— Clearly, University of Texas senior Colt McCoy is one of the great college football quarterbacks of our time. He has 45 career victories (cue the Colt-45 headlines). He is the first QB in major college football history to lead his team to four 10-win seasons. He has 112 career touchdown passes while completing more than 70 percent of his attempts.
Meanwhile, University of Alabama junior Greg McElroy is one of the great unknown college football quarterbacks of our time.
Polar opposites? Hardly. Besides the fact that Texas (13-0) will meet Alabama (13-0) in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 7 at Pasadena, Calif., there is one common factor for the two former Texas schoolboys.
So even though McCoy has been surrounded by Heisman Trophy expectations and Alabama fans placed only one expectation upon McElroy (don’t mess it up, kid!), these guys are straight from Central Casting.
Following the spectacular era of Vince Young, the Longhorns were looking for charisma and panache, a flair for the spectacular.
“I was able to play behind him for one year and he taught me so much,’’ McCoy said. “To play behind him and learn from him, that has really helped me get to the point where I am.’’
With a punishing defense, a rugged running game and playmakers on the perimeter, the Crimson Tide sought an orchestrator, an organizer, someone who could make it all work, carrying on a long-standing tradition for most quarterbacks on the great Alabama teams.
“He hasn’t surprised me,’’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Greg is a bright guy who makes good choices and decisions. What he lacks in not having the strongest arm in the world, he makes up for in his decision-making ability.
“The quarterback is the distributor of the ball, in my opinion. He gives everyone a chance to make plays.’’
Whether it’s handing off to Mark Ingram, a front-line Heisman candidate along with McCoy, or getting it to prime-time receiver Julio Jones, McElroy knows his role.
But his ability shouldn’t be underrated.
By now, Alabama fans are familiar with the story.
McElroy’s last loss as a starting quarterback?
Of course, during much of that time, he served his apprenticeship. That included three years in high school (Southlake Carroll), behind future Missouri star Chase Daniel, who would become a Heisman finalist, and two seasons behind John Parker Wilson at Alabama.
McElroy’s time is now.
And he’s taking full advantage of that.
“He has played very well all year long,’’ Saban said. “Quarterback was a big question coming into the season, but he has done great. Greg will be the first one to tell you his great success was created by his teammates.’’
Those teammates, though, know what they have in McElroy.
In Saturday’s SEC championship game, Florida’s Tim Tebow towered over everyone. But in the end, McElroy provided exactly the kind of leadership Alabama needed.
“Greg is a cool customer when the pressure is on,’’ Crimson Tide tight end Colin Peek said. “When we played Auburn (rallying from an early 14-0 deficit), a lot of quarterbacks may have stumbled or had nerves. But he just stayed really relaxed in the pocket and showed tremendous poise. I think that’s what you want in a quarterback.’’
And the fact that McElroy hasn’t lost as a starter since the eighth grade?
“I guess that’s something I have a lot of pride in,’’ McElroy said. “I feel strongly about the way we’ve played and the way we’ve prepared.’’
That was typified by the victory against Florida.
McCoy, a four-year starter, knows more about the ups and downs.
“Colt is under as much pressure as anybody in the country probably,’’ Longhorns wide receiver Jordan Shipley said.
And that started in 2006.
How does anyone follow Vince Young?
The final act: Texas 41, USC 38 in the 2006 Rose Bowl national-championship game. Young ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 30 of 40 passes for 267 more.
And the previous season? Young rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan at the Rose Bowl.
Welcome to Pasadena, Colt McCoy.
Obviously, the pressure remains on McCoy, while nobody expects McElroy to take charge and win the game himself.
So the roles will continue.
McCoy admitted that the pressure may have gotten to him earlier this season. Somewhere along the way, he reminded himself to have more fun and play without tension. That’s the attitude he hopes to carry into the BCS Championship Game.
It would mirror the approach of Young, his mentor, who looked as if he was competing in a pick-up game as he cruised around the field at Pasadena, while defenders from Michigan and USC couldn’t keep up.
“Colt is enjoying the moment and that’s what you have to do,’’ Texas coach Mack Brown said. “You have to play in the now. He only has one more (game at Texas) and you want to enjoy that moment.
“You have to understand that he has accomplished all these great things when he has had fun. I think that’s back to who he is.’’
Colt McCoy, charismatic playmaker.
Greg McElroy, cerebral caretaker.
The styles are not similar. But their common denominator is why the Longhorns and Crimson Tide will play for a national title.