POINT/COUNTERPOINT: All-American Starting QB?

 Brian Curtis and Eric Sorenson slug it out over the most pressing football questions

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    Brian Curtis, CSTV Senior Editor Eric Sorenson, CSTV.com Analyst
    MATT LEINART
    Who would you rather have leading you team: Vince Young or Matt Leinart? Not who is the most exciting, the most valuable with his legs or arm, the best athlete? If you had to play one game for all the marbles, who do start behind center? That's right. Matt Leinart. And that's why Leinart is a better quarterback than Young.

    Let me tell you what Young has done this year. He has led the Texas Longhorns to an undefeated season and a Big 12 title, almost single-handedly. Ask the casual or fervent fan to name other stars for Texas and the response usually comes with, "Uh….". Let's face it: Young had one of the best years a quarterback can have. He leads the nation in passing efficiency, with a 168.6 rating, completing close to 64-percent of his passes and has thrown for 26 touchdowns. And on the ground, Young has been almost unstoppable, rushing for 850 yards and nine touchdowns. He has had marquee games against the likes of Ohio State and the impressive comeback against Oklahoma State, when he ran for 267 yards.

    But if you take a look inside the numbers, you see not everything is so rosy. Yes, he does lead the nation in passing efficiency but he's only thrown the ball 285 times-compared to Leinart's 391 attempts. Yes, Young has thrown for 26 TDs but has also thrown 10 interceptions, including two in each game against the best teams on Texas's schedule, Ohio State and Texas Tech. Yes, he can complete passes but he ranks #68 in completions per game in the nation, well behind #15 Leinart.

    Look, no one can argue that Vince Young is not a great quarterback. He has had an amazing year, but is he really better than Leinart? The 2004 Heisman winner completed 65-percent of his passes in throwing for 27 touchdowns. And he only had seven INTs to Young's 10. Now remember, Leinart threw the ball 106 times more than Young. And for those who like to point to Young's rushing touchdowns, keep in mind that Leinart has six himself, just three behind Young. Leinart has eight multi-touchdown passing games this year- eight! Included are four games with three TDs and three games with four TDs. (He did, however, have the multi-interception game against Notre Dame.)

    So the stats are close. Young runs the ball better, Leinart passes the ball better. But we knew that. The difference between the two is closer than you think. Which brings me back to my original question: who do you want behind center on your team? If you honestly believe that Leinart is only good because of Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, etc., you are honestly wrong. How many QBs throw that fourth down pass against the Irish? How many make that QB keeper at the end of the game? How many lead their teams back from double-digit halftime deficits?

    How many have lost one game-one game-as a starter? Won two AP national championships behind center? And that's why most knowledgeable football fans would want Leinart over Young. They simply trust Leinart more with the stakes so high. They'd rather take his arm, his experience and his leadership over the incredible running ability of Young. Which is also why you don't hear much about Young being a top pick in the NFL Draft if he comes out.

    The Heisman voters this year thought Young was better and the Texas QB beat out Leinart for First Team All-American. But those are honors. These are games. And I'd take Leinart.

    VINCE YOUNG
    C'mon, let's give Vince his due. And I don't mean because he campaigned for a national award or that he improved his passing or that he promised Texas fans everywhere he'd lead the Horns back to Pasadena a year ago and then delivered on it. Let's give it to him because he had a great year. In fact, his season was as good as any quarterback in Texas history. And that's a lot of history.

    Truth of the matter is, what you have heard in the media all year long is absolutely true: Vince Young was definitely the Most Valuable Player in the country for 2005. Yep, for once the hype generated is true. Texas would not be 12-0 and covered in roses if not for the elusive spiderman behind center.

    Oh, I could go into all the other reasons as well; he's the top quarterback of an undefeated team, he improved his passing by leaps and bounds, he came up biggest when his team needed him, etc. and so on. The biggest reason he should be a first-teamer is the way he changed the culture for the Longhorns.

    Mack Brown admits his humor and looseness on the practice field and even in the huddle has made for a new complexion from the burnt orange brigade. "He's taught me how to laugh and relax." Mack said during Heisman weekend.

    That may be the most important move of all. That's the reason Texas didn't freak out when falling behind to the Buckeyes in rabid Ohio Stadium in September. That's the reason UT exacted a good amount of revenge in its annual grudge match vs. Oklahoma. It's also the most important reason that Texas had that "no-problem" look about it after falling behind at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

    When the breaks got the team down, it was always Young there to save the day. Not a running back. Not a big return on special teams. Not a receiver demanding the ball.

    To wit, the 80-yard run on third-and-0 to bust open the Okie State game. The flawless flick to Limas Sweed to ice the big comeback in the big horseshoe. The spine-twisting, ankle-turning runs in the wins over Colorado. And, of course, the cool calm of a leader he exuded more pronouncedly all season long.

    And above all, he was an All-American kid who had an All-American season.

    He led the Horns in rushing with 850 yards. He scored nine touchdowns on the ground. He pitched 26 touchdowns through the air. He had five games over 300+ total yards, including a mind-boggling 506 yards in Stillwater. And most impressive of all, he led the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 168.6. Pretty impressive considering the big knock against him has always been that he can't throw the ball.

    Just like any other time in his career, you can't count this guy out. He deserves the praise for first team All-American. And if he does deliver on Jan. 4, he deserves first team All-World.

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