College Football 2012 Rankings: Big 12 Quarterback Group Gets the Top Spot

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterApril 10, 2012

BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 12:  Casey Pachall #4 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for a receiver against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Every Tuesday, we kick a ranking out for you all to enjoy and debate. Now that we've set your plate with the overall rankings as well as offensive and defensive lists, we can get down to the positions. We're going to run through both sides of the ball, alternating sides as we go so you don't get too full on offense or defense at once.

We'll kick it off with everyone's favorite position to critique: the quarterbacks.

The quarterback spot in college football exists in an odd space. There are some really good players out there—guys like Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones. There are also a lot of guys who just find a way to get the job done while falling somewhere short of being truly exceptional. There also exists the biggest issue in ranking the conferences: uncertainty.

Fluidity is the name of the game in college football as players come and go so frequently. Add to that fluidity the addition of players expected to be quality, and the rise of redshirted freshmen and you've got a tremendous conundrum at the position.

First, some ground rules. If you've got no quarterback, then you don't get a positive stamp of approval. Two guys battling it out is great for competition, but neither of them is your guy, so we won't crown either of them. If you're pinning your hopes to a hotshot freshman, that's nice but you don't get credit for that.

So, here we go folks...

6. Big East

There's Teddy Bridgewater and everyone else in this league. B.J. Daniels is a solid athlete, but not nearly consistent enough in production. Tino Sunseri will be interesting at Pitt with new coach, Paul Chryst. Munchie Legaux gets the reins full time in Cincy, but he was not exactly stellar in 2011 filling in for Zach Collaros.

In short, there are some maybes and some might-be's, but nothing solid for the conference outside of Teddy Bridgewater. Gary Nova and Chas Dodd at Rutgers should be fun to watch, but at some point one of them has to be "the" guy for the Scarlet Knights.

5. Big Ten

We have Denard Robinson, who will be making his Heisman push in 2012. Then there's James Vandenberg, Nathan Scheelhaase, Kain Colter, Taylor Martinez and Caleb TerBush.

Braxton Miller, in Urban Meyer's new system, has a shot to be mighty exciting and pretty darn good. Michigan State is looking at a quarterback battle. Penn State doesn't know who is going to start the 2012 season.

That's the state of quarterbacking in the Big Ten right now: one exceptional player in Denard Robinson, one guy with a chance to truly break out in 2012 in Braxton Miller and a group of guys in the middle that are capable, but not exceptional.

The one aspect that elevates the Big Ten above the likes of the Big East is the coming of Danny O'Brien. The former Maryland Terrapin walks into the league near the top and the run-heavy Wisconsin scheme will benefit from his ability to move the ball all over the field.

4. Pac-12

Matt Barkley is the cream of the crop in this group. The senior is without a doubt the best in the Pac-12 and likely the nation as a whole. He is absolutely capable of doing everything you ask out of a quarterback.

Keith Price at Washington is the next big thing out west and he is a good one.

After those two, though, things take a bit of turn, as Cal's Zach Maynard is most likely the next-best guy to return to the fold. Stanford just lost the likely No. 1 pick of the draft and Oregon lost Darron Thomas, the guy who helped make their offense go.

Then you throw in Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Arizona State and their new coaches. What you're left with is a mix of people who either don't have a clear starter and/or are going through a coaching change.

Oregon is in the most comfortable position because they have Bryan Bennett, who has proven he is mighty good, and Marcus Mariota, a talented redshirt freshman who proved he deserved a shot. Washington State will be better off at the end of the season than they are right now, thanks to Mike Leach's tutelage.

With the transition, it is just tough to elevate the Pac-12 quarterback situation ahead of most other leagues. They have a star and a budding star at the top, but then far too much transition and uncertainty at the bottom.

3. SEC

Take a look around the league: Tyler Wilson, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray, James Franklin and Connor Shaw are the ones at the top. Zach Mettenberger should join this group if his regular season at LSU plays out the way folks expect it to.

After that? A lot of I-don't-knows and anything-can-happens.

Kentucky is a major question mark, as Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton vie for the right to start. Newton is out for the spring, so Smith gets the nod for now. Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M have their own quarterback issues as well.

The nation's premier league has six teams that are set at quarterback. The other eight teams will be trying to figure out what direction to take their teams as spring football shuts down. Florida's already wrapped up spring and they will be taking this battle into the fall.

Three guys have the ability to take their teams to a BCS game, then Franklin and Shaw round out a strong group. Beyond that, there will be a lot of adventures at the quarterback spot for the bottom eight teams to sort out as the season goes.

2. ACC

Surprised to see the ACC this high?

It is as much a product of the state of quarterbacking in the college football game as anything else. Tajh Boyd is at the top of the heap currently, but Logan Thomas and E.J. Manuel are pushing him for the top spot in the league. All three have the quality talents capable of pushing their team into a BCS Bowl.

It would be the second for both Boyd and Thomas, while Manuel would be getting the 'Noles back to where their fans feel they belong. 

After those three heavy hitters, you have Mike Glennon at NC State, Sean Renfree at Duke, Tanner Price at Wake Forest and Bryn Renner at North Carolina.

Glennon is likely the best of this gang and is set up to have a big season. Renfree and Price are solid at their respective schools—not going to be world beaters, but they are solid at their craft. Renner has a new coach and a system that actually suits his strengths a bit better than John Shoops' old style.

For a 12-team league to have seven quality players back at the quarterback position is a win. That doesn't even count Miami, who has Stephen Morris looking to start if he can beat out the competition once he's healthy. It also doesn't include Tevin Washington at Georgia Tech, who is still trying to master that option attack. Michael Rocco at Virginia is trying to improve behind a run first offense.

This league, in all honesty, could probably be number one where the quarterback position is concerned.

1. Big 12

We'll give the pass-happy Big 12 the nod over the ACC here, even though the east coast league returns more proven players at the quarterback position.

Landry Jones, Collin Klein, Casey Pachall and Geno Smith are the reason this league gets the nod. Throw in Seth Doege, a quality player in his own right. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett are back at Iowa State as two proven players hoping to grow their success.

Not as high a bulk number as the ACC, but six teams out of the 10 have a good idea of how their quarterback position will shake out in 2012.

Losing Robert Griffin III is tough and Baylor must rebound from that. The same goes for Oklahoma State and Brandon Weeden. Both schools have some work to do to replace the stars they just lost. Kansas gets Charlie Weis, and while we did see him make Jimmy Clausen into a solid passer, how the Jayhawks look in year one is anyone's guess.

Overall the quarterback picture in the BCS leagues is not exactly great. We know about the departure of high draft picks like Andrew Luck and RGIII, but all over the country teams have lost major contributors at the quarterback position. Replacing them is going to be a tall order to fill.


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