How often do you see freshman quarterbacks starting, day one, at a major college football program? Not that often. This year fans have been given the opportunity to see two outstanding quarterbacks play as true freshman at USC and Michigan: Matt Barkley and Tate Forcier.
It is very hard to judge who is a better quarterback because of the systems they run. That being said, Tate Forcier has been the better quarterback to date because he is the offense.
That offense doesn't run like it does if he is not at quarterback. His vision, his athletic speed, his accuracy, and his improvisation has led the Michigan turnaround.
Tate Forcier, from Scripps Ranch in San Diego, is only the third true freshman to start at quarterback for Michigan. He enrolled early, in January, and that has helped him progress to the starting role so early in his career.
As a 19-year-old true freshman, Forcier is statistically having an okay year; 1,027 passing yards, nine touchdowns, four interceptions, 57.9 completion percentage, and a 134.98 passing efficiency. He has also ran the ball for 180 yards, and two touchdowns.
I'm not going to write here and tell you I've seen every USC game, but I do make an effort to watch as many of the games as I can. I saw his comeback at Ohio Stadium, a remarkable feat. His game against Notre Dame was great.
The thing I notice when watching USC is that they have depth at all positions, and that assists a young quarterback like Barkley. The pressure is not fully placed on his shoulders. He obviously has the raw talent and ability to play at the level USC plays at, but does that mean that he is the best freshman playing quarterback this year? No.
Depth means a lot in college football; it helps with position competition and injuries. USC has the capability of making those adjustment without the game experience shifting downwards. Michigan is not in that position, so that is why what Forcier is doing is so important, and in the end, showing why he is the better of the two quarterbacks so far this year.
Even though the experience is lacking—young offensive line, young receivers, and an awful defense—Forcier gives you the feeling they are experienced and formidable at times. His play is the only reason Michigan is 5-2.
Without his ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground, Michigan would be right back where it left off last season; losing more games than they're winning. He does what he was born to do, make plays with his feet and his arm.
Michigan's defense is there worst enemy and that doesn't help the offense. They can't get off the field on third downs and that takes the rhythm out of the offense as they sit idle on the sidelines.
Michigan's defense has allowed 16 touchdowns, meaning the Wolverines offense has needed to put a lot of points on the scoreboard, putting more pressure on Forcier. Michigan ranks ninth in the country in scoring offense with 37.29 points per game; USC ranks ninth in total defense and fifth in scoring defense with seven touchdowns allowed.
Barkley has only needed to throw five touchdowns because his defense is so stout. That leads back to experience helping Barkley out, where Forcier has to create points with his ability alone sometimes. Barkley is driving a Ferrari, while Forcier is driving a Chevy Malibu. It's nice, but it doesn't have all the power that the Ferrari has.
Forcier has 11 touchdowns meaning he has gotten 31 percent of Michigan's offensive touchdowns. Barkley has gotten 22 percent of USC offensive touchdowns. Showing that Forcier is excelling at his position and doing more on the offensive side to get the team moving.
The ability to score and score fast is what Forcier and that offense can do. Michigan had only 20 minutes of offense against Michigan State. Forcier and his ability to make plays, got them one play away from possibly stealing the game away from State.
All these numbers are just that, numbers. It does tell you that USC does not need Barkley to make as many plays as Forcier and that's just cause of circumstance. It, does however, give you an idea that Forcier is really, really good, and can hold his own against many of the top quarterbacks in college football.
Forcier has not always played well, but when the game is on the line, he has come through big time. And what is even more significant for this true freshman is that Forcier wants the ball in those situations; he has ice in his veins, ready to pounce when the defense least expects it.
Although he had suspect outings at Michigan State and Iowa, he has shown through six games and one drive during the scrimmage at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, that he has all the tools and intangibles to be the next great quarterback to come out of Michigan.
When Michigan has all the tools around him, he will be even better. What he has shown this year is just a thumbnail of the larger picture.
Please check out what my colleague Mitchell G has to say about Matt Barkley: