Another year, another dominant performance in the BCS National Championship Game from Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in Alabama's decisive 42-14 walloping of Notre Dame. And that brings the total of back-to-back dominating performances by a quarterback in the BCS title game era to...one.
The stats McCarron racked up are almost surreal, given the competition. He went 20-for-28 for 264 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Yes, he had half as many touchdowns as he did incompletions, against a stellar back seven and one of the toughest pass rushes in the nation. Notre Dame averaged nearly three sacks a game on the year and had the 11th-best passing efficiency defense in the nation. And McCarron just shredded that back seven.
It's hard to believe at this point, but coming into the 2011 season, nobody was really sure if McCarron was going to lock up the starting QB position for Alabama. He was facing strong competition from tantalizing freshman Phillip Sims, and the two split time in the season opener against Kent State.
It didn't take long for McCarron to wrest the starting role away from Sims, but his stats on the year were not great, and he got the dreaded reputation as a "game manager." You know what "game manager" means, right? A smart kid with a noodle arm. The type of quarterback that a great defense feasts on. And in 2011, by any conceivable metric, LSU had a great defense—it was top three nationally in every major category.
So what did McCarron do that year against that vaunted LSU defense? Just 23-for-34 passing for 234 yards in one of the most efficient performances of the season against LSU, the Offensive MVP Award for the game and the first BCS title ever won by a sophomore quarterback.
That was one hell of a season. And it was just a prelude to where we are now.
This year, McCarron stepped his game up to a whole new level. He was second in passing efficiency in the nation behind Aaron Murray. He went from 16 touchdowns on the year to 30. From five interceptions to three on the year. Over 300 more yards passing—and on fewer attempts.
And wouldn't you know it? McCarron saved his best performance of the season for his best opponent of the season, against Notre Dame on Monday night.
Nobody threw for four touchdowns against Notre Dame in 2012 before the title game. There isn't a single team that even scored four touchdowns in a game against the Irish defense before Monday night. Here's a complete list of quarterbacks who threw for even two touchdowns against Notre Dame coming into the title game: Riley Nelson of BYU. That's it; that's the whole list.
So for McCarron to come in, drop 264 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on such a great defense is just astonishing. This isn't "game management;" this is pure domination.
And again: This is coming against objectively great defenses. Both 2012 Notre Dame and 2011 LSU were ranked in the top five of total defense coming into the championship game. Opposing quarterbacks just didn't do what McCarron has done to them.
Here McCarron is, from the first sophomore quarterback to win a BCS title to the first two-time title-winning quarterback of the BCS era. And he is a major, major candidate to make it three straight when the 2014 BCS National Championship Game rolls around.
Now, whether Alabama makes it to the 2014 BCS title game is going to depend on much more than McCarron's performance, obviously. Quarterbacks don't win titles by themselves. But if the rest of Alabama's team holds up its end of the bargain, you can guarantee that McCarron will too.
There's no other way to put it. AJ McCarron is doing things as a quarterback that nobody in the BCS era has ever done before. Not Ken Dorsey, not Matt Leinart, not Carson Palmer, not Chris Weinke, not Vince Young, not anybody.
He is the best quarterback in the history of the BCS National Championship Game. Period.