The 2012 Heisman Trophy was USC quarterback Matt Barkley's to lose, and he lost it on the farm on Saturday night versus Stanford with a 20-of-41, 254-yard, zero-touchdown, two-interception performance.
With Barkley now out of the mix, the door is blown wide open for players across the country to battle for college football's most prestigious award.
West Virginia's Geno Smith is now the favorite, but another quarterback isn't being talked about as much as he should be.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
McCarron got branded as a "game manager" last season during Alabama's title run thanks in large part to head coach Nick Saban's desire to control the tempo with a solid ground game and rely on defense.
Don't be fooled by his relatively average stats. McCarron is a gunslinger that can make every throw in the book—he's just not asked to do it all of the time.
We saw what he was capable of in the BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, when he lit up the Tiger defense with some NFL-caliber throws, particularly in the first half. He has a big arm, is accurate even on deep out routes and is extremely accurate on the run.
He has completed 36 of his 56 passes for 607 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions this season. Extrapolate that, and he's on pace for 2,428 passing yards and 28 touchdowns in 2012.
That's strong. Really strong.
Granted, he will probably throw a pick or two this season. Considering the athletes that he's facing, it would be too much to ask for him to go the entire season without an interception. However, with the SEC season about to kick into gear, he also may be asked to win more games for the Crimson Tide. Therefore, his production as a passer could actually increase as the season goes along.
The Heisman Trophy typically goes to the best offensive skill player on one of the best teams in the nation. There are, of course, exceptions. Robert Griffin III's Baylor team wasn't in the mix for the crystal football, and Michigan's Charles Woodson made his mark primarily on defense and special teams.
However, being the quarterback on the No. 1 team in the country will certainly help McCarron's case.
Will A.J. McCarron make the trip to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy?
He has been on the periphery of the Heisman race ever since Jan. 9 when he was named the Offensive MVP of the BCS National Championship Game, but it's time for McCarron to make his way to the forefront of the discussion.
The Heisman Trust states that the award is supposed to go to the most outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.
He's certainly pursuing excellence. His team is on the brink of a dynasty with him at the helm.
He has proven to be a dynamic playmaker at quarterback, even though it isn't asked of him as much as it is for other gunslingers around the country.
McCarron is everything that the Heisman Trophy winner should be, and if he keeps this up, he should be in serious consideration to take home the award in 2012.