantzler Smith does a great job detailing his Heisman chances. Clowney is at a significant disadvantage to win the Heisman. Even though he is probably the best player in college football, he plays defense. Unless he impacts every game in a big way, he doesn’t have a realistic shot to win the trophy.

McCarron is not the prototypical Heisman winner, but the way that this season is lining up gives him the best shot to win. McCarron should be considered the favorite to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy.