Matt Corral and Bryce Young left Southern California as hotshot prospects bound for Southeastern Conference stardom.
The two quarterbacks convene Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as the early Heisman Trophy front-runners.
Corral leads No. 12 Mississippi and the nation’s top offense against Young and No. 1 Alabama in an SEC West clash that also has the makings of a potential Heisman showdown.
Not that the star passers are interested in awards talk — not just yet anyway.
“That’s cool, right? It’s awesome that people are saying that, but it’s not a point of focus,” Corral said. “I’m not putting any energy into it and the team shouldn’t either. And they don't. They don’t come up and talk to me about it.”
A month into the season, Corral is the +150 favorite for the Heisman according to FanDuel SportsBook. Young is next at +300, followed distantly by No. 2 Georgia’s JT Daniels (+1400), another SoCal-to-SEC quarterback transplant.
“Being the top for some Heisman media talk now means nothing,” Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said. “It only matters if you win the thing.”
For now, “the thing" is this game.
Both quarterbacks are coming off huge performances against lesser competition. Young completed 20 of 22 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns in a rout of Southern Miss. He threw his first interception of the season when the ball bounced off the chest of Jameson Williams while his 15 touchdown passes in four games is tied for second nationally.
Corral became the first SEC player to pass for three touchdowns and run for four in a romp over Tulane before an open date.
They’ve been the SEC’s two most efficient passers and rank in the Top 10 nationally. Corral has passed for nine touchdowns without an interception while running for five scores through just three games.
The two have crossed paths over the years but this will be their first game matchup as starters. Corral’s Long Beach Poly team was clobbered by Daniels and Mater Dei 55-13 in 2017. Young transferred to Mater Dei the following season, succeeding Daniels.
“Mater Dei is ridiculous, but so is Alabama,” Corral said.
Both ultimately headed South as five-star prospects after initially committing to USC. Young, the nation’s top-rated quarterback two years ago, said he wanted to “compete against the best” in both practice and games.
Corral trumps Young, a first-year starter, in experience. He became the first SEC quarterback to lead the nation in total offense last season and has picked up where he left off.
And they're well aware of each other, especially Young, who was coming up when Corral was already well known.
“I’ve always seen it as kind of a tight knit community as far as quarterbacks across the country, but especially quarterbacks in So Cal and in the same area,” the Alabama quarterback said. "So, I’ve always known of him. I’ve worked with him a few times, I’ve talked to him a few times.
“So, I have a lot of respect for his game.”
But he downplays the matchup with Corral, calling that an “external factor that you can’t really control.”
Corral had a huge game against Alabama last season, going 21 of 28 for 365 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 40 yards.
Now, he's thriving again in his second year under Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, putting up big numbers in three nonconference games. His coach was wowed the first time he saw Corral throwing in person “throwing a deep ball like 70 yards like nothing.”
Now, Kiffin talks about the intangibles of leadership and says Corral regularly shows up at the football building at 5:30 a.m. Then there's his on-field exploits.
“He shows plays every Saturday that people don’t make,” Kiffin said. "I’ve said it before: Ole Miss fans need to appreciate this while you have it. This is a generational arm talent that your’e going to get spoiled with, because not too many people ever are going to make the plays that he’s making.
“And there’s a lot on (NFL) Sundays that start that don’t make them.” ___
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