As Spring Break season winds down, the season transitions from beaches and sunshine to the next best thing: Spring Ball season for College Football.  That’s right, only 4 months and change until College Football returns in earnest.  To celebrate this momentous time in the college football (off)season, let’s take a look through the divisions of the Power 5 conferences (Big 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC, Pac 12) to see where the best quarterbacks in the country reside, based off the projected starter at this moment in time.  We’ll also take a look at the signal caller most likely to win the Heisman this year from each division, as well as a dark horse option if favorites are too mainstream.  Without further ado, we start with the nation’s top collection of QB1’s…

1. Big 12

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph

Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield

West Virginia: Will Grier

Kansas State: Jesse Ertz

TCU: Kenny Hill

Baylor: Anu Solomon

Texas: Shane Buechele

Texas Tech: Nic Shimonek

Iowa State: Jacob Park

Kansas: Peyton Bender

 

Overview: The Big 12 stands alone when it comes to QB play, as some of the more prolific offenses in the country reside in this conference.  The lack of divisions allows the Big 12 to not dilute the QB talent, giving it an obvious edge in these rankings.  Expect fireworks all season here, with bona fide stars in Rudolph and Mayfield and a lot of depth at the possession with rising stars like Buechele.

 

Heisman Favorite:  Mason Rudolph, OK State

2016 Stats: 284-448 (64.4%) – 4091 Yds – 28 TDs – 4 Int

You can really flip a coin here between Rudolph and Mayfield, the two time Heisman finalist.  WIth big departures at OU at offensive skill positions (Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon for starters), I’ll give the edge to Rudolph by a nose.  In this offense, expect a monster year out of Rudolph, especially with James Washington returning at WR.

 

Dark Horse:  Kenny Hill, TCU

2016 Stats: 269-440 (61/1%) – 3208 Yds – 17 TDs – 13 Int

Even though it was three years ago and he’s struggled since, this is still the same guy who threw for 500+ yards and 4 TD’s to burst onto the scene in 2013 at A&M, he still has a big arm and great athleticism.  If TCU can click offensively, a return to that form could be in the cards.

 

2. Pac 12 – North Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Washington: Jake Browning

Washington State: Luke Falk

Stanford: Keller Chryst

California: Ross Bowers

Oregon State: Jake Luton

Oregon: Justin Herbert

 

Overview: A lot of big time players here, led by Browning and Falk.  I’m sensing big years out of Chryst, Bowers, and Herbert, solidifying the North as a top of the line division under center.

 

Heisman Favorite: Luke Falk, Washington State

2016 Stats: 443-633 (70.0%) – 4468 Yds – 38 TDs – 11 Ints

Hard to pick against Browning, but Falk had a hell of a seaon last year and has improved his accuracy and yards each of the last two seasons and has 76 TDs since 2015.  Banking on some similar steps forward, Falk gets my nod in the North to put on a show in 2017.

 

Dark Horse: Justin Herbert, Oregon

2016 Stats: 162-255 (63.5%) – 1936 Yds – 19 TDs – 4 Ints

Busting onto the scene late in 2016, Herbert was one of the lone bright spots for the disappointing Ducks. As a freshman, he proved he could put up huge numbers, throwing for 6 TDs against Cal and nearly 500 yards against ASU.  If he can harness those bursts and string together some games and develop more as a dual threat, the Ducks could be right back on track in 2017.

 

3. ACC – Atlantic Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

ACC – Atlantic Division

Clemson: Kelly Bryant

Louisville: Lamar Jackson

Florida State: Deondre Francois

NC State: Ryan Finley

Wake Forest: Kendall Hinton

Boston College: Darius Wade

Syracuse: Eric Dungey

 

Overview:  A couple of big names in the Atlantic, with last season’s Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Deondre Francois, an early season contender.  The ghost of Deshaun Watson looms large and after the top,  this division has a lot of question marks.

 

Heisman Favorite: Deondre Francois, Florida State

2016 Stats – 235-400 (58.8%) – 3350 Yds – 20 TDs – 7 Ints

No, I’m not going to pick the 2016 Heisman winner as the favorite year, and not just because of voter fatigue.  Francois burst onto the scene last year with a huge game against Ole Miss in Week 1.  He threw 7 Ints as a freshman, with never more than one in a game.  His role in the offense should expand in 2017 (only one game with 40+ attempts in 2016), and with a couple big games he should begin ascending Heisman lists quickly.

 

Dark Horse: Ryan Finley, NC State

2016 Stats: 243-402 (60.4%) – 3050 Yds – 18 TDs – 8 Ints

Finley, the transfer out of Boise, enters this year with one season under his belt as the Wolfpack’s starter.  6 of the 8 Ints came in a three game stretch against Clemson, Louisville, and Boston College (which one is not like the others), and he didn’t throw a pick until that Clemson game, his sixth of the season.  If he can play like he did outside of that three game run at midseason and can keep his completion percentage and QBR high, Finley may be a surprise in 2017.

 

4. SEC – West Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

SEC – West Division

Alabama: Jalen Hurts

LSU: Danny Etling

Auburn: Jarrett Stidham

Texas A&M: Jake Hubenak

Arkansas: Austin Allen

Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald

Ole Miss: Shea Patterson

 

Overview: A lot of young talent makes this an interesting division under center with a couple high ceiling guys.  I’m expecting solid improvement from Patterson, Hurts, Stidham, and Etling, and expect this to be one of the stronger divisions at QB in all of college football at its best.

 

Heisman Favorite: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

2015 Stats: 75-109 (68.8%) – 1265 Yds – 12 TDs – 2 Ints

Despite my view that this division is Alabama vs. the field, Hurts is likely a year away from this slot.  Stidham, the transfer from Baylor, looks to have a big year for the Tigers.  After taking over for Seth Russell as a freshman in 2015, Stidham rattled off an impressive stretch of three games before an injury ended his own season.  Assuming he can regain that form, Stidham leads the West at QB.

 

Dark Horse: Shea Patterson, Ole Miss

2016 Stats: 72-132 (54.5%) – 880 Yds – 6 TDs – 3 Ints

Taking over late in 2016 due to an injury to starter Chad Kelly, Patterson provided a great deal of hope for the future after a disappointing season for the Rebels.  With that experience, Patterson should make a big leap as the Rebels look to bounce back.  If he can handle the pressure and get a signature win (read, at Bama), we could see the beginning of a star in 2017 in Oxford.

 

5. Pac 12 – South Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Colorado: Steven Montez

USC: Sam Darnold

Utah: Troy Williams

Arizona State: Blake Barnett

UCLA: Josh Rosen

Arizona: Brandon Dawkins

 

Overview: With Darnold and Rosen, the South’s top level talent can compete with anyone.  How some of the others perform will ultimately determine how strong this division’s QB class is.

 

Heisman Favorite: Sam Darnold, USC

2016 Stats: 246-366 (67.2%) – 3086 Yds – 31 TDs – 9 Ints

No discussion here, Darnold  leads the pack in the Pac-12 South.  Although his dismantling of Penn State in the Rose Bowl announced his presence to the country, he had an incredible first season.  We’re likely looking at the next great USC QB here.

 

Dark Horse: Blake Barnett, Arizona State

2016 Stats: 11-19 (57.9%) – 219 Yds – 2 TDs – 0 Ints

Roll Tide.

 

6. Big Ten – East Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Ohio State: JT Barrett

Penn State: Trace McSorley

Michigan: Wilton Speight

Indiana: Richard Lagow

Maryland: Caleb Henderson

Michigan State: Tyler O’Conner

Rutgers: Giovanni Rescigno

 

Overview: The quarterback situation in the East mirrors the team’s more or less.  The top dogs all have solid or better options (McSorley, Speight, and Barrett), and the rest of the division is relatively unproven.

 

Heisman Favorite: JT Barrett, OSU

2016 Stats – 233-379 (61.5%) – 2555 Yds – 24 TDs – 7 Int

Barrett edges out McSorley in a two horse race.  I may be going with the name brand here, but the Heisman also comes down to winning, and I can’t see Penn State taking this division a second year in a row.  Barrett is extremely dangerous as a dual threat, and entering his fourth season at the helm he should be ready to take a big leap.

 

Dark Horse: Richard Lagow, Indiana

2016 Stats: 253-438 (57.8%) – 3362 Yds – 19 TDs – 17 Int

If Lagow can get his accuracy up and turnovers down, he’ll have the potential for a big year.  He looks the part at 6’6″, and throwing for nearly 3400 yards in this division in his first year as a starter for the Hoosiers bodes well for a big 2017.

 

7. SEC – East Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Florida: Luke Del Rio

Tennessee: Jarrett Guarantano

Georgia:Jacob Eason

Kentucky: Stephen Johnson

South Carolina: Jake Bentley

Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur

Missouri: Drew Lock

 

Overview: The little brother of the SEC lacks big names at the QB position outside of Eason and (maybe I guess) Del Rio.  There are some interesting players, including the freshman Guarantano at Tennessee who replaces Josh Dobbs.  Overall, not enough proven options to warrant a top rank but could be there in a year or two.

 

Heisman Favorite: Jacob Eason, Georgia

2016 Stats: 204-370 (55.1%) – 2430 Yds – 16 TDs – 8 Int

Eason gets the nod in the East, with Del Rio recovering from offseason surgery and no other big names here.  Eason, the former top high school QB in the Class of 2015, enters his second season as the starter for the Bulldogs looking to break out.  Immensely talented and armed with a year of experience in the SEC and a strong supporting cast on offense, expect a big year out of Eason.

 

Dark Horse: Stephen Johnson

2015 Stats: 145-265 (54.7%) – 2037 Yds – 13 TDs – 6 Ints

Johnson came to the Bluegrass by way of Grambling and College of the Desert as a highly touted Juco player and had a decent 2016.  Throwing for over 3200 yards and 34 TDs during his season in the Desert, the talent is there.  He’ll need to have some signature games which the SEC will offer.  If he can capitalize on that talent and make some more consistent plays with his feet (327 rushing yards including one 75 yarder and 3 TDs in 2016), Johnson and Kentucky may surprise people this season.

 

8. ACC – Coastal Division

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Virginia Tech: Josh Jackson

Miami (FL): Malik Rosier

North Carolina: Brandon Harris

Pittsburgh: Max Browne

Georgia Tech: Matthew Jordan

Duke: Daniel Jones

Virginia: Kurt Benkert

 

Overview: Although the Coastal doesn’t have any household names, a lot of intriguing talent will be playing in this division.  Then again, that unproven talent could make for a rough season in the air for the Coastal.

 

Heisman Favorite: Max Browne, Pittsburgh

2016 Stats: 58-93 (62.4%) – 507 Yds – 2 TD – 2 Ints

Yeah, I’m banking on a relative unknown without much experience in Browne, the transfer from Southern Cal.  At 6’5″ he has all the physical tools of a star QB who got forced out of the way by Sam Darnold.  The longtime backup finally gets his shot and capitalizes.

 

Dark Horse: Daniel Jones, Duke

2016 Stats: 270-430 (62.8%) – 2836 Yds – 16 TDs – 9 Ints

All things considered, Jones had an excellent 2016, with 5 of those 9 picks coming in a doozy against Virginia.  His numbers didn’t really jump off the page, but putting together a 63% completion percentage with a QBR of 66.3 to go with 500 rushing yards bode well for a nice improvement out of Jones this season.

 

 

9. B1G – West Division:

Projected Starting QB by Team:

Wisconsin: Bart Houston

Nebraska: Tanner Lee

Iowa: Nathan Stanley

Minnesota: Neil McLaurin

Northwestern: Clayton Thorson

Illinois: Jeff George Jr.

Purdue: David Blough

 

Overview: A lot of unknowns in this division hold back the quarterback play relative to the East.   Although potential is always an asset, don’t expect the B1G West to light it up at the quarterback position in 2017.   Favorite and Dark Horse are more or less interchangeable here.

 

Heisman Favorite: David Blough, Purdue

2016 Stats: 295-517 (57.1%) – 3352 Yds – 25 Tds – 21 Ints

Favorite probably isn’t the best word for this division, but with so many unknown entities at the quarterback position, Blough leads the Wild Wild West.  He didn’t have a bad 2016, but being able to replicate some of his bigger games (5 TDs and 458 yards vs. Iowa comes to mind) into consistency and cut back on the “when it rains it pours” games so common to Purdue last season.

 

Dark Horse: Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

2016 Stats: 280-478 (58.6%) – 3182 Yds – 22 TDs – 9 Ints

Thorson ran the offense efficiently in 2016, and like the Cats was able to overcome a slow start to the year to finish strong with only one game under 200 yards over the last 8 of the season (3 in the first 5).  He may not have a big arm, but I like the rate he was completing passes at near the end of 2016.  He needs to have some bigger games to get anywhere near this level, but don’t be surprised if that efficiency and increased completion percentage over the stretch run in 2016 translates into production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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