USC Football QB Matt Barkley smiles for the camera after crushing rival UCLA at home.
As we have officially arrived at the start of college football season, fans everywhere have cleaned out their barbeques, bought their face paint and washed their lucky underwear in anticipation of an exciting year.
Last year’s first two picks for the Heisman Trophy and NFL draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, have set the bar high for elite quarterbacks across the nation. Who could possibly recreate the hype that surrounded last year’s quarterbacks you might ask?
Here is a countdown of the top nine quarterbacks that could really light up the scoreboard and lead their teams to BCS victory this season.
9. Denard Robinson: Michigan
Arguably the most exciting player in the country, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson looks to cut his turnover margin in 2012 and lead the Michigan Wolverines to another BCS Bowl.
Robinson was second among all Division I quarterbacks with 1,176 yards on the ground last year. In 2011, he had five games with over 100 rushing yards, and in three of those games he had more than 100 passing yards as well. He is able to wear down defenses with his elusive rushing and ability to throw on the run.
If Michigan can get past Alabama at Cowboys Stadium to begin the year, you may see Robinson’s name as an early candidate for the Heisman.
8. Collin Klein: Kansas State
Starting off the year 7-0 with huge wins against Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech, Collin Klein and Kansas State were the surprise team of the early part of last season.
After suffering losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Klein pulled out a victory in one of the most dramatic games of the year, a quadruple overtime win against Texas A&M in which he had 280 yards in the air, 100 on the ground and six total touchdowns.
His 38 total touchdowns last year proved his versatility in the pass game and ability to break the pocket and run for the first down.
As the leading passer and rusher, he was all the Wildcats needed to get to the Cotton Bowl. Look for more of the same from Klein as he takes the captain role for a third season.
7. Logan Thomas: Virginia Tech
At 6’6", 262 pounds, Logan Thomas is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the nation.
In spite of losing leading receiver Danny Coale and ACC rushing leader David Wilson, analysts are projecting Thomas to be a possible Heisman contender in his junior year.
Who is the best college quarterback this year?
Leading the team to an 11-win season and BCS berth, Thomas finished the year with over 3,000 yards in the air and 470 yards on the ground. Look for the Hokies to make another run at a BCS game this year.
6. Tyler Wilson: Arkansas
The question going into spring ball was if Wilson would be able to look past the Bobby Petrino scandal and the loss of his top three WRs and still put up the numbers he did in 2011.
Tyler Wilson put all those questions to rest with a strong summer and fall camp. In the Razorbacks Aug. 18 scrimmage, Wilson threw for 255 yards on 22-37 for three touchdowns.
The Razorbacks finished fifth in the 2011 BCS rankings and won the AT&T Cotton bowl against Collin Klein and Kansas State.
The SEC’s 2011 passing leader, Wilson has his work cut out for him early as they play Alabama in Week 3.
5. Tajh Boyd: Clemson
As a sophomore, Tajh Boyd led one of the most explosive young offenses in college football to their first 10-win season since 1990.
Boyd accounted for 38 of the Tigers’ touchdowns, with over 4,000 yards of total offense.
With the return of freshman phenom Sammy Watkins (missing first two games due to suspension) and impressive RB Andre Ellington, Clemson looks poised to compete for another ACC Championship.
The ACC’s 2011 touchdown and passing yards leader, Boyd is ready to build off his early season success after a 8-0 start in 2011 with big wins against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech twice.
4. Aaron Murray: Georgia
With the dismissal of Isaiah Crowell from the Bulldog backfield due to a weapons charge, the light will once again be shining on Aaron Murray.
After two early-season crushing defeats to Boise State and South Carolina, Georgia bounced back on the shoulders of Murray to the tune of 10 straight wins.
Even after getting slaughtered by LSU and edged out in triple overtime by Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, Murray has been named as the 2012 preseason All-SEC East quarterback pick.
Since the Bulldogs won’t have to play Arkansas, LSU or Alabama this year, there is a good chance that Murray once again racks up the stats and the Georgia Bulldogs head to the SEC Championship game come this winter.
3. Geno Smith: West Virginia
His record-breaking seven TD performance in this last year’s Orange Bowl capped off his tremendous junior year in which he threw for 4,400 yards and 31 touchdowns.
After leading West Virginia to the 2011 Big East championship, Geno Smith and the Mountaineers will try to keep up with the the high-powered offenses of the Big 12.
Geno Smith should have no trouble transitioning to the Big 12 because head coach Dana Holgorsen led the nation in total offense as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator in 2010.
2. Landry Jones: Oklahoma
After beginning the year as a Heisman candidate and preseason No. 1, Landry Jones left fans in dismay after a disappointing 2011 campaign.
4,400 yards and 29 touchdowns, though impressive, won’t cut it for the massive Sooner fan base if they aren’t in the BCS hunt.
If Landry Jones can step up to the plate in big games against Kansas State, Baylor and especially Oklahoma State, look for him to repeat his 2010 season (4,700 passing yards and 38 touchdowns) and reach for Heisman hopes once again.
1. Matt Barkley: USC
Choosing to come back after likely being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft, Barkley returns as the face of college football and Heisman front runner.
With returning wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquis Lee alongside him another year, the Associated Press has ranked USC as the No. 1 team in college football.
In 2011, Barkley broke the single game touchdown and completion records for the Trojans. After a tremendous junior season where he threw 39 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards, Barkley needs just 2,765 passing yards, 20 TDs and 11 wins to become the all-time USC leader in those categories.
Barkley could go down as the best quarterback in USC history if he can bring home the championship in his senior year.
Keith Price: Washington
Probably the closest to cracking the top nine, Price had nine games with over 200 yards passing and seven games with three or more touchdowns in 2011. In the final game of his sophomore season, he solidified his place in the top quarterback argument with his performance in the Alamo Bowl.
He had 438 yards with four touchdowns in a high-scoring loss to Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears. Regardless of the loss of RB Chris Polk and Washington’s top two receivers, expect a huge year from Price, who faces an incredibly difficult schedule.
Casey Pachall: TCU
Casey Pachall had the tough task of replacing former quarterback Andy Dalton and taking TCU back to another BCS berth. Leading the Horned Frogs to an 11-win season in which they knocked off an undefeated Boise State team, TCU returns almost all of their leading weapons and looks poised to join the Big 12 in stride.
Tyler Bray: Tennessee
If he hadn’t broken his thumb and missed five games last year, Bray’s numbers could easily have been comparable to the other guys on this list. His strong pocket presence and NFL-ready arm make him an elite quarterback in the SEC. Although the recent loss of Da’Rick Rogers will hurt the passing game, expect Bray to shine this year.
Bryn Renner: North Carolina
In his first year as a starter in 2011, Renner’s 7-6 final record was not indicative of how well the Tar Heel offense performed. Bryn threw for 3,000 yards and finished the year with a 160 QB rating.
North Carolina’s 393 average yards of offense propelled them into the Independence Bowl, where they lost to a very good Missouri team. With breakout RB Giovanni Bernard returning, expect Renner’s tremendous 2011 numbers to rise and the Tar Heels to compete for the ACC title.