Caveat 1: We don't know who will win the Heisman. Right now, I don't really care, but I'd give it to Collin Klein if a November 6 Heisman was such a thing.
Anyone who saw A.J. McCarron complete a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, which Yeldon carried for game-winning yards behind game-winning blocks, and reached for the term HEISMAN MOMENT either was caught in the emotion or is the kind of person who likes calling things HEISMAN MOMENTS. It's a college football cliche of NFL-fan proportions, and it did not even apply here.
Caveat 2: A.J. McCarron has been very good and is a crucial part of the country's best team. He's almost exactly the quarterback Alabama needs. He makes no major mistakes, but he's more than just a maker of no mistakes. He's third in the country in efficiency, which you don't reach simply by not screwing up.
For one drive, McCarron carved up a Tigers defense that suddenly got "reckless" -- other than that, he had a bad game. Fourteen of 27 for 165 yards was good enough to win, which is what matters. But it's not Heisman stuff, no matter how it ended.
And yeah, that was against LSU's defense, which is giving up even fewer yards per game than last year's No. 3-ranked unit did. Everybody has bad games against LSU*. The point is that McCarron's been very good, but not SOMEONE HAND HIM TROPHIES amazing.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a viable contender in Texas A&M-Alabama for the title of college football's most outstanding player. There is exactly one, and he dressed up as Scooby Doo on Halloween.
Caveat 3: Alabama might smother and embarrass Johnny Manziel on Saturday. How do you think McCarron would do against Alabama's defense in a live game?
1. Manziel has produced more.
Manziel ranks second in the country in yards per game (383.2). McCarron ranks No. 82 (200.6).
Stats don't prove which player is better. They play in vastly different offenses, for one thing. But stats do matter for the specific, weird discussion that is a Heisman debate. The last four Heisman-winning quarterbacks have ranked Nos. 2 (Robert Griffin III), 3 (Cam Newton), 4 (Sam Bradford) and 7 (Tim Tebow) in total yards. Not 82nd.
Take away Manziel's legs (which is ghastly and illegal), and he still outgains McCarron by 75.4 yards per game. And by my count, he's tied with Seth Doege for the national lead in total touchdowns (31), with 11 more than McCarron.
(Manziel is also probably a better tackler.)
2. Manziel has done more with less.
Alabama is the most talented team and most well-oiled program in the country. Texas A&M is coming off a 7-6 season, has a new coach and hasn't finished a season ranked in the top five since 1956 under Bear Bryant. Not to say anybody can succeed as Bama's quarterback, but you've seen how they've done in the pros.
If we replaced each quarterback with a run-of-the-mill player, A&M might be something like 5-4. Alabama would be 8-1 at worst.
McCarron simply gets more help. It's easier to outscore teams that put up only nine points a game, as the Tide's opponents average, than to have to post at least 21 every game, as Manziel does. Alabama has had one of the country's five best defenses for five years running.
McCarron's team also gives him more chances to score. The Tide defense has handed the ball back to McCarron via 23 takeaways, good for 10 nationally. A&M's forced a pitiful eight, ranking No. 120.
If Bama loses the ball, it's coming right back. Not so for the Aggies.
Bottom line: while McCarron has accounted for 46.9 percent of his team's No. 48 offense, Manziel means 68.4 percent of his team's No. 5 offense. Why are we even talking about this?
3. Manziel's not as careless as you might think.
* Everybody has bad games against LSU, even Johnny Football, who threw three picks against the Tigers. He also accounted for 104 more yards against LSU than McCarron did, but that's for another bullet.
McCarron has yet to throw an interception, while Manziel has thrown six. Not much to argue there. LET'S ARGUE THERE
Manziel's thrown 101 more passes and makes more downfield throws. More risk. His interceptions total is really nothing to moan about -- it's tied with Landry Jones and Braxton Miller. It's fewer than Matt Barkley, Aaron Murray, Matt Scott, Ryan Nassib, Nick Florence, Doege, and so on have thrown. And none of those guys has had to play LSU.
McCarron's also fumbled four times (the same as Manziel, who's had 104 more total carries and sacks), with Bama recovering thrice.
Mark this as a point for McCarron, but it's the only case that can be made in his favor (even though, if not being intercepted is what a Heisman's about, Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron is your guy -- he has zero despite 154 more throws than McCarron).
I get that we want to praise the quarterback of the best team, especially when he's good. That's what we've become accustomed to the Heisman meaning. But bolting on a HEISMAN MOMENT narrative where it doesn't belong only serves to diminish what McCarron's accomplishing, because it sets him against players who are simply more spectacular.
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