The quarterback is the most important part of an offense in football. Winning and losing often falls on the shoulders of the signal-caller, and these are the six guys you would want guiding your team if a win was on the line.
There are proven winners in the ranks, with two-time national champion AJ McCarron making the list, but there are some surprise names who made their way into the fold as well.
This is a look at the quarterbacks who can be trusted when the final minutes matter. Efficiency in the clutch matters, and these six have proven to have it.
Note: All stats confirmed with ESPN.com.
Thanks to a strong defense and steady quarterback play, the Crimson Tide have been the best team in the country for two years in a row.
AJ McCarron has been the starter over the past two seasons and has guided the program to a historic run. He has been one of the most efficient passers over the past few years, finishing last season at No. 1.
The most impressive part of McCarron’s game is not his overall efficiency but his ability to come through in the clutch.
In 2012, he completed 69 percent of his passes when his team was tied. He was also steady in the fourth quarter, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and throwing five touchdowns.
He finished the year with a 175.3 quarterback rating.
Louisville blasted Florida last fall in the Sugar Bowl, as Teddy Bridgewater helped guide the team to its success. He was a methodical passer who helped launch the Cardinals into the national spotlight with a Big East title.
While he finished the season as one of the country’s premier passers, his skills are still overlooked.
The Cardinals may not play the toughest schedule in college football, but what Bridgewater was able to do was still impressive, including the way he shredded the talented Florida secondary.
Last season, Bridgewater completed 75 percent of his passes when losing by eight to 14 points. When losing by seven or fewer points, he tossed eight touchdowns and only one interception.
When the team needs production, Bridgewater provides it. He is a perfect fit for a team needing a late spark.
Aaron Murray has led Georgia with confidence over the past three years. Last season, he came within three yards of a national title berth but fell short.
The Bulldogs rely on Murray’s ability in the clutch to keep the offense ticking and scoring points.
Last year, he played some of his best football when the game was tied, completing 70.4 percent of his passes. When losing by seven or fewer points, he completed 67.1 percent of his passes and tossed six touchdowns.
Murray was also efficient in the second half, tossing 20 touchdowns and only one interception.
Every coach appreciates a second-half quarterback, and Murray fits that mold.
Rakeem Cato may not be a name that is well-known, but he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country when the game is tight.
In the second half last season, Cato completed 63.8 percent of his passes and tossed 17 touchdowns.
He also played his best football when his team trailed by 14 or fewer points. When his team was squeezed between a two-score deficit, he completed 74.1 percent of his passes, tossed four touchdowns and had only one interception.
The Thundering Herd are looking for the rising junior to have his best season yet this fall. He is a solid quarterback who is underrated for his skill set.
Derek Carr is a Fresno State legacy, and his stat line shows why.
As far as clutch performers go, Carr is one of the best who will take the field in 2013. Carr played his best football in the fourth quarter last season, completing 70.1 percent of his passes and tossing five touchdowns.
Carr will be one of the best signal-callers in the country in 2013, and he should help the Bulldogs win a lot of games no one expects.
The Clemson Tigers have been on a steady climb over the past few seasons with Tajh Boyd guiding the offense.
Chad Morris was brought in three years ago to revamp the unit, and Boyd has grown exponentially under his guidance.
What matters most is how Boyd performs in the tight situations. During the fourth quarter last year, he completed 67.7 percent of his passes and tossed six touchdowns.
Clemson will be one of the best in the ACC this fall, and Boyd is the reason the offense should explode in 2013.