10 Most Thrilling Head-to-Head QB Battles This Bowl Season

Ian Berg@@ShugJordanPkwyCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2012

10 Most Thrilling Head-to-Head QB Battles This Bowl Season

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    The 2012 bowl lineup was announced on Sunday, with a number of key matchups drawing the attention of the country. Ten games stick out, as they will match explosive offenses led by some of the most talented quarterbacks in the country.

    The Fiesta Bowl will draw a lot of eyes with Collin Klein matching up against Marcus Mariota, but games like the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be just as exciting as they also match top-level quarterback talent.

    Looking ahead to the coming bowl season, here are the 10 most thrilling head-to-head quarterback showdowns to watch, listed in no particular order.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Nevada vs. Arizona

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    The New Mexico Bowl will match the Nevada Wolf Pack against the Arizona Wildcats. Both teams have had their ups and downs this year, but the quarterback play of Matt Scott at Arizona and Cody Fajardo at Nevada has been inspiring.

    Fajardo has been dangerous through the air, but his ability to use his feet to make plays helped Nevada become bowl-eligible.

    Scott has done the same for Arizona, but his approach is to be a passer first, runner second.

    The New Mexico Bowl will get the bowl season started on Dec. 15, and all signs point to the game being explosive from the start. While this matchup isn’t necessarily one of the marquee matchups, these quarterbacks will make it one of the better showdowns of the bowl season.


    Key Stats

    Matt Scott: 273-of-452 for 3,238 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs; 107 carries for 485 yards, 5 TDs

    Cody Fajardo: 224-of-336 for 2,530 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs; 168 carries for 981 yards, 11 TDs

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Toledo vs. Utah State

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    Toledo and Utah State have put together strong seasons this year, relying on their quarterbacks to bring in the wins week after week.

    Toledo has looked to quarterback Terrance Owens to create plays, and the junior has not disappointed. Owens has over 2,500 yards passing and is the second-leading rusher for the Rockets this year.

    Chuckie Keeton is only a sophomore, but his two years as the starter for Utah State have been nothing short of amazing. He has his team undefeated in conference play this year, and he guided the Aggies to a 10-win year.

    Both of these players will bring their A-game and will help jump-start bowl season on Dec. 15.


    Key Stats

    Chuckie Keeton: 254-of-376 for 3,144 yards, 27 TDs, 9 INTs; 120 carries for 527 yards, 7 TDs

    Terrance Owens: 209-of-333 for 2,677 yards, 14 TDs, 8 INTs; 99 carries for 381 yards, 5 TDs

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs. UCLA

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    The Baylor Bears finished the season on a hot streak, winning their last three games and knocking off then-No. 1 Kansas State. Nick Florence was a major factor in the win, and he will bring his top-level play to the Holiday Bowl against UCLA.

    The Bruins have also relied on their quarterback to produce wins this fall. Freshman Brett Hundley burst onto the scene in the season opener against Rice, helping UCLA win big in the first game of the 2012 season.

    Hundley eventually led the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game and a nine-win season. His play has been impressive, and he will look to continue his success against Baylor on Dec. 27.


    Key Stats

    Nick Florence: 276-of-451 for 4,121 yards, 31 TDs, 13 INTs; 121 carries for 531 yards, 9 TDs

    Brett Hundley: 292-of-428 for 3,411 yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs; 151 carries for 365 yards, 9 TDs

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe

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    The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks burst onto the scene this season with a big win over Arkansas to start the year. Kolton Browning was a major part of the win, and he used the game to jump-start his impressive 2012 season.

    Tyler Tettleton helped his team make a major mark to start the year as well. Ohio marched into Happy Valley against Penn State to start the year and walked away with one of the biggest upset wins of the 2012 season.

    Tettleton was able to lead the Bobcats to seven straight wins before a meltdown occurred in November.

    Both of these teams finished 8-4, but without their quarterbacks to make plays, these teams likely finish without a bowl berth. This will be an entertaining matchup, as it brings two of the best quarterbacks in FBS together.


    Key Stats

    Tyler Tettleton: 214-of-345 for 2,513 yards, 16 TDs, 3 INTs; 116 carries for 210 yards, 4 TDs

    Kolton Browning: 252-of-389 for 2,830 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs; 122 carries for 441 yards, 7 TDs

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse

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    West Virginia has fallen hard to finish the season, landing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl after finishing the year at 7-5 and with a losing record in the Big 12.

    Geno Smith has been the one consistent performer for the Mountaineers, putting together one of the most impressive seasons at quarterback this year. Syracuse will have its hands full trying to secure a win against the Smith-led Mountaineers.

    Syracuse became relevant with a big win over an undefeated Louisville squad to start November, using the win to put together a three-game win streak and bowl berth.

    Ryan Nassib put together his best season with the Orange, passing for over 3,500 yards this year. His three touchdowns against Louisville made for his second-highest output of the season, showing that Nassib can be a big-game quarterback when called upon.


    Key Stats

    Ryan Nassib: 283-of-448 for 3,619 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs; 77 carries for 129 yards, 2 TDs

    Geno Smith: 350-of-490 for 4,004 yards, 40 TDs, 6 INTs; 63 carries for 155 yards, 2 TDs

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Southern Methodist

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    June Jones is rebuilding a culture at Southern Methodist. He is trying to return this team to the national discussion, and if Jones can continue to find quarterbacks to lead his offense, he will accomplish his goal.

    This year, Garrett Gilbert stepped up to the plate and led this Mustangs team to six wins and a bowl berth. His ability to make plays through the air and with his feet is what separates this squad from the rest of Conference-USA.

    Fresno State is having a very good year, finishing the regular season with nine wins. Derek Carr has led the charge with his 36 passing touchdowns and 3,742 passing yards.

    Carr comes from a winning pedigree—his older brother is David Carr—and he has shown that he finds ways to win at Fresno this year.

    With the contrasting styles here, the Carr vs. Gilbert matchup will provide one of the most interesting games of the bowl season.


    Key Stats

    Derek Carr: 311-of-457 for 3,742 yards, 36 TDs, 5 INTs

    Garrett Gilbert: 254-of-478 for 2,720 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs; 76 carries for 248 yards, 7 TDs

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan

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    Michigan battled through inconsistent quarterback play from Denard Robinson to start the season, but after an injury against Nebraska sidelined him, Devin Gardner stepped in and became an overnight sensation for the Wolverines.

    Gardner should get the starting nod against South Carolina, as he has given the Wolverines their best shot at success from the quarterback position.

    South Carolina saw Connor Shaw battle through a shoulder injury all season, guiding the Gamecocks to a 10-win season and just barely missing the SEC title game. Shaw has become one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and will look to finish the 2012 season with a big Outback Bowl win.

    Look for this game to be one of the more explosive and exciting contests of the bowl season.


    Key Stats

    Devin Gardner: 57-of-90 for 1,005 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs; 35 carries for 77 yards, 7 TDs

    Connor Shaw: 136-of-202 for 1,732 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INTs; 121 carries for 339 yards, 3 TDs

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma

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    The new era of Texas A&M football was under the microscope to start the year as the Aggies began SEC play this fall. The question as to whether the Aggies could compete was a big one, but Johnny Manziel has shown the country that not only can Texas A&M survive in the SEC, it can thrive.

    Manziel now leads most Heisman Trophy discussions. His explosive play and nickname—"Johnny Football"—have taken over newswires and sports tickers consistently.

    Landry Jones will look to push Johnny Football to the side in the Cotton Bowl, bringing his live arm and big-game potential to the field on Jan. 4.

    The Sooners put together a 10-win season and found themselves just short of a BCS bowl berth to close the year.

    This will be a fun matchup and should provide major fireworks to close the year. These two players are among the nation’s elite at quarterback and will attempt to solidify their status in this game.


    Key Stats

    Landry Jones: 332-of-507 for 3,989 yards, 29 TDs, 10 INTs

    Johnny Manziel: 273-of-400 for 3,419 yards, 24 TDs, 8 INTs; 184 carries for 1,181 yards, 19 TDs

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State

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    Marcus Mariota has stormed onto the national stage for Oregon, leading the Ducks to an 11-win year and BCS bowl berth. Mariota is only a freshman, but he is as poised as any signal-caller in the country.

    Mariota has been consistent as a passer, and is the second-best runner on the Ducks, finishing with 690 rushing yards this season.

    Collin Klein was a Heisman front-runner this year until his team fell hard against Baylor in November. Klein stepped into his senior season with high expectations, and outside of the loss he has reached them.

    The second of two senior vs. freshman matchups during this bowl season, this Fiesta Bowl will be a can’t-miss matchup.


    Key Stats

    Collin Klein: 180-of-272 for 2,490 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INTs; 194 carries for 890 yards, 22 TDs

    Marcus Mariota: 218-of-312 for 2,511 yards, 30 TDs, 6 INTs; 98 carries for 690 yards, 4 TDs

Discover BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Notre Dame

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    The BCS National Championship game is set to be a historic showdown between Notre Dame and Alabama. These two programs are among the most tradition-rich in college football, and this game will just add one more storyline to these schools' winning pedigrees.

    The key in this game will not be defense or the ground games for these teams; it will be the play of the two quarterbacks.

    A.J. McCarron has been consistent and impressive as a junior for the Crimson Tide, helping lead Alabama to an 11-win season and finishing the year as with a 173.08 quarterback rating, which leads the country.

    Everett Golson battled through a quarterback controversy to finally get the starting nod for Notre Dame, with his persistence and consistent play paying off for the Irish to finish the year undefeated.

    Whichever signal-caller has the most consistent performance will lead their team to a national title.


    Key Stats

    A.J. McCarron: 191-of-286 for 2,669 yards, 26 TDs, 3 INTs

    Everett Golson: 166-of-282 for 2,135 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs; 89 carries for 305 yards, 5 TDs