SEC

Alabama/Arkansas Analysis: Greg McElroy vs. Ryan Mallett

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This week I'm trying to break up my pre-game preview into smaller, bite-sized pieces, so I'm not dumping it all on the blog Friday afternoon. I hope to have something about the Bama defense up tomorow, but for today, I thought we'd have a brief word on the quarterbacks.

McElroy vs. Mallett

It won't get the hype that Jacorry Harris vs. Terrelle Pryor got two weeks ago, but this is the REAL quarterback duel of September. As of today, the chronically underestimated Greg McElroy sits atop the NCAA's passing efficiency rankings. Heisman hopeful Ryan Mallett currently resides at #5. Their numbers through 3 games look like this:

McElroy: 43-60 (71.7%), 705 yards, 6 TDs, and 1 interception

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Mallett: 70-100 (70%, duh), 1,081 yards, 9 Tds, and 2 interceptions

Mallett has significantly more yards, but he has also thrown significantly more passes. McElroy averages almost a full yard more than Mallett per attempt. G-Mac is also throwing touchdowns at a slightly higher rate.

In last year's meeting in Tuscaloosa, McElroy was the winner on more than just the scoreboard. Mallett struggled mightily on the road, as he typically did prior to this past Saturday's Georgia game, completing only 12 of 35 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Meanwhile, McElroy hit on 17 of 24 for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, including scoring throws of 80 and 50 yards.

This is not an attempt to convince you that McElroy is a better passer than Mallett. I'd argue he's a better quarterback, but he's definitely not a more gifted passer. It's just to let you know that he's in the same ballpark. Given the current state of the secondaries they'll be playing against, both could put up big numbers this Saturday.

Personally, I'll take McElroy. I know, I know...I might be a bit biased. And there's no denying that Mallett is putting up some huge numbers. I just think it's going to be a close game. And in close games, Mallett has a tendency to get a little wild with the football, forcing balls into tight coverage and throwing errant deep balls when a check down would have been a smarter play. He played poorly down the stretch against Georgia before the Bulldogs gave him that one last drive and proceeded to play their worst defense of the day. Who knows, maybe that drive was his breakthrough. Or maybe he just lucked into Georgia playing with a young secondary in a new scheme.

When it comes to "winning time," I'll take the preeminent winner. That's Greg McElroy. Even beyond having the winning gene, he's been on fire this season, connecting on throws that I didn't even know he had in his repertoire. He's taken his game to another level and really looks like he can do anything he wants right now. He is pure confidence, and it's rubbing off on the rest of the team. Guys like Earl Alexander and Chris Underwood are suddenly making plays well above their station. Say what you want about the competition he's done it against, but Arkansas' defense isn't any better than Penn State's, whom McElroy clowned on early before Saban shut it down in the second half to spare JoePa's dignity.

In case you're wondering, I may be softening on my rather dire preseason prediction of a 41-38 Arkansas win. I still have a few days to flip-flop. Stay tuned...