The 10 Best QB-to-WR Connections in College Football
In a college-football world gone pass-happy, there is nothing more thrilling than watching a quarterback hurl a pass downfield to a speedy receiver who can haul in the ball at full speed and dash for the end zone.
Yes, in the throes of the lightning-fast information age, what could be better than hitting paydirt in a single play or via a short series of long passes?
The following slideshow pays tribute to the beautiful connection between QB and receiver by pinpointing the top-10 returning combos in the land for the 2012 season.
These marriages of accuracy and speed have produced top-shelf statistical cocktails consisting of a perfect balance of total yards, receptions, yards per catch and touchdowns.
It’s interesting to note that of the 10 prolific relationships mentioned here, only one is from a team in the SEC, and the duo hails from a squad that went 5-7 in 2011.
Yes, in a pass-centric game like modern college football, defense and the running game still wins championships…at least for now.
T9. Casey Pachall to Josh Boyce, TCU
The tie for the No. 9 spot in our productive-combo sweepstakes begins with rising juniors QB Casey Pachall and WR Josh Boyce, both from TCU.
The Horned Frogs ranked only No. 59 in passing yards in 2011, but Pachall and Boyce (First Team All-MWC in 2011) hooked up 61 times for 998 yards and nine TDs.
The duo’s yards-per-catch total of 16.36 is No. 3 among the returning QB-WR combos on our list.
T9. Blaine Gautier to Javone Lawson, ULL
Perhaps a bit of a surprise in our top 10, the ninth spot on our list is shared between the duo from TCU and a highly productive combo from the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
QB Blaine Gautier and WR Javone Lawson (First Team All-Sun Belt 2011) hooked up 63 times last season and netted 1,092 yards and eight TDs.
The combo’s average yards per catch of 17.33 is No. 2 among the duos on our list.
Rising seniors Gautier and Lawson led the Cajuns pass offense to a No. 23 national ranking last season and propelled the team to a 9-4 finish and the first ever bowl appearance and win in program history by beating San Diego State, 32-30, in the New Orleans Bowl.
8. Tyler Bray to Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee
Well hidden between Tennessee’s seven losses last season was the QB-WR duet of Tyler Bray and Da’Rick Rogers, who connected 67 times for 1,040 yards and nine scores.
In light of a scoring offense ranking of No. 108 nationally and an even worse No. 116 mark in rushing yards, the Vols' No. 63 ranking in passing offense last season looks pretty sweet.
Rogers, who will be a junior in 2012, managed First Team All-SEC honors last season—no small feat when your squad finishes last in the division.
7. Geno Smith to Tavon Austin, West Virginia
What’s amazing about the Geno Smith and Tavon Austin hookup is that they were the No. 2 passing combo at West Virginia last year.
That’s right; Smith’s prolific offensive liaison with a guy name Stedman Bailey is even more impressive than his and Austin’s 101 connections for 1,186 yards and eight scores in 2011.
Both Smith and Austin earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2011, and what’s even scarier is that both will be seniors in 2012 with one full year of Dana Holgorsen’s “spread ‘em and kill 'em offense” under their belts.
6. Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen, Cal
Another prolific combo somewhat unnoticed due to a subpar team performance, QB Zach Maynard and WR Keenan Allen from Cal hooked up enough times to make the No. 6 spot on our list.
Keenan Allen (First Team All-Pac 12 in 2011) caught 98 of Maynard’s passes last season and netted 1,343 yards and six TDs.
The 1,343 total yards earned Allen the No. 9 spot nationally in 2011 and the No. 2 spot on our list of returning combos.
In 2012, Maynard will be a senior and Allen will be a junior.
5. Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee, USC
USC is the only team, other than West Virginia, with two awesome twosomes in our glorious top 10.
The “lesser” of the two Trojan combos, Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee, could easily trump the numbers produced by 90 percent of duos from other teams in 2011.
Barkley and Lee hooked up 73 times last season for 1,143 yards and 11 TDs, giving them the No. 4 spot in scoring among the duos listed here.
Lee’s performance in 2011 was enough to earn him first team Freshman All-American honors while Barkley nabbed Second Team All-Pac-12 accolades.
The twosome will mature to a senior-sophomore relationship in 2012, when they could post some serious numbers.
4. Matt Barkley to Robert Woods, USC
The “other” Trojan twosome in our rankings, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods hooked up a whopping 111 times last season for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs.
The 111 receptions is No. 1 among the returning duos on our list, while the yardage output is No. 3 and the number of scores is No. 1.
What holds the two out of the top three is the fact that their yards-per-catch average is 11.63, the lowest mark among our top 10.
Woods earned second team All-American honors last season and was a Biletnikoff finalist; he’ll be a junior in 2012.
T2. Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The first of the two combos tied for second-place honors in our sweepstakes, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins came out of nowhere to tear it up in 2011.
Boyd and super-frosh Watkins connected 82 times last season for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs; the scoring mark ties them for the No. 2 spot in TDs on our list.
After all the talk about Florida State’s EJ Manuel being the preseason offensive player of the year going into 2011, it was Tajh Boyd who walked away with First Team All-ACC honors.
As a freshman, Watkins earned both first team all-conference honors and was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
T2. Zac Dysert to Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)
The pair tied at No. 2 with Watkins and Boyd is the far lesser-known duo of QB Zac Dysert and WR Nick Harwell, who were the catalysts in the 2011 No. 16 nationally ranked pass offense.
The super combo hails from the MAC conference, and yes, they’re from Miami of Ohio, or Miami University, as opposed to the University of Miami in Florida.
Dysert and Harwell hooked up 97 times in 2011 and racked up a scintillating 1,425 yards and nine scores, a statistical triumph that was somewhat unappreciated due to their team’s 4-8 finish.
The combo’s yardage output is No. 1 among the returning dynamic duos on our list.
Dysert will be a senior in 2012, while Harwell (First Team All-MAC last season) will be a junior.
1. Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey – West Virginia
The most fertile QB-WR pairing returning for the 2012 edition of college football is the “other” couple from West Virginia, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey.
Smith and Bailey combined for 72 grabs, 1,279 yards and 12 TDs last season, and their average yards per catch of 17.76 is far and away the best on our list.
Smith and Bailey (and Smith and Austin) combined to lead the Mountaineers to a No. 4 national ranking in passing yards, a No. 15 ranking in scoring offense, a 10-3 record, a piece of the Big East title and an overwhelming 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Bailey, along with Smith and Austin, earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2011 and will be a junior in 2012.
It’s absolutely scary to think what will happen statistically in 2012 with Smith throwing the pill to Bailey, Austin and the rest of the Mountaineers' receiving corps.
Keep in mind that the other nine teams slated to suit up in the Big 12 in 2012 combined to average a No. 84 national ranking in pass defense last season…