STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Quarterback Tyler Russell knows what will decide the upcoming Southeastern Conference showdown between his No. 13 Mississippi State Bulldogs and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
It’s not a complicated formula.
Both look the part of a big-time college quarterback, standing about 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds. They’re also productive, accurate and have the awareness to know when to throw the ball away or take a sack.
Russell has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,573 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception while McCarron is completing 68.8 percent of his throws for 1,476 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
But more than size and ability, Russell sees only one important shared trait: Both are winners.
Russell’s emergence as one of the Southeastern Conference’s elite quarterbacks has been one major reason the Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0 SEC) are still fighting for a Western Division title. The junior played part-time the past two seasons behind Chris Relf before stepping into the starter’s role this fall.
But he hasn’t seen anything like this Alabama defense so far this season. The Tide is giving up just 195.6 yards per game and 8.3 points per game, which lead the SEC by a wide margin.
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t surprised by Russell’s success. The Tide recruited him when he was a prep star in Meridian, Miss., and Saban said
McCarron is better known than Russell after helping the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) to a national championship last season.
But fair or not, he was viewed as more of a game manager than a game changer during most of those victories.
That’s not the case anymore. The junior is putting up numbers that have vaulted him into Heisman consideration.