There’s one name that isn’t being mentioned for the Heisman Trophy this season. Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are considered to be in a three-way race down the stretch run of the college football season.
But there’s someone else who deserves consideration and could be right back in the mix after this week: AJ McCarron.
The knock on McCarron is that he doesn’t put up the numbers that everyone else does, and it’s true.
This year so far, McCarron’s numbers look like this: 145-of-209, 1862 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. Solid numbers, to be sure, but nothing that jumps out at you and certainly nothing that screams Heisman. His 1862 yards put him at No. 45 in the country.
But SEC Communications Director Chuck Dunlap sent out the following tweet Tuesday morning that has all the numbers you need and the reason why McCarron should be in absolute consideration for the Heisman.
McCarron is a winner, plain and simple. He has lost two games—two games—in his two-plus-year career as a starter at Alabama. McCarron just wins, and he doesn’t care how he does it.
“My job is to go out here and play football,” he said after leading Alabama to a huge win over Texas A&M. “That’s all I want to do. That’s all I’ve ever done since I was four years old. I don’t care about awards and notoriety. As long as our team wins, I’m great.”
Winning games at Alabama looks different than at Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor and to a lesser extent Florida State.
Coach Nick Saban and Alabama’s formula for winning a game looks something like this: score early and often using a balanced offensive attack, play stifling defense, then whittle away at the clock with a punishing run game and let the backups get some experience.
Charles Pierce of Grantland.com wrote this after one such performance this season against Arkansas:
This is the kind of game AJ McCarron was born to play. This is the kind of game that makes sure he remains unfairly an afterthought when they hand out the shiny hardware at the end of the season. Right now, McCarron stands on the brink of completing a career that, for winning alone, will push him beyond any other college quarterback who ever played. He has started 34 games for no. 1 Alabama. Alabama has won 32 of them. He has already quarterbacked Alabama to two BCS national championships. He is an odds-on favorite to do it again, especially since the SEC seems to be falling to pieces around him.
It’s by design that McCarron doesn’t put up the incredible numbers that others do.
But McCarron could still be put back in the spotlight this weekend.
Last year against LSU, McCarron had to lead Alabama on a game-winning drive in Death Valley and came through in a big way. He hit Kevin Norwood a couple of times before dropping a screen pass off to T.J. Yeldon that went to the house for the score.
He never wavered, Alabama kept its composure and the Crimson Tide won the game.
After that comeback in Baton Rouge, Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com did a roundup of where major Heisman experts stood on the favorites. McCarron was right in the mix.
But there’s another lesson to be learned from looking back at last year’s Heisman race. In that piece, the consensus seemed to be that the three Heisman favorites were McCarron, Kansas State’s Collin Klein and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner.
There’s no mention of the guy who actually ended up winning it.
There’s still a lot of football left to be played. Though McCarron is sitting on the second or third tier of Heisman trophy candidates, he has more than enough time and big games to make up ground.
This weekend against LSU could be his Heisman moment. But even if it’s not, even if Alabama wins with the same, boring formula that’s brought it so much success recently, McCarron still deserves thorough consideration.