Ranking the 10 Best Quarterbacks in College Football
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How do you like your college football QB? Do you like a QB that is rough and rugged, one with a quick release or a guy with a gun for an arm?
Does your leader need to be able to scramble out of the pocket to buy time for his wide receivers to keep the play alive?
How about a player that lines up under center with gaudy offensive numbers or a dual threat speed demon that can eat up chunks of yards with his feet as well as his arm?
Whatever your preference is in a QB, this year’s college football class has the talent to make any fan happy.
The following slideshow breaks down each individual with highlights and lowlights of the 10 best college football QBs in the nation. Here are reasons these 10 are better than all the rest.
10) Tajh Boyd, Clemson University, Sophomore, 6’1”, 230 Pounds
"Super Sophomore" Tajh Boyd is among the best quarterbacks in the nation.
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Clemson was slated to be a .500 team by most college football pundits entering 2011. Once the season began, college football took notice of the upstart Tigers behind the heady play of Tajh Boyd.
And he’s only a sophomore.
Boyd led Clemson to eight straight wins to start the season on the way to a 9-3 regular season record. The Tigers play Virginia Tech Saturday in the ACC Championship Game for the right to represent the ACC in a BCS bowl game.
11 straight games with 200 yards or more passing, 28 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a QB rating of 143.1 for the season.
17th in the nation in passing yards per game with 278.
Boyd leads the ACC in total passing yards with 3,338.
Clemson had quality wins over Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech.
Boyd had a horrible game against South Carolina, going 11-for-29, 83 yards passing, sacked five times, one touchdown and one interception.
The Gamecocks rolled over the Tigers 34-13 to end the regular season for both teams.
Boyd was sacked 27 times during the season.
9) Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, Senior, 5’11”, 201 Pounds
Wilson is an all around top college football quarterback.
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Wilson, a senior transfer from North Carolina State, has made an immediate impact for the Badgers. His noticeably seamless ease into the role of the new starting quarterback for Wisconsin has paid dividends.
Wisconsin is two Hail Mary plays away from being undefeated and playing for a BCS national championship.
Wilson’s numbers may not overwhelm, but his results do. Sporting a 10-2 record entering the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, the Badgers have an opportunity to defend a last second loss to Michigan State.
And this time, the game is on a neutral field. Can Wilson lead Wisconsin back to the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row?
Wilson has two 300-yard passing games on the year and has thrown at least one touchdown in every game this season.
He has also rushed for five touchdowns.
He ranks 46th in the nation with 224 passing yards per game.
Other than Wilson’s ridiculous 192.9 quarterback rating, his most impressive stat may be the three interceptions he’s thrown in 260 pass attempts against a defense-first conference.
Wilson put up more passing yards at North Carolina State during his junior and sophomore campaigns—3,563 in 2010 and 3,027 in 2009.
The trade-off for passing yards has been fewer interceptions thrown, a better team record and the ability to rely on running back Montee Ball.
Ball is second in total rushing yards in college football with 1,622 yards and two games left to play.
Wilson’s statistics will not get him an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, but his leadership and play for Wisconsin has been tremendous.
He leads FBS in quarterback rating, is fifth in completion percentage, and is second in yards per completions with an average of 10.4 yards per.
If more was asked of Wilson, one can only imagine how gaudy his numbers would be.
8) Nick Foles, Arizona, Senior, 6’5”, 240 Pounds
Foles is NFL ready.
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Foles has NFL ability and gaudy passing statistics to prove it, despite having very little overall talent around him. The Wildcats are 4-8 on the season with tough losses at USC and at Oregon State.
Without him, Arizona might be winless.
Foles is second in the nation in total passing yards with 4,334. Because the Wildcats have played their last game of the season, Foles may drop to fifth or sixth by the end of the postseason.
2:1 touchdown to interception ratio (28-14), 10 games with over 300 yards passing (two of which he went over 400 yards) and averaged 32.25 completions per game.
Foles has a completion percentage of 69.1. He is second in college football in total passing attempts and completions with 560 and 387, respectively.
He can play against the “big boys." In 2011, Foles threw for 398 yards against Oklahoma State, 398 against Oregon, 425 against USC and 388 against Washington.
In the last three years, Foles has progressively gotten better. His numbers are amazing, especially considering all opposing defensive coordinators know they have to try and stop Foles somehow but never do.
Foles takes a lot of sacks—23 in 2011 and 23 in 2010. How much of this is his fault and how much is the play of the offensive line can be debated.
Considering the entire offense rests on his ability to throw the ball, all in all he has played really well.
7) Matt Barkley, Southern California, Junior, 6’2”, 220 Pounds
Will Barkley be around for his senior season?
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Matt Barkley is a college quarterback candidate who may leave college early for NFL riches. The shame for USC fans is if Barkley returns for the 2012 season, the Trojans will more than likely be a top 10 preseason team.
The Trojans will also have something to play for in 2012, as 2011 is their last season under NCAA postseason sanctions stemming from Reggie Bush’s NCAA violations.
Even without much motivation or overall team goals to shoot for, Barkley has led the Trojans to a 10-2 season and what would have been a Pac-12 South division title.
Barkley has a 39:7 TD-INT ratio, six games of 300 yards or more passing and has only been sacked eight times.
He has a passing touchdown in every game this season, with two games of six passing touchdowns against Colorado and UCLA.
Barkley puts up great numbers but has games when he underachieves against better competition. Against Arizona State, he finished 21-of-33 for 227 yards passing. Against California, he went 19-of-35 for 195 yards, and 24-of-35 against Notre Dame for 224 yards.
Truth be told, Barkley could use one more year of seasoning in college football.
6) Case Keenum, Houston, Senior, 6’2”, 210 Pounds
Is Case the best?
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Keenum may be a product of the offensive system he is in, but regardless, he delivers.
The Cougars are 12-0 entering Conference USA’s title game against No. 24 Southern Mississippi. If Houston beats Southern Mississippi on Saturday, Houston will play in their first BCS Bowl.
Keenum leads college football in just about every major passing category, including total passing yards (4,726), passing touchdowns (43), completion percentage with a minimum of 300 attempts (73.2) and has only thrown three picks this season (14:1 TD-INT ratio).
His 393.83 passing yards per game leads the FBS, despite having fewer total passing attempts than six of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football.
Put in other terms, he’s more efficient than his counterparts.
Every Houston game during the 2011 season has finished with Keenum throwing for more than 300 yards—in six of those games, Keenum threw for more than 400 yards and once went for 534.
If he throws one touchdown pass against Southern Miss, he will tie his previous single season highs of 44 set in 2009 and 2008.
Keenum threw for more yards in 2009 (5,671) and 2008 (5,020).
Conference USA does not get the respect of the other power conferences. One could debate the level of play between the Big East and Conference USA. College football fans will always wonder how well Keenum would have performed playing against power conference teams every week.
UCLA was the lone BCS program Keenum faced in 2011—his first game back from a season-ending knee injury in 2010 that occurred against UCLA.
He finished the game 30-of-40 for 310 yards passing with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
If Keenum puts up video game passing numbers in Houston’s bowl game, his spot on the top quarterback list will jump dramatically.
He will finally have an opportunity to prove himself against top tier competition.
5) Landry Jones, Oklahoma, Junior, 6’4”, 229 Pounds
Can Landry prove he's better than Weeden on Saturday?
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Will he stay or will he go? Entering the 2011 season, Jones and company were preseason No. 1. The Sooners' 9-2 team record may not have turned out the way he wanted, but few could argue the success that Jones has had under center.
The big question for Jones is, will he stay on campus for one more year or pass up his senior year for NFL riches?
Jones has eight games with 300 or more yards passing, ranks third in FBS in passing yards per game with 368 and averages 28 completions per game.
One can question the toughness of Big 12 defenses and the offensive numbers put up within conference play. Five of the top 20 passing quarterbacks in college football sling it around the Big 12—Seth Doege (Texas Tech), Brandon Weeden (OSU), Jones, Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor).
Are Big 12 quarterbacks that good or is pass defense an afterthought in that conference?
Texas is the only Big 12 team ranked in the Top 25 in total team defense.
In OU’s biggest non-conference game against Florida State, Jones finished 18-27 passing for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
4) Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, Junior, 6’3”, 220 Pounds
Can an argument be made that Wilson is the best QB in the nation?
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Tyler Wilson is a first year starter playing behind an average offensive line. All stats can be skewed, but college football fans have to wonder how much better Wilson’s numbers could be if his offensive line gave him time to throw.
He has been sacked 23 times in 2011. Who knows how many times he’s been knocked to the turf?
Wilson leads the SEC in total passing yards, completion percentage among QBs with 300 or more attempts (63.1) and yards per game (285.17).
His overall numbers place him among college football’s elite, especially considering he has faced three of the four top total defenses in the nation (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina) and six of the top 25 pass defense teams in the nation (Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Mississippi State).
Wilson is 11th in FBS in total passing yards with 3,422 with an opportunity to move back in the top 10 during postseason play.
In Arkansas’ biggest non-conference game of the year, Wilson threw for a school record 510 yards against Texas A&M. Against South Carolina, Wilson threw for 299 yards with two passing touchdowns.
Wilson’s two worst games came against Alabama and LSU, when he finished with 185 and 207 yards passing, respectively.
He threw two touchdowns against Bama and one against LSU. He also threw one pick in both games as well.
3) Geno Smith, West Virginia, Junior, 6’3”, 214 Pounds
Through all kinds of weather Mr. Smith delivers.
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The 8-3 Mountaineers have been riding the electric arm of Smith all season long. Even in WVU’s three losses to LSU, Syracuse and Louisville, Smith has played well.
He finished the game against LSU with 463 yards passing, 338 against Syracuse and 410 against Louisville.
Smith has one more regular season game against South Florida remaining to add to his passing totals before their bowl game.
Because the Big East only has eight conference members and not the 12 mandated for a conference title game, Smith will not get that extra game to pad his 2011 stats.
Smith’s 5:1 TD-INT ratio (25-5) has been tremendous. He’s ninth in FBS in total offense per game with 332.91 yards per game, has seven games of 300 or more passing yards and is fifth in the nation with 340 passing yards per game.
3,741 total passing yards has Smith ranked sixth in the nation.
Smith takes too many sacks (25) and his 65 percent completion rate ranks him 28th best in the nation.
Smith already puts up great numbers. One could argue he should put up even better numbers in a weak Big East conference, but that is splitting hairs.
2) Robert Griffin III, Baylor, 6'2", 220 Pounds
Forget quarterback, is Griffin the best player in college football?
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An advertisement for Baylor football should read, “Baylor football is… Robert Griffin.”
RG3 is the ultimate all-around college football quarterback and arguably one of the best players in college football.
In Baylor’s three losses to Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, RG3 put up 346 passing yards against KSU, 430 against A&M and 425 on OSU.
The big statistic against those three teams is each team held Griffin to his three lowest rushing totals of the season at six, 15, and 27 rushing yards, respectively.
Griffin has thrown for 300 or more yards in eight games this season and over 400 yards in four of those games. His 34:5 TD-INT ratio, 72.6 completion percentage and 334.46 passing yards per game proves he is a complete quarterback.
College football passer rankings put him sixth in passing yards per game (334), second in total offense per game (390) and second in quarterback rating (191.1).
It’s hard to poke too many holes in Griffin’s game, but his 22 sacks on the season is a start.
He had season low totals last weekend against Texas Tech after being knocked out of the game with a concussion.
He still finished the game with a passing touchdown, as he has in every game this year.
1) Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, Senior, 6’4”, 218 Pounds
Simply the best?
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The only knock on Weeden as a college football quarterback is his age—he’s 28. No wait, that will be the knock on him going into the NFL.
As college quarterbacks go, Weeden is great.
Weeden has led the Cowboys to a 10-1 record with a chance for a BCS bowl berth. Even in Oklahoma State’s lone loss to Iowa State, Weeden was great when he threw for 476 yards. His three interceptions against the Cyclones…were not so great.
He has eight games of 300 or more yards passing, three of those games he was over 400 and one of those was over 500.
College football passer rankings put him second in passing yards per game (374) and third in total passing yards (4,111), but he should move into second after this weekend’s game against Oklahoma. He is fifth in touchdown passes thrown with 34 and eighth in quarterback rating (162.2).
Not too many holes to poke here. His 12 interceptions and 11 sacks could be improved upon. He has improved on his completion percentage from 2010, going from 67 to 73 percent.
Weeden was held to 218 passing yards against the Longhorns in Austin, the only defensive-minded team he has faced all season.
Weeden may not be the best all-around quarterback in the Big 12 with Robert Griffin lurking behind him. But should he have a great game against OU, will Heisman voters realize how much better Weeden is than Andrew Luck?
Is Luck good or is he a product of the media hype?
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Ryan Alpine, Arkansas State
11th in total offense in FBS, he averages 262 passing yards per game.
Dan Persa, Northwestern
After returning from an injury, he leads FBS in completion percentage.
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is a media darling but statistically the fifth best QB in the Pac-12.
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Average numbers in a non-BCS power conference, he averages 290 passing yards per game
Zac Dysert, Miami (OH)
Averages an FBS 11th-best 293 passing yards per game.
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State
Averages 303 passing yards per game but his TD-INT ratio is poor (2:1).