Projecting Every Conference's Best QB for the 2022 CFB Season
As is customary in the fall, the spotlight has found the quarterback.
The penultimate edition of B/R's offseason series is focused on the best signal-callers in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The 2022 season has a very strong group of top-level players at the position, too.
The choices are subjective, but the goal is to project the highest-performing QBs based on efficiency and total production.
American: Houston Cougars
Losing star running back Alton McCaskill to a knee injury stings the offense, but Houston still has major upside.
And the Cougs can thank Clayton Tune for that.
Last year, the rocket-armed passer completed 68.3 percent—the 12th-best mark nationally—of his 420 passes for 3,544 yards and 30 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. While he doesn't run often, Tune is a reasonable mobile threat who picked up 154 yards and two scores on the ground in 2021.
Tune built a lethal connection with Nathaniel Dell, who recorded 90 catches for 1,329 yards and 12 scores. They'll be propelling the UH scoring attack in 2022, as well.
ACC: Virginia Cavaliers
This is a very strong year at the position in the ACC.
Malik Cunningham (Louisville), Sam Hartman (Wake Forest), Devin Leary (North Carolina State) and Tyler Van Dyke (Miami) all have legitimate claims. Phil Jurkovec (Boston College) is a good player, too. But the choice—again, based on production and efficiency—is Brennan Armstrong.
Last season, he ranked second nationally with 404.5 passing yards per game. Armstrong closed the year at 4,449 yards, tossing 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Plus, he scampered for 251 yards and nine scores.
Since the Cavaliers return a heavy majority of their receiving corps, Armstrong should be due for another massive year—even as Leary or Van Dyke, for example, will likely enjoy more team success.
Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners
Perhaps the most interesting debate in the FBS, the Big 12 has a variety of options to consider.
Other schools—Texas in particular, with Quinn Ewers or Hudson Card—have greater upside. Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez might've found an ideal match for his skill set at Kansas State, and Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) may finally put it all together in 2022.
Dillon Gabriel is the safe choice, yes. He's easily the most proven, though.
Formerly at UCF, the southpaw reunited with former offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby in Norman. Gabriel brings 8,037 yards and 70 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions in 913 career attempts to the Big 12.
Marvin Mims and Theo Wease, who practically missed all of 2021, should be Gabriel's key targets.
Big Ten: Ohio State Buckeyes
Sure, it helps to have a receiving corps stocked with once-prized prospects. Jaxon Smith-Njigba headlines a very talented group of pass-catchers for the Buckeyes.
The offense's excellence, however, is a credit to C.J. Stroud.
In his first season as a starter at Ohio State, he posted top-five FBS marks in completion percentage (71.9), total yards (4,435), yards per attempt (10.1) and touchdowns (44). Stroud had only six interceptions in 441 throws.
Stroud has a fantastic shot at becoming a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist after his fourth-place finish in 2021.
C-USA: UTSA Roadrunners
Frank Harris is on the verge of rewriting UTSA's record book.
After setting the program's single-season highs in passing yards (3,177) and touchdowns (27) last season, he's set to shatter the career marks in 2022. Most importantly, though, he'll have an opportunity to accomplish that on a successful team.
Wide receivers Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus and De'Corian Clark are all back. They combined for 204 catches, 2,601 yards and 25 scores last season.
Harris also scampered for 566 yards and six touchdowns, making him one of the nation's top dual-threat QBs.
MAC: Miami RedHawks
Miami fell agonizingly short of a shot at a MAC title in 2021. During the regular-season finale—with the East division on the line—the RedHawks lost to Kent State 48-47 in overtime.
Brett Gabbert is aiming to change the story this fall.
The brother of former Missouri standout Blaine Gabbert, Brett had a strong year despite not playing in three games. He closed the 2021 campaign with 2,648 yards and 26 touchdowns to six interceptions.
Although star wideout Jack Sorensen headed to the NFL, Gabbert has a promising go-to target in Mac Hippenhammer. The former Penn State receiver made 48 catches for 786 yards last season.
Mountain West: Fresno State Bulldogs
Similar to Harris at UTSA, Jake Haener will be surrounded by a bunch of familiar faces in 2022.
Fresno State returns Jalen Cropper, Josh Kelly and Zane Pope, along with experienced backups Erik Brooks and Ty Jones. Cropper nabbed 85 passes with 11 touchdowns last season, and Kelly reeled in 52 catches for 778 yards.
All of those weapons helped Haener throw for 4,096 yards and 33 scores. He'd registered 2,021 yards and 14 touchdowns in the six-game 2020 season, too.
After battling Nevada star Carson Strong for this title in those years, Haener opens the season as the clear No. 1 in the Mountain West.
Pac-12: USC Trojans
Considering he enrolled at Oklahoma as a 5-star talent, expectations were already high for Caleb Williams.
But he backed up the billing in 2021, replacing a scuffling Spencer Rattler and carrying Oklahoma to an 11-2 season. Williams threw for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns to four interceptions, and he rushed for 442 yards and six more scores.
Williams has since followed former OU coach Lincoln Riley to USC, which continued stacking talent at receiver via the portal.
Mario Williams also bolted Oklahoma, and the Trojans swiped Pitt star Jordan Addison with Colorado transfer Brenden Rice and Washington departee Terrell Bynum. They've joined Gary Bryant Jr. and Tahj Washington to form a ridiculously deep receiving room.
Williams has no shortage of talent surrounding him for his debut campaign in the Pac-12.
SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide
To pick against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, you'd better have a compelling case.
You won't see that kind of argument here.
As a first-year starter, Bryce Young racked up 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns with a mere seven interceptions in 547 throws. He guided the Crimson Tide to an SEC title and a trip to the national championship game.
Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell will help fill the voids created by first-round NFL draft pick Jameson Williams and second-round pick John Metchie III.
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina's pass-catching corps is undergoing a near-total rebuild. Jaivon Heiligh, Isaiah Likely and Kameron Brown are gone, and running back Braydon Bennett is the lone returner who topped 100 receiving yards in 2021.
That is a serious challenge to overcome. Sure is nice to have Grayson McCall then, right?
The dual-threat QB set an FBS record with 11.9 yards per pass attempt in 2021. Over the last two seasons, he's amassed 5,361 yards and 53 scores to six interceptions and scampered for 859 and 11 touchdowns.
Coastal added Georgia State transfer Sam Pinckney—who's grabbed 110 receptions since 2019—for some much-needed experience.
But there's no doubt this offense revolves around McCall's efficiency, precision and mobility.