Expectations were through the roof when Zach Mettenberger arrived in Baton Rouge. Many considered him to be the difference-maker LSU needed to finally balance out the offense. However, once he became the starter, it didn't take long before folks realized that it was the same song and dance.
LSU had no passing game to speak of, Mettenberger was struggling and the offense was one-dimensional. The passing game finished 11th in the SEC, averaging barely 200 yards a game. Expectations diminished, and the fan base was left crying for a more respectable aerial attack. That was before Mettenberger finished four of the final five games by topping 200 passing yards.
So, where does Mettenberger rank among other LSU quarterbacks in the BCS?
It is actually better than what you might think.
Mettenberger finished the 2012 season with 2,609 passing yards. This may have been ranked eighth in the SEC, but it was actually more than Matt Flynn, Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee had in a single season. It was even 166 yards more than what JaMarcus Russell finished with during his first full season as a starter in 2005.
There are only three seasons where an LSU quarterback finished with more passing yards than Mettenberger.
Looking at the numbers helps put things in perspective. Mettenberger truly wasn't that bad last season as far as passing yards are concerned. He had the fourth-best season throwing the ball and was only 216 passing yards behind Matt Mauck, who happened to lead the team to a national title that season.
Can Zach Mettenberger be the best LSU QB of the BCS era?
But what's even more fascinating is that Mettenberger could have had the best season of anybody if he was more consistent. Taking the passing numbers from the last four regular-season games and averaging them out for a 13-game season, Mettenberger would have thrown for 3,477.5 yards.
Not too shabby, and it certainly would have quieted those critics who said he didn't live up to expectations.
The downside is that he only threw 12 touchdowns and had a completion percentage of 58.8 percent. Jefferson, in his first season as a starter in 2009, had better numbers, completing 61.5 percent of his passes and tossing 17 touchdowns.
Of course, Flynn, Rohan Davey and Mauck were able to top those numbers when they started. Shoot, Russell came close his sophomore season (nine), and he had 208 less pass attempts than Mettenberger in 2004.
But the bright side is that Mettenberger did finish the season strong, tossing six of those touchdowns in the final six games. He began to find a groove, and that completion percentage in the final five games averages out to a solid 61.5 percent. That ties Jefferson for a career best, was 1.0 percent higher than Russell's during his junior year and was 5.2 percent higher than Flynn in his senior year.
Were the performances pretty? Of course not. Would you like to see more consistency? Absolutely. But Mettenberger showed flashes that he could become the best LSU quarterback of the BCS era.