Alabama Football: AJ McCarron Is Big Threat to Johnny Manziel for 2013 Heisman

Ian BergCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2013

As the final seconds ticked off of the clock in Miami, the whispers surrounding AJ McCarron's 2013 Heisman campaign turned into roars. 

McCarron is now a two-time national title-winning quarterback, and had one of his best performances of the year in front of a national audience in the BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame on Monday. 

The Alabama offense will always be reliant on the ground game, but the passing game is a major part of the offensive revolution happening in Tuscaloosa. In 2011, the Tide finished the season with 2,788 rushing yards and 2,797 passing yards.

This season, the Tide had 3,185 rushing yards and 3,052 passing yards. It is nearly impossible to achieve the balance that this offense does. It wouldn’t happen without solid quarterback play, and McCarron has proven to be more than solid in his two seasons as a starter. 

In the national title game McCarron was 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns. He also added one carry for nine rushing yards. 

On the season McCarron finished with 2,933 yards passing, 30 touchdowns and three interceptions. He didn’t throw his first interception until the ninth game this season.

McCarron also finished the year No. 1 in passer efficiency. That shows the completeness of his game and selectivity of his throws. 

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has been a big help to McCarron, coming into the role for the Tide in January of 2012. Nussmeier is known for his offensive balance and quarterback development, spending two seasons in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach. 

This has been the best year for an Alabama quarterback in some time, and McCarron looked comfortable in every situation. Even in a loss to Texas A&M he looked controlled under pressure. 

Give this offense one more year to grow under McCarron, in addition to a dangerous receiving corps and more experience in the Nussmeier system, and the Tide will challenge for another title in 2013 with McCarron challenging Johnny Manziel for the Heisman. 

It will be tough for Manziel to win another Heisman without having his team play for a national title. For that to happen, the Aggies have to go through AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide. 

This past season was exciting for Alabama fans and SEC fans alike, with the conference taking home its seventh straight national title, but 2013 is setting up to be an offensive explosion with Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama all returning their highly regarded signal-callers. 

AJ McCarron may do enough to finish the next year as the leader of the pack and a dangerous challenger to incumbent Johnny Football.