College Football 2011: The Top 25 Returning Quarterback/Running Back Tandems

JA AllenSenior Writer IFebruary 4, 2011

College Football 2011: The Top 25 Returning Quarterback/Running Back Tandems

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    With the 2011 season seven months away, it is not too early to begin speculating about the relative strengths of favored teams as the first signing date for college football prospects has passed.

    Now begins the season of the inevitable shuffle as players shift, some changing their minds and some relocating for a variety of reasons.

    As pundits begin to assess the top college football teams of 2011, they focus first on the offensive leaders––the quarterbacks and the running backs who will be returning to lead their teams.

    The top teams will have players armed with experience offering a greater understanding of their respective offensive roles in 2011.

    The ranking considers the skill of both players at the college level, measuring the depth of familiarity of the players with the offensive system in play. 

    Each player in the tandem may not be equally adept at his position. Some teams may be lacking or building at quarterback or running back so are not included.

    For example, while Nebraska has an established quarterback in Taylor Martinez, the Huskers have a desperate need at running back. They will be scrambling early to find someone to fill that role as quickly as possible. Kansas State on the other hand, has too many quarterbacks. Wisconsin has considerable depth at running back, but no tested quarterback in place.

    There are many seasoned running backs hoping to settle in behind a good quarterback and vice-versa.

    Here are the top 25 combined. 

25. Chris Relf Quarterback + Vick Ballard Running Back: Mississippi State

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    25. Mississippi State - Vick Ballard RB + Chris Relf QB

    Mississippi State ended 2010 with a 9-4 winning record. It was a good year for the maroon and white and their fans.

    What capped the season was the Bulldog's impressive victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the Gator Bowl on January 1. Mississippi State won 52-14.

    While the Bulldogs were slightly favored over the Michigan squad, the margin of victory not only shocked the college football nation, it may have cost Rich Rodriquez his job.

    Returning in 2011, the Bulldogs will be led by quarterback Chris Relf coming back for his senior season.

    Mississippi State operates out of a spread offense and Relf runs the system expertly.

    In 2010 Relf threw for 1,789 yards, scoring 13 touchdowns. He also ran for another 713 yards, scoring another 5 touchdowns on the ground.

    Starting with Relf in the backfield will be senior running back Vick Ballard who ran for 968 yards on 186 carries, scoring 19 touchdowns in 2010. 

    Mississippi State is another one of the talented teams in the SEC. 

24. Brandon Weeden Quarterback + Joseph Randall Running Back: Oklahoma State

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    24. Oklahoma State - Joseph Randall RB + Brandon Weeden QB

    The Cowboys had a superlative year in 2010 led by their 27-year old quarterback Brandon Weeden who will return for his senior year in 2011.

    Last season he threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns. His QB rating is 154.10 while his completion rate climbed to 66.9 percent in 2010.

    Weeden's senior season promises to be even better with the announced return of star receiver Justin Blackmon in 2011.

    With the departure of running back Kendall Hunter, sophomore running back Joseph Randall should step right into his shoes.

    Last season, Randall as a freshman carried 82 times for 452 scoring 2 touchdowns. Running back Jeremy Smith should also contribute to the Cowboys' yardage gained on the ground. 

    Oklahoma State hopes to duplicate their success in 2010. 

    Perhaps the Cowboys can go one better in 2011 to end up on top of the newly realigned Big 12.

23. Geno Smith Quarterback + Ryan Clarke Running Back: West Virginia

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    23. West Virginia - Ryan Clarke RB +Geno Smith QB

    The West Virginia Mountaineers finished first in the Big East standings behind the strength of their sophomore quarterback Geno Smith. 

    The Mountaineers ended the year at 9-4 after a disappointing loss in the Champs Sports Bowl to North Carolina State on December 28. 

    The loss tainted the effect of the winning season.

    Quarterback Smith, moreover, was scheduled to undergo foot surgery and will miss spring practice.

    During 2010, Smith led the way completing 241 passes for 2,763 yards with a completion rate of 64.8 percent. In all he threw for 24 touchdowns in 2010. 

    Smith's QB rating stands at 144.70.

    With senior running back Noel Devine gone, junior running back Ryan Clarke will start in his place. Clarke managed 291 yards on 80 attempts scoring 8 touchdowns.

    West Virginia is hoping for the full recovery of Smith followed by their return to the top of the Big East.

22. Jordan Jefferson Quarterback + Michael Ford Running Back: LSU

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    22. LSU - Michael Ford RB + Jordan Jefferson QB

    The LSU Tigers coached by Les Miles are looking for a break out year in 2011. 

    With 16 starters returning to the lineup, LSU has hopes of contending for not only the conference title but for the national title.

    They will be led by vastly improved senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson whose QB rating is 114.65.

    During his junior season, Jefferson threw for 1,411 yards scoring 7 touchdowns. His completion rate finished at 56.5 percent. 

    Jefferson also ran the ball for another 450 yards, scoring 7 more rushing touchdowns.

    The LSU quarterback was to be aided in the backfield with running back Stevan Ridley. But Ridley declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, so will pass the torch to one of the younger running backs.

    Michael Ford as a freshman carried the ball 45 times gaining 268 yards and scoring 3 touchdowns on the season. The sophomore will help anchor a strong running game including sophomores Russell Shepard and Spencer Ware.

    LSU is another team in the SEC looking for their turn at the brass ring––the BCS title game.

    How far they will get is yet to be seen but the SEC seems locked and loaded again in 2011.

21. Nick Foles Quarterback + Keola Antolin Running Back: Arizona

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    21. Arizona - Keola Antolin RB +Nick Foles QB

    Arizona won their first four games of the season, then lost their last six.

    They could not seem to find the proper balance between offense and defense when the going got tough at the end of the season.

    Quarterback Nick Foles was consistent for most of 2010. He threw for 3,191 yards on 426 attempts, scoring 20 touchdowns. His QB rating stood at 140.86.

    Stand out senior running back Nic Grigsby is gone but waiting in line behind him is running back Keola Antolin who ran for 668 yards scoring 7 touchdowns.

    As members of the new PAC 12 South, Arizona will have to compete against new members Colorado and Utah for the divisional championship along with Arizona State, USC and UCLA.

    It could be a better year ahead for Foles and the Arizona Wildcats.

20. E.J. Manuel Quarterback + Chris Thompson Running Back: Florida State

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    20. Florida State - Chris Thompson RB +EJ Manuel QB

    With an eye on their recruiting successes, Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles will be looking to the quarterback who stood behind Christian Ponder all of 2010. 

    Junior E.J. Manuel will assume the duties of quarterback now that Ponder has moved on. 

    Last year in relief efforts Manuel threw for 861 yards, scoring 4 touchdowns.

    QB Manuel had an excellent 69.9 percent completion rate and a QB rating of 153.25.

    He will be joined in the backfield by running back Chris Thompson who carried for 133 tries advancing 846 yards, scoring 6 touchdowns on the season.

    Running back Ty Jones may also help carry the load in the backfield. 

    They will hopefully generate enough offense to keep the Seminoles on top in the ACC. 

    It promises to be another big year for Florida State as they work on developing their recruits into top-ranked college football players, taking Florida State back to their glory years.

19. Aaron Murray Quarterback + Washaun Ealey Running Back: Georgia

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    19. Georgia - Washaun Ealey RB + Aaron Murray QB

    The Georgia Bulldogs had a lousy start to their 2010 season. 

    But the development of their freshman quarterback Aaron Murray allowed them to hold on for a chance at a winning season as they ended at 6-6.

    Their lost to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl dipped them back under 500.

    Still there is a great deal of optimism for the 2011 season. Murray threw for 3049 yards scoring 24 touchdowns during 2010.

    His completion rate stood at 61.1 percent and his QB rating climbed to 154.48.

    Running back Washaun Ealey earned his spot in the backfield with Murray. 

    Ealey carried the ball 157 times for 811 yards, scoring 11 touchdowns. 

    Both players could be aided in their task by senior running back Caleb King. 

    Always a tough row to hoe, coming out on top in the SEC makes life a bit difficult for conference schools vying for a piece of the ratings pie.

    Clearly Georgia wants to capitalize in 2011.

18. Denard Robinson Quarterback + Vincent Smith Running Back: Michigan

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    18. Michigan - Vincent Smith RB + Denard Robinson QB

    When you have a weapon as lethal as Denard Robinson leading the attack, there is no way that Michigan should not be winning football games––except, of course, if they do not field a defense to stop the other team. 

    But––that is what happened in 2010. 

    With Brady Hoke coming over from San Diego State to remedy that deficiency, expect the Wolverines to climb back to the top very soon. 

    Robinson is an amazing quarterback who passes, runs and confounds opposing defenses. His QB rating after the 2010 season was 149.58.

    In 2010, he passed for 2,570 yards and ran for 1702 yards accounting for 4,272 yards of total offense. He scored 18 touchdowns through the air and 14 on the ground. This against some pretty stiff defenses. 

    Expect more of the same in 2011. Joining him in the backfield in 2011 expect to see running back Vincent Smith come into his own.

    Last year Smith carried the ball 136 times for 601 yards, scoring 5 touchdowns. 

    Also watch for Fitzgerald Toussaint to make a move in 2011, earning more time and more carries, although it is very hard to interrupt Robinson’s grip on the ball.

17. Tommy Rees Quarterback + Cierre Wood Running Back: Notre Dame

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    17. Notre Dame - Cierre Wood RB + Tommy Rees QB

    Notre Dame had a winning season including winning their bowl game in 2010. 

    Things are looking up for the Irish as they head into the 2011 season under the watchful eye of head coach Brian Kelly. 

    Notre Dame may field veteran Dayne Crist at quarterback but last year’s freshman Tommy Rees appears to have the inside track at starting QB.

    Once inserted into the Irish spread offense, Rees managed to win three straight games plus a bowl game against Miami to stiffen the Irish rudder, avoiding another shipwreck of a failing season. 

    This after Crist went down with another knee injury.

    In 2010 Rees completed 100 passes for 1106 yards and 12 touchdowns. His QB rating stands at 132.02.

    Rees will be joined in the backfield by junior Cierre Wood who carried the ball 119 times for 603 yards, scoring three touchdowns.

    Together the two Notre Dame returners are poised to take the Irish to even greater heights.

16. Dan Persa Quarterback + Mike Trumpy Running Back: Northwestern

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    16. Northwestern - Mike Trumpy RB + Dan Persa QB

    Any team that has Pat Fitzgerald as its coach and Dan Persa as its quarterback has a very good chance of producing first-rate heart-stopping football for three hours on a Saturday afternoon.

    After Persa went out of the Northwestern backfield during the Wildcat’s upset of Iowa in Chicago, they did not win another game.

    The Wildcats were competitive in their bowl loss to Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl but just as in other years, Northwestern could not quite capture a win. 

    QB Persa will be back after compiling 2581 yards through the air plus another 519 yards on the ground. In all he scored 24 touchdowns during the 2010 season––even missing the final three games. 

    His QB rating remains at 159.04 after 2010.

    Joining him in the backfield will be sophomore running back Mike Trumpy who carried the ball 116 yards for 530 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. 

    Trumpy will be assisted by Persa himself and another sophomore running back Adonis Smith. 

    One thing you can count on––the Cats are always ready for action on game day.

15. Ryan Tannehill Quarterback + Cyrus Gray Running Back: Texas A & M

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    15. Texas A & M: Cyrus Gray RB + Ryan Tannehill QB

    Texas A & M lost big time in the Cotton Bowl to LSU. It was not their proudest moment but a good place to begin working on the 2011 season. 

    When Jerrod Johnson, the Aggies starting quarterback, continued to struggle after off-season shoulder surgery, Tannehill was given his chance at the quarterback position.

    Once inserted into the lineup, Texas A & M began to win again. In fact they won their last six games with their only loss coming against LSU. 

    Tannehill threw for 1638 yards in 234 attempts and 152 completions giving him a completion rate of 65 percent. 

    He scored 13 touchdowns through the air with a QB rating of 136.96.

    Joining him in the backfield in 2011 will be running back Cyrus Gray, who carried the ball 200 times for 1133 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns. 

    The Aggies look to be very strong on offense during the upcoming season with Tannehill and Gray in the backfield once again.

14. Barrett Trotter Quarterback + Michael Dyer Running Back: Auburn

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    14. Auburn - Michael Dyer RB + Barrett Trotter QB

    The national champion Auburn Tigers have lost the soul of their winning team Cam Newton but they return a worthy tandem in Barrett Trotter at quarterback accompanied by esteemed Michael Dyer in the running back position.

    True—Trotter is barely tested and was always in the shadow of Heisman trophy winner and one-man wrecking crew Cam Newton, but he learned from the best.

    Trotter's QB rating is 126.40 as he heads into the 2011 season.

    The Auburn quarterback will hope to shine along side running back Michael Dyer who was second only to Cam Newton in rushing.

    Dyer carried the ball 182 times, rushing for 1093 yards and 5 touchdowns as a freshman. 

    Without Cam Newton, the offense will have to adjust mightily.

    But Dyer and Trotter should continue to work well together as the Tigers attempt to claw their way to the top of the SEC in 2011.

13. Nathan Scheelhaase Quarterback + Jason Ford Running Back: Illinois

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    13. Illinois - Jason Ford RB + Nathan Scheelhaase QB

    Illinois had a great year compared to other more recent years.

    The Illini went to a bowl game and won, defeating Baylor in the Texas Bowl 38-14. 

    Illinois was led by freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in 2010.

    Scheelhaase passed for 1825 yards with 155 completions, scoring 17 touchdowns through the air. His QB rating stands at 131.97.

    He also rushed for another 868 yards adding 5 additional touchdowns on the ground.

    Illinois running back Jason Ford carried the ball 99 times for 480 yards in 2010 scoring seven touchdowns behind leading ground-gainer running back Mikel Leshoure who romped for 1,697 yards––and now is off to the NFL draft. 

    This tandem would have ranked much higher with Leshoure returning for this senior year.

    Even without Leshoure, Illinois looks to continue their winning ways with solid performers at the quarter and running back positions in 2011.

12. AJ McCarron Quarterback + Trent Richardson Running Back: Alabama

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    12. Alabama - Trent Richardson RB + AJ McCarron QB

    Even without quarterback Greg McElroy starting for Alabama in 2011, there should be no major change of pace as AJ McCarron steps in to fill his shoes. 

    McCarron saw some action in 2010 with 30 completions for 389 yards, scoring three touchdowns––ending with a 62.5 completion rate. 

    His quarterback rating climbed to 151.20.

    The running back prowess of the Tide focuses on Trent Richardson who carried 112 times for 700 yards, crossing the goal line 6 times for touchdowns in 2010. 

    Richardson will be aided in the backfield by running back Demetrius Goode and Eddie Lacy.

    This promises to be another big year for Alabama even with the departure of McElroy and Mark Ingram. 

    Under coach Nick Saban the Tide will continue to roll.

11. Garrett Gilbert Quarterback and Cody Johnson Running Back: Texas

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    11. Texas - Cory Johnson RB + Garrett Gilbert QB

    To say Texas suffered a bad year in 2010 is like saying that Carrie Fisher put on a couple of pounds.

    The bottom fell out of the Big 12 South and a big Texas Longhorn got stuck in it. 

    But every team, even Texas deserves a down year—what we call in football parlance as a “rebuilding year.”

    Texas, after plenty of “rebuilding” is ready to crawl out of the basement and back to the top of the newly svelte Big 12. 

    They will do so with the help of quarterback Garrett Gilbert and running back Malcolm Brown. 

    Gilbert managed to complete 260 of his 441 passes in 2010 for a 59 percent completion rate while throwing for 2744 yards and 10 touchdowns. His QB rate ended at 110.99 by the end of the season.

    There were moments of glory as well as 17 interceptions and 18 sacks in a very bad year to be the Texas quarterback.

    He will be joined in the backfield by senior running back Cody Johnson who last year only managed 592 yards and 6 touchdowns. 

    The running game sputtered which explains the Longhorns losing season.

    But with a year of experience to build on, plus the addition of top recruit running back Malcolm Brown, expect the Longhorn duo of Gilbert and Johnson to team up with a few more positives in the win-loss column.

10. Ryan Lindley Quarterback + Ronnie Hillman Running Back: San Diego State

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    10. San Diego State - Ronnie Hillman RB + Ryan Lindley QB

    Mountain West member San Diego State had a real breakout year in 2010 under the careful eye of Brady Hoke, who now leads the Michigan Wolverines as they head into the 2011 season. 

    New Coach Rocky Long will head the Aztecs ably aided by returning quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman.

    Lindley passed for 3830 yards and 28 touchdowns with a completion rate of 57.7 percent.

    The Aztecs quarterback had a QB rating of 149.43.

    The ground game saw the emergence of freshman running back Ronnie Hillman who helped light up the scoreboard carrying 1,532 yards on 262 attempts.

    Hillman found the end zone 17 times during the season. 

    Both young men return this year to give San Diego State a leg up in the Mountain West Conference which lost both TCU and Utah in the shifting conference alignments.

9. Tyler Wilson Quarterback + Knile Davis Running Back: Arkansas

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    9. Arkansas - Tyler Wilson QB + Knile Davis RB    

    True, Arkansas lost their vaunted quarterback Ryan Mallett who declared for the 2011 NFL draft instead of returning to Fayetteville for his senior season.

    This is a blow but Tyler Wilson will step in behind Mallett to team with returning running back Knile Davis to give Arkansas a shot at returning to the top of the SEC West. 

    Wilson led the team during the Auburn game after Mallett went out in the first half and continued to move the ball, completing 15 of his first 17 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns.

    Wilson earned a 155.39 QB rating in 2010.

    Of course, Auburn went on to win as the Arkansas defense collapsed at the end of the game. 

    But Wilson showed he has the right stuff. 

    Wilson will be aided in exemplary fashion by running back Knile Davis who brings experience and success to the ground game. 

    Carrying the ball 204 times during the 2010 season, Davis amassed 1322 yards, scoring 13 running touchdowns. 

    This duo promises to bring more thrilling highlights for Razorback fans.

8. Matt Barkley Quarterback + Marc Tyler Running Back: USC

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    8. USC - Marc Tyler RB + Matt Barkley QB

    The word on the USC football program has not been “good”, as the Trojans continue to struggle with the aftermath of NCAA sanctions.

    With a year remaining on their bowl ban and loss of football scholarships, Coach Lane Kiffin continues to maintain a winning edge leading this legendary program.

    But even with the ban on postseason play withstanding, USC still fields outstanding talent in their corps including returning running back Marc Tyler and quarterback Matt Barkley. 

    As a junior, Tyler ran for 913 yards with 171 carries, scoring nine touchdowns.

    Guiding the offense, Barkley completed 236 passes, compiling 2791 yards and 26 touchdowns. His QB rating stands at 141.18.

    He returns for his junior year in a talent-laden PAC 10 Conference which will be adding Utah and Colorado in 2011. 

    As a member of the South Division, USC will be partnered with UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

7. Kirk Cousins Quarterback + Edwin Baker Running Back: Michigan State

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    7. Michigan State - Edwin Baker RB + Kirk Cousins QB

    The Spartans lopsided loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl on January 1 had to leave a bitter taste for Michigan State after compiling such a brilliant record in 2010. 

    The Spartans should be able to put that behind them as they head into the 2011 season with returning quarterback Kirk Cousins leading the offense along side running back Edwin Baker in the backfield.

    As a junior in 2010, Cousins threw 20 touchdown passes amassing 2825 yards on 226 completions giving him a 66.9 completion rate. His QB rating climbed to 150.68 by the end of the season.

    Meanwhile, Baker rushed for 1201 yards on 207 carries, scoring 13 touchdowns on the ground. 

    As a junior, Baker will focus on improving his numbers in 2011. 

    With the new divisions in the Big Ten, Michigan State will face Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa as a member of the “Legends.” 

    It promises to be a good year once again for the Spartans with Cousins and Baker in the backfield.

6. Terrelle Pryor Quarterback + Dan Herron Running Back: Ohio State

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    6. Ohio State - Dan Herron RB + Terrelle Pryor QB

    Even though the Big Ten had a sub-par Bowl Season, Ohio State managed to hold on to defeat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, ending the Buckeye’s BCS Bowl curse.

    It makes it difficult to imagine what will happen when starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor is benched for the first five games of the 2011 season, after sanctions by the NCAA.

    Pryor will miss games against Akron, Toledo, Miami (FLA), Colorado and Michigan State.

    In 2010, Pryor threw for 2772 yards in 323 attempts with a completion rate of 65 percent. He passed for 27 touchdowns on the season as well as running for 4 more while scampering for 754 yards on the ground.

    His QB rating stands at 157.88.

    Joining him in the backfield is running back Dan Herron who rushed for 1,155 yards in 216 carries. 

    Herron scored 16 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

    Ohio State, even with the suspension, hopes to capture the Big Ten title again, and more.

5. Landry Jones Quarterback + Roy Finch Running Back: Oklahoma

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    5. Oklahoma - Roy Finch RB + Landry Jones QB

    After steamrolling over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl 48-20, Oklahoma still did not advance into the top 5 in post-season rankings. 

    In 2011, the Sooners expect to do much better.

    Bobby Stoops’ Oklahoma team has aspirations of once again being back in the BCS title game.

    Two of the primary reasons are quarterback Landry Jones and running back Roy Finch. 

    Jones is considered by many as one of the top 5 ranked quarterbacks in the country.

    His numbers speak for themselves as he completed 405 passes for 4718 yards, serving up 38 touchdowns in 2010. 

    As a freshman running back in 2010, Roy Finch had an immediate impact on the offense. He will step up now to replace the departing DeMarco Murray.

    Not seeing action on the field until the Iowa State game on October 16, Finch ran for 398 yards, scoring two touchdowns. 

    Oklahoma is preseason top five team in many polls.

4. Stephen Garcia Quarterback + Marcus Lattimore Running Back: South Carolina

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    4. South Carolina - Marcus Lattimore RB + Stephen Garcia QB

    The Gamecocks finished as the No. 1 team in the SEC East with a 9-5 overall record after losing to the Florida State Seminoles in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on December 31.

    Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia of South Carolina put up some impressive numbers including 3059 passing yards, yielding 20 touchdowns.

    Garcia made 224 completions, giving him a completion rate of 64.2 percent. He ended with a QB rating of 148.70.

    In the backfield will be Marcus Lattimore at running back who, as a freshman, ran for 1,197 yards on 249 carries scoring 17 touchdowns on the season.

    As a member of the power-packed SEC, getting ahead of the pack is difficult but these two South Carolina standouts will help pace the Gamecocks into contention for a top spot at the end of 2011––and hopefully, for them, a BCS Bowl.

3. Darron Thomas Quarterback + LaMichael James Running Back: Oregon

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    3. Oregon - LaMichael James RB + Darron Thomas QB

    In their last game of the season, the Ducks fell short of winning a national championship to Auburn, losing 22-19.

    It had to be a major disappointment to the PAC 10 team who went into the game undefeated.

    But they have ambitions to complete the task in 2011 carried by the strong legs of running back LaMichael James and the sturdy arm and leadership of quarterback Darron Thomas. 

    With a 61.5 percent completion rate, quarterback Thomas amassed 2881 passing yards.

    His QB rating climbed to 150.97 during the 2010 season. Thomas scored 30 touchdowns through the air. 

    LaMichael James ran for 1,731 yards on the season, scoring 21 touchdowns.

    James is the No. 1 ranked running back in many 2011 preseason polls.

    It will be fascinating to see how the Ducks spring back after losing the title game by inches.

2. Kellen Moore Quarterback + Doug Martin Running Back: Boise State

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    2. Boise State - Doug Martin RB + Kellen Moore QB

    Ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Boise State’s Kellen Moore returns to lead the Broncos to what they hope will be a national championship-caliber season.

    In 2010, Moore threw for 3845 yards, earning 35 touchdowns––averaging 295.8 passing yards per game. 

    His QB rating comes in at a staggering 182.65.

    The Bronco quarterback will be paired in the backfield with stand out running back Doug Martin who made his mark last year piling up 1260 yards on the ground.

    Martin averaged 96.9 yards a game with 201 carries. 

    The disappointing loss to Nevada in overtime meant Boise State was relegated to a less than spectacular bowl, appearing in the Las Vegas Bowl where they defeated Utah before Santa arrived.

    Martin and Moore, teamed with an admirable football ensemble working with them, hope to punch their way into the BCS top game at the conclusion of the 2011 season.

1. Andrew Luck Quarterback + Stepfan Taylor Running Back: Stanford

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    1. Stanford - Stepfan Taylor RB + Andrew Luck QB

    The alumni and fans of Stanford University breathed a huge sigh of relief when their storied quarterback Andrew Luck decided he would return to play with the Stanford Cardinal in 2011.

    He remains the top-ranked quarterback in many polls and pre-season picks. 

    Luck passed for 3338 yards, garnering 32 touchdowns and also ran for a net 453 yards, adding 3 more touchdowns. 

    His QB rating remains at 170.16 as he enters his senior season.

    Joining Luck in the backfield will be running back Stepfan Taylor who gained 1137 yards last season, averaging 87.5 yards per game in 2010.

    The two should forge another winning combo behind new coach David Shaw who takes over for departing coach Jim Harbaugh,who is heading to the NFL.

    This year the Cardinals will expect to be playing in the BCS Championship game.