Best Freshman Quarterback: Tate Forcier or Matt Barkley?

Kevin LindseyAnalyst ISeptember 13, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 12:  Quarterback Tate Forcier #5 of Michigan runs for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images)

College football fans were given a special treat on Saturday as two freshmen quarterbacks emerged to the center stage. 

Both lead their respective teams to thrilling come from behind victories on their final possession and within the closing seconds of the game. 

One quarterback likely saved his coach’s job and made the alumni forget about last year’s dreadful season and the controversy in the offseason. 

The other quarterback ensured that his team’s quest for a national championship stayed on track and made the alumni wonder what the commotion was about in starting a true freshman.

While we knew that we would be arguing about Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford this year.  How many of us figured we would be arguing whether Michigan’s Tate Forcier was the new “next” quarterback or whether it was still USC’s Matt Barkley? 

Tate Forcier played a fantastic game leading Michigan over Notre Dame.  Forcier’s numbers were good. He completed 23 passes on 33 attempts for 240 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns.  Forcier was also effective on the ground as he had 71 yards on 13 rushes and a touchdown.  Forcier was better than his numbers.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Forcier faced a 4th and 3 at the Notre Dame 31.  Forcier seeing Notre Dame commit to the blitz without having a safety side stepped the linebacker and scored a 31-yard touchdown. Notre Dame however would not go quietly as the Irish scored on their next possession.

Forcier on Michigan’s next possession however made a stupid mistake that freshmen are prone to do by throwing an interception into coverage.  Notre Dame capitalized and scored a touchdown to take the lead.   The teams then each failed to do anything with their next possession.

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Michigan got the ball back with 2:13 left in the game with the ball on the Michigan 42.  On the final drive, Forcier made two plays that stand out.  On the Notre Dame 23, Forcier avoided several tacklers long enough to find LaTerryal Savoy on an 18-yard pass.  Unlike his earlier interception, Forcier scanned the field and had his feet firmly planted before throwing.  

On the next play, Forcier take a step toward the line suggesting a quarterback draw.  The Irish linemen were looking for the draw and began to close on Forcier.

Forcier appeared to have made a mistake but quickly took a side step to avoid the sack and rifled a throw to Savoy.  Savoy apparently amazed that Forcier avoided the sack promptly dropped the pass.

No problem, Forcier again bought time with his feet before finding Greg Mathews in the corner of the end zone with 11 seconds on the clock.  Strike up the band, Michigan appears to be back on track.

Matt Barkley did not post outstanding numbers.  Barkley made only 15 completions on 31 attempts for 195 passing yards.  He had no passing touchdowns.  Barkley, like Forcier, threw a pass into coverage for an interception that was clearly a mistake the moment it left his hand.

Also like Forcier, Barkley shined very brightly in the Fourth Quarter with the game on the line.  With 7:29 in the game and deep in their own territory, Barkley and the Trojans went to the work.  On 3rd down and 8 at the USC 16 yard line, Barkley found Joe McKnight on a 21 yard pass.

On the next play, Barkley completed a 26 yard pass to Anthony McCoy to the Ohio State 37 yard line.   Ohio State’s defense stiffened and the Trojans were faced with a 3rd and 9.  Barkley didn’t panic and found Damian Williams for an 8 yard gain.  Barkley then picked up the first down behind the Trojan line on a quarterback sneak.

The Trojan line then went back to work providing blocking for the running game.  A couple plays later, Stafon Johnson plunged into the end zone from the 2-yard line. 

Barkley then capped off the drive making a nice touch pass to Joe McKnight for a two-point conversion. In less than a minute, Barkley calmly led his team to victory with the  game on the line in one of college football's most hostile environment.

The freshman had been pummeled early in the fourth quarter and the back up quarterback had begun to warm up as it briefly appeared that Barkley was headed for the locker room. Barkley however was not interested in seeing his understudy steal his thunder of last minute heroics.

Here comes the White Horse, the Trojans and Pete Carroll are still in the hunt for National Championship.

Let the debate begin. 

Forcier’s numbers were solid and he made numerous big plays throughout the day. His calm and poised demeanor suggests that we might be seeing the emergence of something special.

Barkley had to deal with the hostile crowd in Columbus and the stifling defense of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Barkley could have folded but he played well beyond his years by not panicking despite having terrible field position for the entire second half and bruises on his body courtesy of the Buckeye defense.

Forcier or Barkley? Barkley or Forcier? 

Of course, we will have several more games to enjoy this season to build the case for...