This piece is intended to determine which conference features the best quarterback play in the nation. It only takes into account the play of the quarterbacks in each league for the upcoming season.
The SEC likes to think of itself as being College Football’s premier conference. Nobody does it, bigger, louder, crazier, or better than the south-at least in their mind. And while Alabama, the crown jewel of the conference, may have won the College Football Playoff this year, it’s a sorry state of affairs in the quarterback department in the bible belt this year. The best QB in the league is probably Mississippi’s Chad Kelly, nephew of Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly. Ole Miss was a good team this season, but not an elite one. While Kelly was an electric dual threat QB, Ole Miss experienced an up and down season, being the only team to defeat Alabama while simultaneously losing to Memphis, a non Power Five opponent. It’s slim pickings once you get past Kelly. Jacob Eason may very well be the best QB in the conference, but he’s yet to take a single snap for the Georgia Bulldogs and is only a true freshman. Brandon Allen of Arkansas and Jacob Coker of Alabama are gone to the NFL. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson came in with a lot of hype in 2015, but flopped spectacularly and eventually lost his starting job. Joshua Dobbs is a dual threat for Tennessee, but he’s been inconsistent and unreliable. Florida and Auburn field what many expect to be some of the country’s best teams next fall but have glaring holes under center. There’s a lot of talent down south-but not much of it leading the huddle.
4-Big XII Conference
The Big XII is a tough conference to measure because it’s difficult to discern what is quality quarterback play and what is shoddy defense. The Big XII lights up the scoreboard, making for entertaining football, but falls woefully short on the defensive fundamentals of the game. Baker Mayfield headlines the Big XII’s group of signal callers. The undersized gunslinger is an electric player who feasts on defenses with excellent timing and accuracy. Seth Russell of Baylor was on his way to a season that would have rivaled RG3’s Heisman Campaign for the greatest ever by a Baylor Quarterback until he broke bones in his neck, but with Head Coach Art Briles fired and the program in shambles over off field issues, it’s difficult to project the future of Baylor football. Many players are already transferring and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Russell do the same. TCU is faced with the tall task of replacing Trevone Boykin, and Oklahoma State suffers from the classic conundrum of “If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none”, limiting their opportunity at a spot in the College Football Playoff. Tyrone Swoops was supposed to bring Texas back to glory and has done just about everything but that. It’s not even worth addressing Iowa State, Kansas, or Kansas State. Everybody knows their football programs have seen better days.
3-Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC suffers from a lack of depth in this scenario. DeShaun Watson and Brad Kaaya are both probably top 15 picks in next year’s draft. After that, it’s a complete mess. Watson led Clemson to the brink of a National Championship and turned in a season for the ages, while Kaaya’s brilliance was the lone bright spot for a struggling Miami team. Lamar Jackson of Louisville struggled early but improved as the season went on and possesses next level athleticism. Following those three, there’s the serviceable but hardly elite Sean Maguire of Florida State, and all of a sudden you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with unproven first time starters or bad teams like Virginia or Boston College.
2-Pacific 12 Conference
The Pac-12 easily had the best crop of QB’s last year, but suffered from heavy attrition this offseason. Those who need to be replaced: Cal’s Jared Goff, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, Oregon’s Vernon Adams, Utah’s Travis Wilson, and USC’s Cody Kessler. Most of those QB’s were scooped up in the NFL Draft. Luckily for the West Coast, there are still some quality signal callers donning school colors this fall. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is widely considered to be the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, and up north Washington features Jake Browning and Washington State claims Luke Falk. Browning was very productive as a freshman and Falk set records in Wazzu’s Air Raid offense. The Pac-12 seems better equipped to deal with replacing their QB’s than other conferences, as several schools have quality track records of sustained success over multiple field generals.
1-Big 10 Conference
Though the Big 10 loses several quality QB’s such as Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Wisconsin’s Joel Stave, the sheer number of quality quarterbacks gives the Big 10 the number one spot in these rankings. Not all of the Midwest’s rifles are flashy or exciting, but there are more dependable and consistent QB’s in between the Rockies and Appalachia than anywhere else. Tommy Armstrong Jr. similar to that electric young reliever that’s got all the tools but skips one to the backstop more than you’d prefer. Armstrong’s name is fitting-the athletic Cornhusker leader can throw the ball a long way, just not always where he wants it to go. When considering the grand scope of quarterback play, Armstrong still outpaces all but a few contenders. Wes Lunt of Illinois and Mitch Leidner of Minnesota both played for mediocre teams in 2015, but were the engineers of the team’s victories and kept it close with several elite teams. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson wasn’t brilliant but still helped his team to an impressive 10 wins last season. CJ Beathard of Iowa was excellent in 2015, aided by a strong running game, and should only keep improving in 2016 and beyond. A certain fellow named JT up in Columbus, Ohio is the centerpiece of this em-Barrett-ment of riches. JT Barrett narrowly missed winning the 2014 Heisman and lost his starting job to Cardale Jones due to injury last season, but Ohio State eventually realized that the offense functioned more efficiently with Barrett under center and ended the year on the upswing with Barrett leading the charge. There are no questions about who has the keys to the scarlet and grey Ferrari now, and Ohio State looks to be a top 5 team once again in 2016. The sheer number of quality quarterbacks gives the Big 10 the crown in terms of Quarterback talent in the upcoming season.