Since Alabama has few weaknesses and is the favorite to win a third straight national title, much of the focus is on quarterback A.J. McCarron. Is he really as good as his numbers indicate, or is he just another game-manager who is benefiting from the system?
Yeah, when your team wins back-to-back national championships, you can waste time debating whether or not a quarterback that threw 30 touchdowns last year is as good as the numbers indicate.
There's plenty of time to argue whether or not McCarron has the goods to be a productive NFL player. As of right now, that remains a mystery.
A more logical question at this point is where McCarron ranks among other Alabama BCS quarterbacks. Once you break things down, you'll soon notice that the Crimson Tide have not had a quarterback this effective in a long time, possibly ever.
Alabama actually hasn't had that much quarterback success during the BCS era. Besides John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy, all of the other 'Bama quarterbacks were mainly forgettable.
Spencer Pennington split time with Brodie Croyle in 2004. The coaching staff had little trust in Tyler Watts who, while leading the Tide to a 7-5 record in 2001, also split time with Croyle the following season. There was also a four-year starter in Andrew Zow, who was an interception machine and didn't amount to much.
Croyle had a couple of seasons where he was reliable, but he wasn't much of a difference maker the way the other guys were.
So there's McCarron, Wilson and McElroy.
Wilson once held the school record for career touchdowns passes at 47, a mark that McCarron (currently at 49 touchdowns) will have shattered as long as he remains healthy.
But the interesting part is that Wilson needed 1,176 pass attempts to set that record (one TD pass for every 25 passes attempted), while McCarron has thrown the ball only 690 times, which comes to one TD for every 14 passes.
This screams of McCarron's efficiency—as does his interception total: While Wilson finished his career with 30, McCarron has thrown only nine picks. Wilson had more interceptions in two of his three years as a starter than McCarron has had in his whole career to this point.
Parker does hold the Alabama career passing yards record at 7,924, but that is another record that a healthy McCarron will soon call his own. McCarron already has 5,956 passing yards. Even counting the 2010 season in which he didn't play much, McCarron has averaged 1,985 yards per season in his time with Alabama. He should pass the career yardage record with his eyes closed.
McElroy was known for his completion percentage, as he threw high percentage passes and always put the ball where it needed to be placed. He is the Alabama career leader for completion percentage, connecting on 66.3 percent of his passes.
But not so fast. If McCarron was to walk away right now, he would hold this record as well with a completion percentage of 66.6 percent.
Hopefully he remains healthy because those numbers are kind of scary. With McCarron completing 66.8 and 67.2 percent his throws the last two seasons, it would take an unusual season for that record not to fall.
McCarron will soon hold every Alabama passing record that matters. He also has two national championship rings. If he's lucky, there is a third one waiting for him this season. McElroy is the only other Alabama quarterback to win one during the BCS era.
Expect much of the talk this upcoming season to dwell on McCarron's future as a pro. Whether or not he excels at the NFL level, he is easily the best Alabama quarterback of the BCS era and possibly of all time.