The list of the top 25 quarterbacks in college football, though still highly fluid, is beginning to take shape. Conference play ramps up in earnest this weekend, meaning the nation's best arms won't get to pile up gaudy numbers against directional schools and the Blind Sisters of the Poor.
Well, not every week, anyway.
We already know (or think we know) that Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Matt Barkley and Case Keenum will probably end up at or near the top of the rankings by season's end. All told, there are between 15 and 20 guys who have put together strong résumés through three games that, barring season-ending injuries or catastrophic collapses, should land them somewhere on this list from week to week.
As for the other five to 10 spots, those figure to be up for grabs throughout the season, though that leeway for change will surely dwindle as more standout signal callers separate themselves from their collegiate compeers.
In the meantime, let's have a look at who's out, who was on the fringe and, of course, who stuck around in the rankings as we approach Week 4 of the 2011 season.
Five quarterbacks who were in the rankings last week find themselves on the outside looking in this time around. Here's a quick look at the unlucky quintet, along with their previous rankings, who were victimized by their own poor performance, tremendous play from others or both.
16. Chris Relf, Mississippi State: 11-of-17 for 96 yards and one interception in a 19-6 loss to LSU.
19. Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois: 14-of-24 for 164 yards and two touchdowns, along with six rushes for 32 yards, in a 49-7 loss to No. 7 Wisconsin.
20. Marshall Lobbestael, Washington State: 20-of-42 for 368 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 42-24 defeat to San Diego State.
21. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: 25-of-45 for 256 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, with one rushing touchdown, in a 17-14 loss at Illinois.
24. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: 34-of-53 for 329 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 31-13 loss at Notre Dame.
These six guys haven't done quite enough to sneak their way into the Top 25 just yet, but they all deserve kudos for the way they played in Week 3.
Maybe, just maybe, if they keep it up, they'll find their way into the rankings next week and earn a complete sentence or two in honor of their on-field achievements.
Yeah, I know, I'm just a glutton for dishing out flattery.
Tanner Price, Wake Forest: 21-of-32 for 281 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in a 48-5 victory over Gardner-Webb.
Keith Price, Washington: 21-of-37 for 274 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 51-38 loss at Nebraska.
Alex Carder, Western Michigan: 28-of-37 for 355 yards, four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and an interception in 44-14 win over Central Michigan.
Tyler Tettleton, Ohio: 20-of-29 for 285 yards and three touchdowns, along with nine rushes for 53 yards and a score, in a 44-7 shellacking of Marshall.
Mike Glennon, North Carolina State: 17-of-20 for 274 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 win over South Alabama.
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota: 11-of-21 for 163 yards and a touchdown, with 25 rushes for 171 yards, in a 29-23 win against Miami (OH).
No. 20 TCU continued its redemption tour with a rousing 38-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Casey Pachall was all too happy to oblige the Horned Frogs in extending their home winning streak to 21 games. The sophomore was efficient, though hardly eye-popping, going 15-of-23 for 204 yards and a touchdown.
Expect more stat-padding to come when Portland State stops by Fort Worth this weekend.
Last week's ranking: 23rd
Our first newcomer of the week, Bowling Green's Matt Schilz, did plenty in Week 3 to earn his debut in the Top 25 rankings.
The sophomore from Arcadia, Calif. led the Falcons to a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback in a 28-27 victory over Wyoming. Schilz was nothing short of prolific, going 34-of-55 for 437 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
He and his Falcons will open play in the Mid-American Conference this week at Miami (OH).
Last week's ranking: not ranked
James Vandenberg had been on the cusp of the Top 25 from the get-go. The Iowa quarterback finally cracked the rankings this week thanks to his stewardship of the Hawkeyes' thrilling comeback from a 24-3 deficit to defeat Pittsburgh, 31-27.
Vandenberg's stats—31-of-48 for 399 yards, four total touchdowns and an interception—are impressive enough on their own. Of greater import, though, is the way Vandenberg accumulated those numbers, with all four of the touchdowns coming in the final 16:16 of the game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Next up, Vandenberg will get to strut his stuff against oft-pummeled patsy Louisiana-Monroe.
Last week's ranking: not ranked
Oh look! Another newcomer!
This time it's B.J. Daniels, the unsung hero for No. 18 South Florida. Daniels was dynamic for the Bulls in their 70-17 trouncing of Florida A&M, throwing for 382 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-31 passing and rushing for another 20 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
He and his teammates will welcome UTEP to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday before opening Big East conference play against Pittsburgh.
Last week's ranking: not ranked
Western Illinois was helpless to stop James Franklin and Mizzou from releasing their pent-up frustrations, left over from their Week 2 loss to Arizona State, in a 69-0 affair.
Franklin feasted on the Leathernecks defense, hitting on 18 of 25 passes for 246 yards and three scores.
He and Mizzou figure to run into just a wee bit more resistance this week in Norman when they face off against top-ranked Oklahoma.
Last week's ranking: 25th
Tennessee's Tyler Bray didn't fail his test against No. 16 Florida, but he didn't exactly pass with flying colors either.
Like the rest of his Volunteer teammates, Bray found life against the Gators in the Swamp difficult, throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns but with two picks and on 48 passing attempts.
He'll get something of a reprieve when Tennessee returns home to Neyland Stadium to play Buffalo before re-engaging its SEC slate against Georgia.
Last week's ranking: 10th
The Ramblin' Wreck continued its assault on the NCAA's rushing record books with a 66-24 dismantling of Kansas in Week 3.
Quarterback Tevin Washington managed only 32 yards on six carries amidst Georgia Tech's 604-yard rushing performance but once again proved almost stupefyingly efficient through the air. Washington passed just seven times, completing four, yet he came up with 164 yards and two touchdowns.
To this point, Washington has yet to throw an interception and averages nearly 23 yards per passing attempt.
He'll shoot up the rankings if he comes up with another big game against North Carolina this week.
Last week's ranking: 22nd
For Tyler Wilson, the cushy introduction into college football ends now.
Wilson made the most of his last game against a pushover, completing 23 of 36 for 303 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 38-28 win over Troy for No. 14 Arkansas.
The first test of Wilson's collegiate career will be about as difficult as they come—an SEC opener against No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
In a related story, don't be surprised if Wilson finds himself either much, much higher or much, much lower come next week.
Depending, of course, on how he fares this Saturday.
Last week's ranking: 17th
I like Nick Foles' numbers—just not enough to overlook the fact that all his throws can't seem to keep Arizona from losing.
Foles wasn't bad against No. 6 Stanford last week; he completed 24 of his 33 attempts for 239 yards and a touchdown.
However, that wasn't enough to help the Wildcats net more than 10 points in a 37-10 defeat to the Cardinal.
Surely, Arizona's shortcomings aren't entirely—or even mostly—his fault. He'll have a chance to redeem himself, at least, this weekend against No. 10 Oregon.
Last week's ranking: fifth
Colorado may be in the midst of another down year, but don't tell Tyler Hansen that.
The Buffaloes quarterback continues his climb up the rankings this week after throwing for 215 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for another 26 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 win over in-state rival Colorado State.
If Colorado is to have any chance whatsoever of winning at Ohio State this weekend, it'll need Hansen to come up big, as he has so often in the early going this season.
Last week's ranking: 18th
Finally, a good reason to launch Tajh Boyd into the Top 25.
After solid performances against Troy and Wofford, Boyd exploded onto the scene in Clemson's 38-24 win over Auburn. Boyd was brilliant, going 30-of-42 for 386 yards and four touchdowns to help bring Auburn's 17-game winning streak to an end.
Next, his Tigers will welcome No. 11 Florida State to Death Valley, with a spot atop the ACC hierarchy on the line.
Last week's ranking: not ranked
I couldn't find any good reason to move Darron Thomas up or down, so I simply kept him right where he was last week.
Thomas was pleasantly productive, albeit in limited time against a far inferior opponent. He connected on 11 of 15 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns in No. 10 Oregon's 56-7 win over Missouri State.
The Ducks will get back to the business of playing "real" teams when they travel to Tucson to take on Pac-12 foe Arizona.
Last week's ranking: 14th
Like Darron Thomas, Denard Robinson finds himself in the same spot as last week by virtue of a solid performance in short time against a cupcake opponent.
Robinson's aerial numbers—7-of-18 for 95 yards, two touchdowns and an interception—were nothing to write home about, though his 198 yards and one touchdown on the ground were mighty impressive.
San Diego State figures to give Michigan a stiffer test than Eastern Michigan did, especially given the fact that new Wolverines coach Brady Hoke was the head man for the Aztecs just last season.
Last week's ranking: 13th
Consider this my official apology to Seth Doege.
I left the Texas Tech quarterback off my list last week largely because his team didn't play in Week 2.
Apparently, that week of rest served Doege quite well, as he went on to a 40-of-44 performance for 401 yards and five touchdowns in the Red Raiders' 59-13 throttling of New Mexico.
Expect more of the same when Nevada comes to Lubbock this Saturday.
Last week's ranking: not ranked
Perhaps Taylor Martinez's numbers won't always knock your socks off, but this kid just keeps leading No. 9 Nebraska to success on the field.
This time around, Martinez hit on 10 of 21 attempts for 155 yards and two touchdowns, along with 83 yards and a touchdown rushing, in the Cornhuskers' 51-38 win over Washington.
They'll enjoy a bit of a reprieve at Wyoming this week before playing their first-ever Big Ten opener at No. 6 Wisconsin.
Last week's ranking: 15th
Back in the Big 12, Nebraska's old stomping grounds, Ryan Tannehill did against Idaho exactly what Ryan Tannehill tends to do on a football field.
That is, play well under center and be eminently productive.
Tannehill went 26-of-39 for 337 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in No. 8 Texas A&M's 37-7 win over the Vandals.
He should have little trouble matching—if not topping—those numbers when the Aggies welcome No. 7 Oklahoma State to Kyle Field in an ol'-fashioned Southwestern shootout on Saturday.
Last week's ranking: 12th
I really don't want to penalize Landry Jones for his numbers, especially after helping No. 1 Oklahoma pull out a win in Tallahassee against No. 11 Florida State, but I just couldn't help myself.
Statistically speaking, Jones had easily his worst performance of the season, hitting on 18 of 27 passes for 199 yards, two picks and two total touchdowns.
That being said, a big performance against Missouri in Norman this weekend will do wonders to send him closer to the top of the pops in the next edition of these here rankings.
Last week's ranking: sixth
Geno Smith put up a strong performance against Maryland, even if No. 16 West Virginia nearly squandered a 24-point lead in the "Snake Pit."
Smith finished the day 36-of-49 for 388 yards, a touchdown and an interception along with a 3-0 record for his Mountaineers.
Smith and company will really be put to the test this weekend when No. 2 LSU comes to Morgantown.
Last week's ranking: 11th
If Brandon Weeden ever cuts down on his interceptions, he just might end up as the best quarterback in all of college football.
Weather delays be damned, Weeden walloped Tulsa for 369 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 29-of-39 passing in No. 7 Oklahoma State's 59-33 thrashing of the Golden Hurricane.
Weeden won't likely slow down any when he and the Cowboys careen into Kyle Field in a monumental Big 12 clash with No. 8 Texas A&M.
Last week's ranking: seventh
I had a tough time dropping Robert Griffin III after hitting on 20 of his 22 passing attempts for 265 yards and three touchdowns, along with 78 yards on eight carries, in No. 17 Baylor's 48-0 win in Week 3.
My only contention? The opponent—Stephen F. Austin. An important guy, yes, but not exactly the best football school to bear his name.
Nonetheless, Griffin still finds himself among a handful of quarterbacks who may yet be the best in the nation. Rice isn't likely to put up much of a fight against his talents this week, but another strong performance isn't likely to hurt his standing this time around.
Last week's ranking: second
At long last, Russell Wilson finally notched his first 300-yard passing performance for No. 6 Wisconsin.
Wilson victimized Northern Illinois at Soldier Field for 347 yards, three touchdowns and an interception through the air and another 37 yards on the ground.
Look for Wilson's early-season success to continue against lowly South Dakota at Camp Randall Stadium this weekend.
Last week's ranking: eighth
Are you tired of hearing about Case Keenum yet? Well, don't be.
Keenum didn't exactly have his best performance on paper for Houston against Louisiana Tech, going 25-of-40 for 351 yards, three touchdowns and two picks.
Much more importantly, though, Keenum carried the Cougars back from a 27-point deficit late in the third quarter to pull out a thrilling 35-34 victory over the Bulldogs.
For his next act, Keenum will crush Georgia State with the force of 1,000 passing yards.
Funny thing is, he might actually do it.
Last week's ranking: first
It's become clear in the early going that as Matt Barkley goes, so goes No. 23 USC.
Barkley was as brilliant as ever in the Trojans' 38-17 complete domination of Syracuse this past Saturday. He was 26-of-39 for 324 yards and five touchdowns while spreading the ball around to eight different receivers.
A trip to Arizona State could prove trickier than most might expect, though Barkley's steady hand under center should steer 'SC on to victory.
Last week's ranking: ninth
Another game, another efficient performance for Andrew Luck.
Ho-hum, and the sun rises in the morning.
Luck connected on 20 of 31 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns in No. 5 Stanford's 37-10 tackling of Arizona.
I'd throw in Luck's rushing numbers, but...ah heck, he notched 36 yards on three carries.
For their efforts, he and the Cardinal get the week off before welcoming a sorry UCLA squad to Palo Alto for what will surely be a Pac-12 beatdown of Neuheiselian proportions.
Last week's ranking: fourth
One could make the argument that Kellen Moore is the Tom Brady of college football right now, at least as far as his gaudy numbers and winning pedigree are concerned.
Moore marched ever closer to Colt McCoy's NCAA record for career wins by a quarterback in leading No. 4 Boise State to a 40-15 win at Toledo. The senior was downright surgical in his precision: 32-of-42 for 455 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.
Yet for visiting Tulsa, Moore will be the third Heisman Trophy contender to pile up numbers at the expense of the Golden Hurricane, checking in just after Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden.
Last week's ranking: third