8 College Football Contenders That Don't Have QB Play to Be BCS Worthy in 2012
After just two weeks of play in college football, we have already seen multiple contenders drop off due to lamentable performances at the quarterback position.
Quarterbacks can make or break the BCS hopes of their team with as little as one or two poor decisions.
In recent years, we've seen signal-callers like Cam Newton lift a team to the pinnacle of the sport. Just last year, we saw poor quarterback play become the lone downfall of an otherwise elite LSU squad.
Early this year, the BCS picture is obviously still wide open, so let's take a look at which teams will be kept out of college football's VIP postseason party this year, due to inadequacies under center:
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The Fighting Irish already have one of the most difficult schedules in the country working against them, so another obstacle they certainly don't need is a question mark at quarterback.
Notre Dame is off to a 2-0 start, but the QB play hasn't been great.
In Week 1, starter Everett Golson led the team to a blowout win over Navy, but he was out-performed statistically by Navy QB Trey Miller.
In Week 2, Golson flirted with a 300-yard day, but UND also flirted with a loss to unranked Purdue.
In the end, Golson was yanked in favor of Tommy Rees, who led the game-winning field goal drive.
It appears as though Golson will remain the starter, but it has to be unnerving for him knowing his coach also has confidence in the guys behind him.
This wasn't a serious issue against Navy or Purdue, but against teams like USC, Oklahoma and Stanford, Notre Dame will need strong QB play.
The Irish take on No. 11 Michigan State next week, which will be the first serious test for their signal-callers.
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Speaking of Michigan State, the Spartans have some question marks about their quarterback as well.
Andrew Maxwell looked pretty solid in a lopsided win over Central Michigan in Week 2.
The junior threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns interception-free, taking some pressure off the shoulders of Heisman Trophy candidate running back La'Veon Bell.
There is no question about the running game in East Lansing, but even Maxwell knows he'll have to have a strong year for MSU to be successful (via Associated Press, ESPN.com):
"You never want to be an offense that's one-dimensional, because once you're one-dimensional, soon you can be no-dimensional," Maxwell said following the win over CMU.
Maxwell learned this Week 1 against Boise State, in a game in which his three interceptions almost opened the door for a Bronco upset.
In that game, Bell's 44 carries, 210 yards and two touchdowns led the way and allowed MSU to overcome Maxwell's poor performance.
MSU will face some strong defensive opponents down the road, including Ohio State and three consecutive ranked opponents from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3. Right now, the Spartans may be the front-runners to win the conference, but they will need stronger play from Maxwell against these tough opponents to take the title.
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Boise State lost the winningest quarterback in NCAA history when Kellen Moore departed for the NFL, taking his 50-3 record with him.
The Broncos lost numerous other players as well, so expectations were relatively low for 2012.
However, under the direction of elite head coach Chris Petersen, Boise St. can never really be counted out.
In a Week 1 clash with MSU, the Broncos proved that they have the defensive prowess to compete with just about any team in the country, holding their Big Ten foe to just 17 points.
Sound defensive play will allow BSU to see success in 2012, but it is clear that Moore was the one who put them over the top during his tenure.
It is also clear that junior Joe Southwick is no Moore at this point. He'll need to be better if Boise expects to stay among the elite.
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Just when we thought Nebraska had made it off of this list, Taylor Martinez proved us wrong.
In Week 1, Nebraska looked like a different team and Martinez a different player, chucking it all around the field while going 26-of-34 for 354 yards and five touchdowns, to the extreme delight of the Husker faithful.
However, in Week 2 against UCLA, Martinez and Nebraska regressed, and the fans' hopes quickly diminished.
The junior went back to the ground, running for 112 yards and a touchdown, but the game took a turn for the worse when he actually went to the ground as he was sacked in the end zone for a safety, giving UCLA the lead in the fourth quarter.
His following drive ended after three consecutive incompletions. The next one was even worse, as Martinez tossed up an duck which was hauled in by Bruins safety Andrew Abbott.
In all, Martinez struggled through the air, finishing 17-of-31 for 179 yards, zero touchdowns and that one ugly interception.
When he plays well, the Huskers can compete with any team in their conference, but when he doesn't, it can be ugly.
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David Ash has been sufficient so far in the first two games this year.
He is 36-of-49 for 377 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, mostly leaning on the running backs behind him over the first two weeks.
However, Texas played Wyoming and New Mexico—not exactly high-profile opponents.
There is little question about the talent of the Longhorns' defense or running game, but the biggest variable heading into the season was about what kind of production UT would have at QB.
Though Ash hasn't made any mistakes of note, he also has done little to quiet those concerns.
We know about the talented offenses of the Big 12 Conference, and Ash will likely have to increase his output to keep up.
Texas will face three of those elite offenses in its first three conference games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
By early October, we'll know exactly where Texas stands as a contender, and a lot of that will have to do with how Ash performs under center.
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Jeff Driskel has averaged just 138 yards in Florida's first two games.
He made a few nice plays with his feet and managed the game sufficiently with his arm, avoiding mistakes and giving his team a chance.
He hasn't thrown an interception yet, but he has also only accounted for one touchdown.
This is all fine and dandy right now as the Gators sit at 2-0 thanks to strong defensive play and the leg of kicker Caleb Sturgis.
However, when top-10 opponents LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State come calling, Driskel will have to produce.
Running back Mike Gillislee has been UF's entire offense to this point, but Driskel's role will need to expand if the Gators expect to contend in the loaded SEC.
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South Carolina has arguably the best running back in the country in junior Marcus Lattimore.
In Week 1, he carried the Gamecocks through poor quarterback play to a 17-13 win over Vanderbilt.
In the game, starting quarterback Connor Shaw went down with an injury, as he and his backups combined to go 7-of-15 for a pitiful 67 yards and one interception, without even the thought of reaching the end zone.
The next game, with Shaw still out of the lineup, East Carolina geared up to be pounded by Lattimore, but it didn't happen. He only had 13 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown, as backup QB Dylan Thompson had a great game.
Thompson threw it 37 times for for 330 yards and three touchdowns to lead USC to a 48-10 victory.
However, ECU is far from an SEC-caliber team.
The Gamecocks will have a tough conference slate to power through, and they'll need to be balanced to do so.
Unfortunately, the South Carolina quarterbacks haven't definitively shown that they have what it takes to be dangerous through the air.
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Oklahoma State is in a situation very similar to Texas, Florida and South Carolina.
The Cowboys have arguably the best running back in the Big 12 in Joseph Randle, but they have a true freshman at quarterback, Wes Lunt.
Lunt didn't throw a single incompletion in the opener against Savannah State, going 11-for-11 with 129 yards.
However, he was exposed in Week 2 when OSU found itself in a shootout in the desert against Arizona.
Lunt threw it 60 times for 436 yards, but threw three interceptions—two of which resulted in UA touchdowns, as OSU fell 59-38.
The Cowboys are going to be in a fair share of shootouts during the Big 12 season, and if Lunt's decision making doesn't improve, then the result will be similar.