AJ For Heisman May Be Gaining Traction

No one puts a gun to the head of a Heisman voter and demands that he explain his selection. (Actually, selections. Voters vote for a first, a second, and a third.) Presumably, most vote that number one slot for the college football player the voter believes to be the best player in the nation. Of course, that more often than not is a quarterback or running back, the men who have the statistics.

No fewer than a half dozen players have been considered among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy during this season, not the least of which was last year's winner as a freshman, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. There are few who have examined Manziel's 2012 credentials who didn't think Manziel deserved the award as the nation's best player, in great part because he quarterbacked the Aggies to a win over Alabama, the only loss for the Crimson Tide in a national championship season.

This year A.J. McCarron was the winning quarterback in that game against Manziel and A&M in College Station, Texas. And McCarron and Alabama have been winners in every game this year as Bama has maintained its pre-season number one ranking with an 11-0 record. Indeed, slowly but surely, McCarron, a senior from Mobile who has been Bama's quarterback in the past two national championship seasons, has heard his name more and more in the national conversation for the Heisman Trophy.

Very few would say that McCarron is the best football player in the nation. Almost no one who has been watching the Crimson Tide would say that McCarron is the best Bama player. Most would select linebacker C.J. Mosley.

But one must be realistic. If Notre Dame's Manti Te'o couldn't win it in 2012 with all the sportscasters and half the sportswriters in America salivating over a linebacker to win the Heisman. So Mosley isn't going to win the Heisman.

But can McCarron?

Heisman voters want to do the right thing. Many of them probably had to hold their noses in 2010, but they voted for Auburn's Cam Newton – widely suspected of having been purchased, only because his father was trying to get money for his son's signature. It didn't help that Newton had been thrown out of the University of Florida after stealing a laptop computer.

This year the face seemed to shake out in favor of Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, who has put up unbelievable numbers for the Seminoles. But another number voters are watching for is the one that could appear on Winston's chest for his mugshot if the state follows through with the allegation of rape against Winston.

So Heisman voters are understandably like Diogenes, looking for an honest man.

Thus, AJ McCarron is gaining traction.

Many believe that McCarron can vault into strong contention, perhaps to the top of the heap, with an outstanding game against fourth-ranked Auburn at Auburn Saturday. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. with television coverage by CBS.

On Monday, McCarron was announced as a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Davey O'Brien Award. The Maxwell recognizes the Collegiate Player of the Year while the O'Brien is presented to the nation's best college quarterback.

McCarron has quarterbacked as many national championships (2) as career losses with a 36-2 record as Alabama's signal-caller, which ranks him as the winningest quarterback (.947) in SEC history and the fourth winningest QB among major college teams in NCAA history. McCarron has seven career victories against top 10 teams and 12 versus top 25 squads.

He is completing 68.6 percent of his passes (190-277) this year for 2,399 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions while ranking ninth nationally in completion percentage (.686) and 10th in passing efficiency (165.13). McCarron is also a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Aram Award and the Senior CLASS Award as well as a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year.

So does McCarron think about a late push for the Heisman?

His teammates say he is not. As for McCarron, on Monday he said, "Nah. I ain't worried about that. If it comes, it comes. If not, I just want us to win."

He said he can barely remember Alabama's 2009 win over Auburn in Auburn. He was a redshirt freshman that year and didn't play in the game. Greg McElroy delivered a late touchdown pass to Roy Coffee for a 26-21 win as Bama went on to the national championship.

In 2011, Alabama again had to go through Auburn in Auburn to complete a national championship season. McCarron was the quarterback in that game. As a sophomore against the Tigers, he completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns in the Tide's 42-14 rout. He did not attempt a pass after the third quarter.

Last year (another national championship year for the Tide) he didn't even bother playing after the third quarter in Alabama's 49-0 win over Auburn. He led Bama to touchdowns on the Tide's first seven possessions and then took a seat having completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns.

Another game against Auburn like the last two he had, and AJ McCarron may be headed for a banquet in New York.

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