College football is among the purest games in all of sports. The emotions and feelings flowing on Saturdays beginning in September, running through fall and into winter are tough for any other sport to rival.
This purity and strong emotional connection are due in large part to the unity that college football teams show on the field.
At the very heart of that unity on the best teams you will find a great quarterback.
In 2009, there were historically top programs that faltered and teams working to be top programs that emerged. With each of these teams, the quarterback position was at the center of the heart-breaking losses and the emotional wins.
In 2010 the story will be the same, and so today we are going to take a look at 10 teams that would be great, if only they had a quarterback.
The past few seasons have been tough to endure in Ann Arbor. Michigan football has pride and history that runs deep, but their recent struggles have had them appear to be a program hitting rock bottom.
Rich Rodriguez is believed to be on the hot seat by many unless he shows signs of improvement in his third season, and at the heart of Michigan's struggles is their lack of a quality quarterback.
With the arrival of Rodriguez, changes began to happen immediately. Among those was the changing over to "his" players. In that shuffle, Michigan lost Ryan Mallett, one of the leading quarterbacks in the nation in 2009 and a Heisman hopeful for 2010, because as a traditional drop-back passer he did not fit Rodriguez's mold for a quarterback.
In 2009, Michigan ranked 81st in the nation in passing, 76th in passing efficiency, and 59th in total offense.
But the stats do not tell the entire story. Michigan was forced to play two young but talented quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, as freshman.
Combined, these two young QBs threw 15 TDs to 14 INTs, and lacked consistency to win ball games.
This offseason Rich Rodriguez spoke about getting Robinson on the field more as a WR or in other spots, while Forcier appears a lock to keep the No. 1 spot.
If the Michigan staff can get their young quarterbacks to play consistently, they have a chance to be a much improved team after going 5-7 overall and 1-7 in conference in 2009.
A few weeks back I published an article looking at the 10 most overrated quarterbacks in college football. Atop that list was Terrelle Pryor (much to the dismay of Ohio State fans everywhere).
Part of the literal definition of a quarterback is one who calls the signals, and one who leads and directs.
That is where Terrelle Pryor is missing in consistency, and where he needs to improve to capitalize on his immense talents.
Yes, he lead them in the Rose Bowl to a victory.
Yes, Ohio State had a good season.
However, for Ohio State to reach their potential of being National Champions, they will need Terrelle Pryor to become a quarterback.
The Buckeyes were 103rd in passing, 60th in passing efficiency, and 49th in total offense in 2009.
The numbers clearly are not elite or championship material. So in 2010 for the Ohio State University to meet expectations and be a serious contender for the BCS National Championship, the need for improvement falls squarely on the quarterback.
Pryor must develop his ability to lead and direct his team, as he has shown flashes of over his first two seasons. If in his junior season he can become a true signal caller, the Buckeyes could be among the best teams in the nation.
In 2009 it was tough being a quarterback at UCLA.
First, it was freshman Kevin Prince taking the field and leading them to a 2-0 start. Games three and four it was senior Kevin Craft back on the field, and then over the next nine games both quarterbacks shared the action.
I will say right now that two quarterback systems are disruptive, and they do not allow a quarterback to get into a rhythm or establish the trust and leadership that is required.
No matter how many teams have had some success using two quarterbacks, it is not a system I will ever approve of.
Injuries have a nasty way of forcing an idea like this into a coach's head when the backup has success, and the coach then feels that they have earned time along with the starter.
In 2009 UCLA finished the season 7-6. They ranked 52nd in passing, 101st in passing efficiency, and 94th in total offense.
The Pac-10 is up in the air with Oregon losing their quarterback for the year, USC turning over to the unproven Lane Kiffin show, and then just a bunch of medium-rare meat the rest of the way in the Pac-10.
So UCLA has the ability to break out if they can get Prince to step up and be the quarterback at UCLA.
He is young, and it seemed every time he had a success he would then have a failure. But youth is not an excuse on the football field (only off it).
In 2009 South Carolina went 7-6, which is becoming about the norm for the Gamecocks.
They have a coach with a proven explosive offense in Steve Spurrier.
They have talent on defense, and at most of the skill positions.
But what they do not have is a quarterback.
Stephen Garcia was touted by many media members to be one of the most improved quarterbacks in the SEC. But in 2009 Garcia ranked 88th out of 115 quarterbacks in overall quarterback rating.
His numbers were bigger than his first season, but he continued to make untimely mistakes.
It has been the same story for Spurrier throughout his time at South Carolina, and the blame does not fall solely on Garcia. Spurrier has not been able to get a quarterback to South Carolina that can run his offense and prove to be a great quarterback.
In 2010 expect much of the same from Garcia and the Gamecocks. Many believe that with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in transition this could be the Gamecocks' year, but not without a quarterback.
In 2009, Auburn showed that they can have one of the most deceptive and exciting offenses in the SEC, and the entire country, under new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Senior quarterback Chris Todd is gone, but Auburn fans are hyped that they signed Cameron Newton from JUCO.
Newton is an ex-Florida Gator who went to JUCO, but now returns to the SEC on the plains.
Newton is expected to be the starting quarterback come this fall, but he has a lot to learn at Auburn.
If Newton can turn out to be the quarterback Auburn needs, they have the ability to be a great team and one of the most underrated in the SEC.
However, until he takes his first snap and proves on the field that he can lead the Auburn attack, the quarterback position has to remain the biggest question mark for the Tigers.
It seems almost every year Clemson is picked to be a contender, but then they falter. 2009 was no exception.
With a freshman quarterback running the show, many media types still picked Clemson to be atop the ACC and an elite team across the nation.
Finishing 9-5 overall and 6-2 in conference is not bad at all.
Now a sophomore, Kyle Parker had a fairly solid 2009, but he had senior RB C.J. Spiller and senior WR Jacoby Ford to rely on. Now, with both those star players gone, a world of pressure is going to be put on Parker.
Clemson has the benefit of playing in the wide open ACC, and they have had great success recruiting skilled players. But the difference between being great or just good in 2010 will fall on quarterback Kyle Parker.
Georgia coach Mark Richt recently told ESPN SEC blogger Chris Low that he likes what he sees at quarterback so far this spring.
The Bulldogs face the task of replacing their starting quarterback for the second year in a row. In 2009 the replacement did not go as well as the Bulldog faithful had planned.
In 2010, instead of a career backup senior, the Dogs are battling three young, inexperienced quarterbacks.
None has any proven statistics on the field, and given the toughness of the SEC, each will learn through trial by fire.
Georgia always recruits well, they have likely the best offensive line and great wide receivers and running backs. However, without a proven quarterback Georgia fans will likely be disappointed with the 2010 season as the Bulldogs fall short of regaining SEC East supremacy.
In 2010, Penn State has to find a way to replace departed senior quarterback Daryll Clark without having a fallout.
Many believe that last year's second string quarterback Kevin Newsome will be the guy, but the position remains an open one for the time being.
Penn State returns great talent and experience in the backfield and out wide, so if they can find a quarterback they could have another great season following their 11-2 run in 2009.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have quickly improved under head coach Bo Pelini.
The defense has his trademark feel to it, and they have had good success building talent at the skill positions.
However, Zac Lee is not a good quarterback. He led the Huskers to the 101st passing ranking out of 115 teams, and his quarterback rating was similarly poor.
The pieces for Nebraska to have a breakout season in 2010 are all in place with the exception of the most important one—they do not have a quarterback.
Down on the Bayou they take their football seriously. The LSU Tigers are the best thing since moonshine, and you hear all about it.
But, in what has started to become a recurring theme under Les Miles, LSU does not have a quarterback.
Jordan Jefferson has been talking the talk leading into his junior season, but up to this point remains overhyped and overrated coming out of high school.
The image above is the most common image you will see of Jefferson. Too often he does not trust his arm, or he waits for a play to develop and just takes off running. SEC defenses know this, and so the more he struggles with making throws the more the Tigers are susceptible to being shut down.
LSU has as much talent as anyone in their conference, and many blame their recent failures on Les Miles, but the real culprit has been the quarterback position.
You can win championships with a game manager, and even a below-average talent quarterback that has confidence in his role. However, you cannot win championships with a quarterback who has failed to find his identity such as Jefferson.