Heading into Week Six of the season, there can be discussion on who is the best quarterback in college right now. Before the season started, the two frontrunners were reigning Heisman Award winner Johnny “Football” Manziel, from Texas A&M, and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
But now, they have plenty of competition. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston have both played exceptionally so far.
Winston has been the most surprising, of them all. The 19-year-old redshirt freshman has put himself in the spotlight with his play. In four games, he has 1,048 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Last weekend against Boston College, in a game FSU won, 38-24, he threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns. His 60-yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired before halftime showed how athletic and lethal he can really be.
Winston and Florida State still must play Florida, Clemson, and Miami later this season. We will see if he remains as good as he’s looked.
Bridgewater, who is expected to be the most NFL-ready QB in this year’s draft class, has been successful this season with Louisville. But, it’s the Cardinals’ lack of strong opponents that fails to push Bridgewater ahead of other top quarterbacks. He has thrown for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns in four games, all Louisville wins. Playing such teams as Ohio University, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky, and Florida International doesn’t really say much, however.
Still, come May, Bridgewater probably will be the first QB taken in the NFL draft.
That leaves us with the question of what really makes a player the best quarterback in the nation.
Oregon State’s Sean Mannion leads the nation in passing yards with 2,018 and leads the nation in touchdown passes with 21. But is he really the best QB in college football? Probably not – he has impressive stats, but having to throw the ball that much in games because your team has no rushing offense can do that. Still, he has been playing very well ever since the Beavers’ shocking opening game loss to Eastern Washington University.
So, statistics tell only some of the story, but not the rest.
Which is why I consider Mariota the best quarterback in the country. I admit I am a Ducks fan, but Mariota’s performance, style and stats show that he is the best right now. Mariota doesn’t have the yards and touchdown passes that others do, but he has ample composure and consistency and all the intangibles that a top QB should.
At 6 foot, 4 inches and 211 lbs, Mariota is always a threat when he is on the field. He can run and pass extremely well. His explosiveness showed back on Sept. 7 against Virginia, when he sprinted untouched for a 71-yard touchdown, running right down the middle on the Ducks’ sixth play from scrimmage.
With the No. 2-ranked Ducks winning all their games so far with ease, they have had little reason to keep Mariota in for the second half. That lack of action leaves him tied for 73rd in the nation in passing attempts with only 107, compared with Mannion, who leads the nation in attempts at 238.
Meantime, Mariota holds the best quarterback efficiency rating in the nation, based on total productivity vs. turnovers, at 98.0. With tougher Pac-12 conference games ahead, he should see more snaps than in past games. After this week’s matchup against Colorado, very possibly a 60-point blowout win, the Ducks head north to Seattle to face the (currently) undefeated Washington Huskies on Oct. 12 for a headline showdown.
Across America, football fans and experts are taking note. As of Oct. 1, ESPN.com rated Mariota in first place for the Heisman this year.
And when Ducks fans tune in each week, they, too, can watch for the best quarterback – and maybe overall player – in college football.