Matt Corral vs. Bryce Young? Let's get it on!
We’ve been blessed the past few years in the SEC.
Electric personalities, historically dominant offenses, national championship teams, Lane Kiffin … you name it. We’re spoiled.
Recently, we’ve been blessed with some elite quarterback matchups. Think about it. In 2019, we got Joe Burrow vs. Tua Tagovailoa. In 2020, we got Mac Jones vs. Kyle Trask. Shoot, we also got Matt Corral vs. Jones last year, though as epic as that shootout proved to be, that one didn’t have much buildup because Corral was in his first month starting in Kiffin’s offense.
On Saturday, however, we’ll be blessed again. And this time, Corral’s showdown against the Tide won’t lack buildup.
Add Corral vs. Bryce Young to that rolling list of elite SEC quarterback matchups of recent memory. They’re the 2 favorites for the Heisman Trophy. That was the case with Jones and Trask last year. Go figure that the game matched the hype, yet neither came away with the Heisman.
The Heisman won’t be decided on Saturday night. Declaring a Heisman winner in early October is like saying a head coach is destined to succeed based on his opening press conference. It’s far too early. Much will happen to decide that.
But this is the premier quarterback matchup of the year in college football.
Disagree? Perhaps you missed the part where Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell, DJ Uiagalelei and D’Eriq King have all been disappointments. Young and Corral, however, rose above some high preseason expectations. That’s why Young’s Heisman odds went from +900 in the preseason to +300 now while Corral’s odds jumped from +1400 to +150 now.
And yeah, it’s always worth noting that Heisman performances are possible against the Tide. Ask Burrow or Johnny Manziel about that.
(Cam Newton knows about that, too, but it was over when he ran away from Patrick Peterson.)
Let’s treat Saturday for what it is — an epic clash of 2 guys playing the position better than anyone in the sport right now. Their styles are similar, but different.
Corral’s mastery of the Kiffin/Jeff Lebby offense is undeniable. His 5:30 a.m. film sessions from spring 2020 got the ball rolling to where it is today. It’s a high-speed juggernaut. Corral can beat you with tempo, precision or power. He’s like a prized fighter who can switch to southpaw in Round 4 if needed.
In a way, you could say the same about Young. We saw against Miami what it looked like when he bought himself time and stretched the field. We also saw the patience of not getting greedy against Florida and protecting a lead. Young’s experience is limited, but his awareness is through the roof.
What Corral and Young both do so well is sense pressure while keeping their eyes on their receivers. They dare defenses to cover their wideouts for 6 seconds, even if it means taking a hit as they’re delivering the ball. Usually, though, they can avoid that.
What a debut for @_bryce_young 🐘🙌
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 4, 2021
That’s why they rank in the top 4 among Power 5 quarterbacks in quarterback rating, and they have a combined TD-INT ratio of 24-1 this season. Oh, and Corral is tied for the SEC lead in rushing touchdowns (5).
Corral has shown more of a desire to keep it than Young. Perhaps the size has something to do with that. Whatever it is, no 3rd down is impossible for Corral. How Alabama chooses to spy him remains to be seen. For all the talk about the Tide struggling to defend the run against Florida, that defense ranks No. 21 in FBS against the pass. And that’s having played with a lead for basically all of their 4 games, 2 of which were against preseason Top 25 teams away from home.
Saturday, however, Alabama will get some home cooking. As strange as it sounds, it’ll mark the first time that Corral played in a true road game with a full capacity crowd under Kiffin. Will there be communication issues? Or will Corral continue to look unstoppable?
That, we don’t know. It’s also the first career SEC home start for Young. Will he come out with Joe Milton-like juice on his fastball? Or will Young continue to make us all want to check his birth certificate?
We don’t know. For all we know, both teams will come out and run the ball 10 times in a row. I’d say the odds of Kiffin opening the game with an 80-yard flea-flicker are more likely, but hey, that’s why they play the games.
Corral and Young both came to the SEC from Southern California, where they were blue-chip recruits who in theory, should’ve been locks to go to USC. Both committed there in high school, only to later flip to SEC programs (Corral flipped to Florida but eventually signed with Ole Miss after Jim McElwain’s exit in Gainesville). On top of that, both Corral and Young are now thriving with different offensive minds than they ones who they signed up to play for.
Where they differ is where they’re at in their college careers. One would think even though Corral technically has 2 years of eligibility left — he redshirted in 2018 and 2020 didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility — he’ll be off to the NFL Draft at season’s end. For a guy who really didn’t get any first-round buzz coming into the season (he obviously should have), Corral has an opportunity to make himself some money on Saturday.
Speaking of money, Young’s 7-figure NIL earnings could get a nice boost by outdueling Corral on Saturday. The redshirt freshman won’t be eligible for the NFL Draft until 2023, but at the rate he’s been playing so far, that next-level buzz should follow him the rest of his college career.
Neither will be focused on those long-term individual aspirations come Saturday. The long-term goal is to win a battle of top-15 teams and seize control of the SEC West. In a season when the college football heavyweights look vulnerable for the first time in recent memory, a win on Saturday in Tuscaloosa would be invaluable.
And if those 3-plus hours could include another high-octane slugfest for the ages, well, we’d be blessed once more.