There is no player in college football that I am more torn on than Alabama starting quarterback A.J. McCarron. My opinion on him varies from day to day, hour to hour, and will probably change more times during the course of this piece than Lex Luger changed sides in WCW back in the day. I had planned on sharing some thoughts on McCarron this week, then saw Matt Brown's excellent Sports on Earth column today that took a look at the same polar opinions I'd been kicking around in my head. Specifically...
Despite being a two time defending National Championship quarterback, is A.J. McCarron an overrated "game manager" whose quiet preseason Heisman buzz is laughable? Is A.J. McCarron more than just a product of Nick Saban's "Process" and unfairly overlooked because of the wealth of talent placed around him?
Two totally opposite questions. Two legitimately fair questions. It is quite the paradox.
A.J. McCarron is wildly overrated. He's a "winner" because he has a winning team around him. Arguments could be made for his head coach being the greatest college football coach EVER. He's not going to be an NFL mainstay. He has had the luxury of having an elite defense on the field when he isn't on the field. He's given all kinds of time by a fabulous offensive line and has been able to hand the ball off to studs like Lacy, Yeldon, and Richardson. His signature play was a friggin SCREEN PASS! He has loaded up the statbook against inferior competition and struggled in games with comparable opposition. Yeah, he's got the rings, but he's lost his two biggest home games. The Heisman Trophy should be given to college football's best player, and just being quarterback of the best team in the land does not make you, by default, the best player in the country. That's a joke.
A.J. McCarron is a brilliant quarterback. If he wasn't, Saban wouldn't have recruited him. He wouldn't be rated A+ at any one skill, but he does everything at least "good," with no identifiable weaknesses. Great pocket presence, good mobility, can throw the deep ball, incredibly accurate, limits interceptions (8 in two seasons), outstanding team leader. Sure, a trio of fine tailbacks have shouldered a chunk of the load over the past two seasons, but have you thought about the idea that maybe they have a little extra running room because defenses respect the pass? And yes, the screen pass to Yeldon was one of the marquee plays of the 2012 season, but you know what else was? That 45 yard bomb to Cooper with 3:15 left to win the SEC Championship. Of course he has better stats against lesser foes, who doesn't? But his completion percentage has been under 60% just five times in the last 27 games. His two losses? Bama ran into the buzzsaw known as Johnny Football (and two INT's aside, McCarron played quite well) and the Tide dropped the infamous 9-6 OT decision in which Alabama kickers missed seemingly 17 field goals. Yeah, those are the ONLY two losses on his two year resume, meaning he is UNDEFEATED on the road and in neutral site games. Maybe McCarron isn't the most exciting player in college football, or the most marketable, or the most "pro-ready." But he might just be the most reliable high-end player in the nation. Depending on the competition, the Heisman Trophy isn't an outlandish prospect.
Neither is the idea that he could be leaving Tuscaloosa with three national championship rings.
Sixth Year Seniors is back! Phil Steele stopped by last week to talk the national picture and Alan & Mikey looked at conference realignment before jumping into conference previews next week.
Spoiler: You will get more takes from Mikey on the NWA U.S. Title scene from 1986 thru 1990 than you will on PAC-12 or Big Ten football.