Some people have asked me why I still have A.J. McCarron in the top four of my Heisman Watch despite the fact that he has rarely appeared in my (or anyone else’s) straw poll this season.
How can a game manager on pace to throw for barely 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns compare to those Super Quarterbacks out there?
The reason I still have McCarron with a small, but not insignificant, chance to win the Heisman is because the most important factors that aid his candidacy will likely come to bear late in the season, just before Heisman voters send in their ballots.
Still remaining on the Tide’s schedule is No. 11 LSU, No. 8 Auburn and likely another ranked team in the SEC title game (if Alabama advances). The matchup with Auburn has the potential to be one of the three most high-profile games of the season. Because of the strength of the late stretch of the schedule, McCarron could make up a lot of ground with Heisman voters if he plays well in leading ‘Bama through it unscathed.
McCarron is set to benefit from the end run in other ways, too. Right now, in late October, chatter about Alabama’s quest for a third-straight national title is a bit muted. But it will start to build and, by late November and early December, it will reach a crescendo. It should be a burning topic among college football media. If Alabama gets through the regular season undefeated, the talk will be of the historic challenge it is on the verge of meeting in the BCS title game. I expect McCarron to be universally praised and, assuming he continues to perform at a high level, his Heisman support should increase.
The biggest current weakness in McCarron’s candidacy is his reputation as a ‘game manager’ (the quarterback equivalent of being called a ‘possession’ receiver), but later in the season that moniker will be viewed more positively, especially if Alabama is undefeated. Voters will be able to identify a hard metric — not only a bunch of wins, but a BCS berth and possible third-straight title to boot — to attribute to McCarron’s oft-maligned managerial tendencies.
Does this mean the coming McCarron boomlet is going to propel him to the Heisman? Barring the complete collapse of the Mariota and Winston candidacies, no. But what it may well do is send him to New York as the Tide’s third Heisman finalist in five years. All in all, a pretty good way to commemorate a very successful career.