The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is presented to college football’s premiere redshirt junior or senior quarterback, yet two of the nation’s best were snubbed. Louisiana Tech redshirt senior Colby Cameron and Northern Illinois redshirt junior Jordan Lynch have amassed some of the most impressive statistics of any snap-taker in college football, and in the process each has led his team to 9-1 records.
The proverbial little guy is still at a tremendous disadvantage in all phases. Those responsible for choosing Unitas Award finalists are not the sole perpetrators of non-automatic qualifier injustice, merely the example used in this case. There still exists a dismissive attitude
Cameron is having a record-setting season. Operating in Sonny Dykes’ version of the spread offense, Cameron has passed for 27 touchdowns and 3283 yards, both of which rank in the top tier of FBS quarterbacks. More impressive though is that Cameron has not thrown an interception. None. He’s had 403 opportunities to do so, too.
The __ attempts and __ touchdowns without an interception meme was bandied about freely when Geno Smith, one of the Unitas Award finalists, had a stat line bearing such distinction. The same was true for AJ McCarron, whose interception-less run was snapped on Saturday. McCarron, another Golden Arm finalist, finished Alabama’s first loss 21-34 for 309 yards with a touchdown and the two picks. Against the same Texas A&M defense, Cameron went 44-58 for 450 yards with five touchdowns.
Disparage Louisiana Tech’s schedule at will, but Cameron and McCarron both quarterback 9-1 teams. Both suffered their only loss to Texas A&M. Cameron’s stats were superior, and his team’s loss was closer. Transitive properties when evaluating teams are ridiculous, and none of this is to suggest Louisiana Tech is the superior team — the Bulldog defense surrendered more than double the point total to the Aggies Alabama did. But in terms of individual play, it’s a shame there isn’t more attention drawn to this comparison.
Postseason awards are almost exclusively the property of BCS conference players, and hype goes a long way in determining them. Hype explains the inclusion of USC senior Matt Barkley. His 33 touchdowns are impressive and exceed Cameron’s 27; Barkley also averages almost two yards more per completion than Cameron. However, Barkley’s thrown 13 interceptions, putting him on pace for the most turnovers in a single season of his four-year career as Trojan starter. Beyond the stellar play of 2011 that made Barkley a preseason Heisman shoo-in, what about his performance is more noteworthy than Cameron’s? The sole answer is the recognition hype creates.
In 2012 though, there really shouldn’t be an excuse for not recognizing non-AQ stars — particularly when those stars are making NCAA history, as Cameron is on pace to do with his clean slate. The internet and TV packages that make virtually every FBS game visible should wipe away the excuse of ignorance. That leaves only the hubris that such accomplishments are less meaningful because they don’t occur in what has been deemed a power conference.
The BCS conference monopoly on individual honors and this hubris drove my creation of the Detmer Award. Houston quarterback Case Keenum was the inaugural winner, and Northern Illinois’ Lynch is in position to become the second.
Lynch is one of the most prolific dual threat quarterbacks in college football. He was asked to replace a MAC record-setter in Dan Doeren’s offense, Chandler Harnish. Lynch did that and then some. His 1342 rushing yards lead the nation’s No. 10 best ball carrying team, and his 16 touchdowns on the ground set the tone for the ninth most productive scoring offense. In fact, Lynch ranks as the fifth most productive rusher in all college football. Some of the players ahead of whom Lynch ranks: Johnathan Franklin, Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Venric Mark, Stepfan Taylor.
A common trait all share that further separates Lynch: none throw the ball. There are other dual threat quarterbacks who rank near Lynch as rushers: Michigan’s Denard Robinson, for one, though he’s nowhere near as efficient of a passer as Lynch. There’s also Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, but the true sophomore isn’t eligible for the Unitas Award. In the context of this award, Lynch is truly a standout. He’s passed for 2175 yards and 19 touchdowns, and been intercepted just three times. In terms of total offense, among the just three players ranked ahead of Lynch is Johnny Manziel. Manziel is a Heisman contender.