LITTLE ROCK — Maybe Heisman Trophy voters should be subjected to the equivalent of a blind taste test for wine connoisseurs.
Reviewing raw numbers without the names of the authors, I wonder how they would choose between the following:
• 69.2 percentage completion on 240 attempts vs. 69.4 on 229 tosses.
• 26 touchdowns, 7 interceptions vs. 19 touchdowns, three interceptions
• 9-0 vs. 9-0.
Even post-abacus, I was pretty good at math and I can’t separate the quality of work. For inquisitive minds, the first set belongs to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and the second belongs to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. I looked them up after a flak for Bovada.lv sent out a release saying the odds on Winston winning the Heisman are now 1-to-5, that Johnny Manziel is the second choice at 4-1, and that McCarron is No. 3 at 7-1.
At Oaklawn Park, a successful $2 win bet on a 1-to-5 shot returns $2.40 and I wondered how the FSU freshman had become such an overwhelming favorite. The conclusion is that McCarron is stuck with a label he can’t shake, the perception that McCarron has much more help than Winston has become reality, and that voters who abhor Manziel’s off-field antics are eager to glom onto a fresh alternative.
The game manager mantle worn by McCarron comes with being the quarterback at Alabama and even Nick Saban’s biased assessment — "I think the guy is the best quarterback in the country" — won’t sway those who believe that McCarron hands off most of the time and throws a pass only when needed.
A closer look shows that FSU has run the ball 340 times, 14 more than Alabama. So much for that argument.
How about the idea that McCarron has all sorts of help? Well, the Seminoles are No. 4 in the country in total defense, two notches ahead of Alabama. The fact that FSU has two receivers in the top 10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Alabama does not have a single receiver in the top 25 in the SEC is at least a push with McCarron being able to hand the ball to T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
Averaging 16 yards per completion, Winston has a decided advantage over McCarron at almost 13 per, but my contention is that big pass plays come easier in the ACC than in the SEC.
In the two biggest games on their schedules, both quarterbacks were impressive. Winston attempted and completed more passes against Clemson and Miami than McCarron did vs. A&M and LSU, but I prefer McCarron’s unsullied totals of seven touchdowns and zero interceptions over Winston’s four and three.
A redshirt freshman like Manziel was when he won the Heisman last year, Winston arrived in Tallahassee touted as the top high school quarterback prospect in the 2012 recruiting class. Before he took a snap, Winston was considered a Heisman candidate by oddsmakers, albeit at 33-1 in August. Back then, Braxton Miller of Ohio State was the favorite. He missed a couple of games and disappeared although not as quickly as Marcus Mariota after Oregon’s loss to Stanford last week.
By the way, McCarron was the No. 17 high school quarterback in 2009 on a list that began with Matt Barkley, Russell Shepard, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd.
Manziel is the wild card in the Heisman race. I didn’t think he could come close to his stats of 2012, but his quarterback rating is up 30 points, virtually all his passing numbers are better than a year ago, and he is far ahead of all others in the category of most entertaining player in college football. He can close his election campaign with a rush against LSU and once-beaten Missouri. Meanwhile, McCarron and Winston will participate in conference championship games in early December.
My Heisman vote is on hold.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.