There is nothing that draws more attention to a football game than two marquee quarterbacks going head-to-head.
Every play has to go through the quarterback’s hands, and how he handles the flow and tempo of a game often creates a ripple effect felt by the entire team.
With several of the NCAA’s talented quarterbacks making the leap to the NFL, the names that college football fans have come to depend on will be replaced by budding stars who may or may not be ready to take over the Saturday spotlight.
Out are names like Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Jimmy Clausen—players that people across the entire nation flocked to follow the past few seasons, whether with good wishes or ill will.
In are a variety of quarterbacks that managed to create a steady buzz around their talents, like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, Kellen Moore, and Landry Jones. Each hopes to gain extra momentum heading towards their own NFL Draft day.
Depending on which side of the country you live on or which conference you follow religiously, you probably already have a top quarterback matchup circled on your calendar.
Almost every conference has at least one. Even though the opening kickoff for the 2010 NCAA football season is still several months away, diehard football fans are eager to start counting down the days until we get to see these gun-slinging stars collide.
Here is my list of the top 10 quarterback matchups for the 2010 college football season.
In a game with two teams that most of America could care less about, and quarterbacks that most have probably never heard of, it might be hard to get the nation excited for this matchup between the Aztecs and the Horned Frogs.
This shouldn’t take away the fact that Andy Dalton ranked ninth in the nation with a 151.8 quarterback rating, or that Ryan Lindley surpassed the 3,000 yard-mark (22nd most yards of all NCAA FBS passers).
Dalton’s numbers have steadily increased during his years with the Horned Frogs. He will be looking to put a cherry on top of a rather impressive Mountain West career this season.
While TCU has absolutely owned San Diego State the past five years (5-0), Lindley’s consistent numbers over his first two seasons could finally help the Aztecs breakthrough with a victory.
But if history has taught us anything, it could be fairly one-sided.
There aren’t that many out-of-conference games between BCS teams that will grab more attention for their quarterbacks than this matchup.
The Buckeyes will once again lean heavily on Terrelle Pryor in 2010. This early-season matchup with a surprising Hurricanes squad could be an unexpected test.
Depending on which Pryor shows up, Ohio State could be in a world of hurt if they take this opponent too lightly.
Trying to lead Miami to another successful season is junior quarterback Jacory Harris.
Harris exploded in 2009, passing for over 3,350 yards and an impressive 24 touchdowns. This sudden success was unexpected by many, and Hurricane diehards are hoping that it transfers over to his junior season.
If Harris can lead Miami in knocking off a huge BCS opponent on the road this early in the season, it could do wonders for their confidence entering conference play.
There is definitely some animosity brewing between these two schools and don’t take Pete Carroll’s departure as a sign that things may simmer down any
Jim Harbaugh ignited a fire that many USC fans will not quickly forget. Things could get even more interesting this season with a loudmouth counterpart waiting anxiously on the other sideline in Lane Kiffin.
Both teams are going to rely on rapid growth from their sophomore quarterbacks in order to have any chance at success this season.
It was no secret that as a true freshman, Matt Barkley experienced some extreme growing pains.
Barkley led the Pac-10 with 14 interceptions and often looked frazzled under pressure. All was not bad for the young prodigy though. He still ended the year throwing 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Being redshirted appears to have greatly helped Andrew Luck during his freshman season. He ranked 23rd in the nation with a 143.5 quarterback rating.
He showed excellent pocket presence in Harbaugh’s pro-style offense, methodically throwing for 2,575 yards, 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He even scrambled for 354 yards.
If both Luck and Barkley continue to mature at their current rapid pace, this rivalry, and these teams, could take over the conference before their tenures are through.
While Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor were the top two ACC quarterbacks in QB rating, their teams were heading in opposite directions in the standings.
Wilson’s 31 touchdowns led the ACC, and he improved in almost every category in his second season with the Wolfpack. He threw 300-plus yards in three games in 2009 yet failed to lead his team to consecutive conference wins.
Alternatively, Taylor greatly benefited from his agile legs and an offensive system that plays to this strength. He threw just five interceptions in 243 pass attempts, which is minuscule compared to Wilson’s 378 attempts.
The Hokies exploit holes in weak defenses by using the speed and accuracy of their quarterback.
While the passing stats gives this game the feeling of a one-sided, aerial barn burner, there can be much more to a successful quarterback than just a rocket-launching arm.
Kellen Moore led the Boise State Broncos to another BCS bowl in 2009-10. He finished the season ranked second in touchdowns (39), interceptions (3), and quarterback ratings (161.7) among all quarterbacks in the nation.
Unfortunately, Moore won’t go head-to-head against many big name quarterbacks considering his conference of choice, but a matchup with Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick has the potential to produce some fireworks.
In his three starts against Boise State, Kaepernick has thrown for 625 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 278 yards.
Although he has yet to beat the Broncos, his last shot to take down this conference powerhouse will come in front of the UNR Faithful. Many hope that this will be enough to push the senior quarterback towards victory.
Last season, Case Keenum led the nation in touchdowns (44) and passing yards (5,671) and was second to Colt McCoy in passing percentage (70.3).
Despite this success, and with little left to prove in the underrated Conference USA, Keenum decided to stay another season to add as much as possible to his NFL draft stock.
Keenum’s last game was a horrendous performance against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl and this could have been the reason for his return.
While Keenum already has one foot out the door, Kyle Padron is just starting to make his name known in the often overlooked C-USA.
After taking over for Bo Levi Mitchell halfway through the season due to a dislocated shoulder, Padron didn’t take too long to impress.
In seven games, he passed for 1,922 yards and 10 touchdowns, throwing at least one touchdown in all but one game.
Padron’s quarterback rating ranked in the top 10 nationally. Unlike Keenum, Padron had an amazing Hawaii Bowl performance, collecting 460 yards and two touchdowns.
If he can beat out Mitchell for the starting role in SMU’s spring practices, this quarterback matchup could end up determining the victor of C-USA’s West Division.
Landry Jones unexpectedly slipped into the starting role in 2009, and his varied success was much more than many truly expected. This season, he will no longer enjoy the luxury of ambiguity, and the burden of raised expectations may weight heavy on this growing sophomore.
Jones ranked third in the Big 12 in touchdown passes (26) but also finished first in the conference in interceptions (14). He definitely showed the ability to shine in certain games but also made it clear that he was still a freshman.
With one year under his belt, he has nowhere else to go but up.
Aggies senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in touchdowns (30). He threw three or more TDs in five games last season and was quite careful with the ball, tossing only eight interceptions.
Despite Johnson’s efforts on offense, Texas A&M couldn’t stop anyone on the other side of the ball, causing their offense to play from behind way too often.
While it can be hard to count out a gun-slinging quarterback in a shootout, Johnson has had troubles against the Sooners, connecting on only two touchdowns in two starts.
Jones definitely has the upper hand in winning this game, but don’t be surprised if Johnson lights up the scoreboard for the Aggies.
Ryan Mallett lost only four games in his first year in the SEC. All but one of them came on the road.
He threw for 2,557 yards, 25 touchdowns, and five interceptions in Fayetteville and in the one game he did lose at home, he notched five touchdowns and 408 yards in an exciting tug-o-war with Georgia.
Mallett's offensive success on his home turf doesn’t bode well for the defending national champions come late September.
Luckily for Alabama, they have a quarterback that has never lost a game...ever. In Greg McElroy’s first full season as the starting quarterback, he started off better than anyone could hope. He will look to continue his amazing undefeated streak into his senior season.
While his numbers are not exactly spectacular, he knows exactly how to run Nick Saban’s offense and can apparently beat any team on any given field.
This game won’t necessarily be a barn burner, but expect the winner to come down to which quarterback steps up the tempo in this early conference matchup.
Despite being considered a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Jake Locker made the decision to come back for his senior year at Washington (even though the Huskies only went a “respectable” 5-7).
Locker experienced exponential success under Steve Sarkisian’s offense, throwing for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns (both career highs). He hopes the potential he saw in his teammates actually pays off...with what, I’m not quite sure.
But watch out for Arizona because they have great potential under center as well.
Nic Foles was held without a touchdown pass in only two games in 2009, throwing the third most touchdowns amongst Pac-10 quarterbacks. His completion percentage was also off the charts, ranking 22nd in the nation at 63.6 percent.
In the last meeting between these two teams, Foles threw the ball 53 times, completing 73.6-percent in a heartbreaking 36-33 loss.
While he will definitely be looking to avenge this close loss, Locker might be looking to change his mind in regards to his pre-draft decision by the time this game comes around (see Sam Bradford).
With three of the top five SEC quarterbacks making the jump to the pros, Stephen Garcia is in great position to take over as the top quarterback in the conference.
The only player standing in his way is last season’s SEC top passer, Ryan Mallet.
Mallet created ripples after making the move from Michigan to Arkansas, and he didn’t waste any time getting his name known in almost every house in the South.
He finished the season with 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns, giving Razorbacks fans everywhere hope that their team is finally back on track.
Garcia has instilled Gamecock fans with similar feelings, throwing 2,862 yards in his sophomore season. He also nearly tripled his touchdown total (17) from 2008 (6) and will need to keep improving on that number to make South Carolina relevant again.
This game between the best two arms in the SEC should grab the attention of college fans across the entire nation.