It’s hard to believe, but the college football season has already hit the 12 week mark. It has been a great year for quarterbacks in the SEC, particularly in the West. Here’s how we rank the quarterbacks in the SEC.
1) Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
Surprise, surprise, I know. You could argue that with his increase in turnovers this year that he maybe should be ranked lower. The fact of the matter is, he has put up monstrous numbers once again and broken several of his own records. Manziel has completed 230 of his 315 passing attempts for 3313 yards through the air and 31 touchdowns. He also has rushed the ball 110 times for 611 yards and eight touchdowns.
Needless to say, Johnny Football has done enough to put himself in the discussion for a second Heisman trophy. But with a few more tough games on their schedule, including LSU, who has been the only team to shut him down, Manziel will have to keep this level of play up if he wants another Heisman.
2) AJ McCarron – Alabama
McCarron is at number two because of his accomplishments of a quarterback, not necessarily his stats. McCarron has had solid stats in his three seasons as Alabama’s quarterback. In the 2013 season, he has completed 159 of 229 passes for 2041 yards and 19 touchdowns, while only throwing three interceptions. Nick Saban had solid quarterbacks throughout his coaching career, but McCarron will top them all if he is able to capture a third straight national title.
3) Aaron Murray – Georgia
The SEC’s new career passing touchdown record holder had another solid year under center, even though his team has been ravaged by injuries since the LSU game. He struggled in Georgia’s loss to Vandy. However, he has bounced back nicely the last two weeks against Florida and Appalachian State, throwing for 539 yards and three touchdowns. He is the reason the Bulldogs still have a prayer in the SEC East after falling hard on their face because of injuries.
On the year, Murray has completed 174 passes out of 275 for 2477 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Having his top three receivers out has hurt his completion percentage a little bit but he still remains the best NFL prospect coming out of the league this year. The Bulldogs are in a must win situation this week as they face No. 7 Auburn in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. In order for them to stay in the race for the East, they must beat the Tigers and Murray must play at the top of his game.
4) Connor Shaw – South Carolina
He doesn’t have very many passing yards, just 1655 on the year, but he is the fourth best quarterback in the SEC. He earned fourth place simply because of his grit during the Missouri game two weeks ago. In the fourth quarter, with a banged up knee, he lead a stagnant South Carolina offense to the endzone and to victory. Another reason is his ability to bounce back after poor performances.
Steve Spurrier is notorious for being hard on his quarterbacks. He has pulled Shaw on a few occasions already this year, because of frustration. However, when he puts him back in, Shaw puts on a show. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has problems with consistency, but when you need your quarterback to come through in the clutch, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anyone better than Connor Shaw. Shaw has completed 122 of 194 passes for 1655 yards, 18 touchdowns and only one interception.
The last two games have been nearly perfect for Shaw. Against Missouri (Played 4th quarter and overtime) and Mississippi State, Shaw has completed 30 of 49 for 348 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. If he continues to play at that level, the Gamecocks should win out. And with a little help from Ole Miss and Texas A&M beating Missouri, you could see the Gamecocks make their second ever trip to Atlanta in December.
5) Bo Wallace – Ole Miss
Ah, yes. The quarterback most of you have probably been waiting to see. Before the season, every expert said in order for Ole Miss to improve this year from last year, Bo Wallace would need to cut down on turnovers and make better decisions. Well, he has done that and more this season. Last year, Wallace threw for 21 touchdowns, but also had 17 interceptions. Needless to say, his decision making was not the best.
This season, however, Wallace has thrown 14 touchdowns for only five interceptions while completing 191 of 296 passes for 2383 yards. Last weekend against Arkansas he lit up the stat sheet throwing for a career high 416 yards including three touchdowns. He is a “gamer” in every sense of the word. He does practice hard but he’s not the greatest at practicing. But when game day gets here, he just turns it on and is electric.
This week, the Rebels face the Troy Trojans and are looking to become 7-3 on the season. After this week the Rebels play two solid SEC programs. On November 23, one loss and top ten SEC East opponent Missouri comes to town and then the next week the Rebels close out the regular season in Starkville for the Egg Bowl against in-state rival Mississippi State. If Ole Miss wants to win both of those games, Wallace will have to continue to play at the high level he has been playing at this season.
6) Maty Mauck/James Franklin – Missouri
You could argue, and probably successfully, that these two should be at number five over Bo Wallace. James Franklin struggled mightily last season. But at the start of this season Franklin was lighting up every defense he was facing before he was injured against Georgia. Franklin has played in six games this year and his stats are astounding. He has completed 132 of 195 passes for 1577 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He has also run the ball 65 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkle has stated that Franklin will start when the Tigers come to Oxford next week.
After Franklin went out with what looked like a season ending shoulder injury, most people wrote the Tiger off and said their season was over. That was until freshman Maty Mauck came in and the Missouri offense didn’t miss a beat. In Franklin’s absence, Mauck has completed 62 of 120 passes for 951 yards, ten touchdowns and just two interceptions. He struggled against South Carolina a bit and his accuracy needs improvement, but other than that he has been all Missouri could ask for.
The Tigers finish their amazing bounce back year against possibly the two best teams they’ve faced this year when they travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss and then host Texas A&M in Columbia.
7) Zach Mettenberger – LSU
Up until the heartbreaking loss at Ole Miss in mid-October, Zach Mettenberger had shocked the SEC and college football with how much he had improved since last year. In LSU’s first seven games, you could have made the argument that Mettenberger was the second best quarterback in the SEC (behind Johnny Manziel). Through the first seven games Mettenberger completed 116 of his 174 passes for 1890 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He was, in a word, electric.
But the downfall of Mettenberger and LSU began on the night of Oct. 19 in Oxford. Mettenberger had his first bad game of the season throwing three interceptions against the Rebels and the Tigers lost on a last second field goal. Mettenberger hasn’t been horrendous by any means but he’s definitely lost the spark that he had to start the season. The Tigers have Texas A&M coming into Tiger stadium next week and in order for them to keep up with Johnny Football, Mettenberger will need to regain that lost spark.
8) Nick Marshall – Auburn
You would think that the quarterback of the team that has had the greatest turnaround of anyone this season would be ranked higher. And maybe he should but there have been so many great quarterbacks in the SEC this year it’s hard to put Nick Marshall any higher. He has had great performances on the year, particularly the Texas A&M game. Marshall’s passing ability isn’t what makes him a threat, even though it is reliable enough that defenses have to respect it. His ability to run the ball and run Gus Malzahn’s offense is what makes him so dangerous.
His passing stats are lackluster having only completed 93 of 159 passes for 1301 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. But then look at his rushing stats and you get an idea of why Auburn is 9-1 and in control of their own destiny in year one of the Gus Malzahn era. He has run the ball 104 times for 734 yards and seven touchdowns.
The SEC West crown is more than likely going to be decided in the Iron Bowl when Auburn takes on Alabama. Alabama has always had some trouble defending the spread offense and Auburn runs the spread better than almost anyone. And that offense lives and dies with Marshall.
9) Dak Prescott – Mississippi State
The day that State fans have long awaited to arrive is finally here. The day when they can say that Dak Prescott is their quarterback. Tyler Russell still plays sparingly at times but this team is Prescott’s now. And so far, he has been very impressive with his ability to run the ball by picking up 722 yards rushing on 111 carries and ten touchdowns. His passing still leaves much to be desired. He has completed 128 of his 219 passes for 1542 yards, seven touchdowns and an ugly seven interceptions.
Prescott put on an inspiring performance last week against A&M days after his mother had passed away. He completed 14 of his 26 passes for 149 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but his most impressive work was done with his feet by out rushing Johnny Manziel. He ran the ball 16 times for a career high 154 yards against the Aggie defense.
Mississippi State is in trouble of not going to a bowl for the first time since Dan Mullen’s first year as the head coach at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will have to win two of their last three games against No. 1 Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. It’s almost a certainty that the Bulldogs will not beat Alabama so they will have to beat both Ole Miss and Arkansas. The thing to keep in mind about the Arkansas game is that it is in the state of Arkansas. And even though Arkansas has not been playing very well this year, history is on their side in this game as the Bulldogs have never won a football game in the State of Arkansas.
But with Prescott behind center, the Bulldogs will have their best chance at a bowl with him back there.
10) Austyn Carta-Samuels – Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is on the verge of doing something unheard of in it’s program history. Becoming bowl eligible for the third straight year and it’s in large part thanks to the play of Austyn Carta-Samuels. If there’s one thing you can say about Carta-Samuels, it’s that he is a tough and determined individual. In his first season as starting quarterback, he has completed 129 of his 197 passes for 1672 yards, ten touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Unfortunately for Carta-Samuels he was injured in the Commodores huge victory over Georgia and hasn’t played in their last two games. Vandy and head coach James Franklin beat Florida without him on the field this past weekend but they’re still a different team when he is out there. They are better, and if he gets back on the field, Vanderbilt might win out.
11) Justin Worley – Tennessee
The next two quarterbacks on this list are interchangeable since their stats are so eerily similar. Justin Worley gets the nod at number 11 because of his accuracy and because his team has a chance to become bowl eligible. Worley hasn’t had a very good season throwing the ball completing 109 of his 196 passes for only 1239 yards, ten touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has led the Vols to an upset victory over South Carolina though and if he can improve his decision making and field vision, he has potential to get better along with this young Tennessee team.
12) Brandon Allen – Arkansas
Bret Bielema came to Arkansas from Wisconsin hoping to compete. That hasn’t been the case at all in his first season at Arkansas at the Hogs are currently winless in the SEC. Brandon Allen has been the target of many Arkansas fan’s frustration but Bielema has stood behind his quarterback saying that it’s a tough situation he is in and he is going the best he can. That may be but Allen hasn’t been impressive this season even when he has time to throw.
His completion percentage is cringe worthy having only completed 99 passes of his 212 (46.7%) for 1260 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. At times he has shown some promise but in order for Arkansas to get at least one win in conference this year, he’s going to have to step his game up tremendously.
13) Tyler Murphy – Florida
The last two sets of quarterbacks on this list could be listed at 13a and 13b but since Florida has won some games in conference and beat Kentucky, I give the nod to the Gators here. But that’s not something Florida fans should be celebrating because the quarterback play in Gainesville has been embarrassing and that is being kind.
Original starting quarterback Jeff Driskel had a season ending injury the third game of the season against Tennessee but up until that point, he had shown some improvement and promise. Junior Tyler Murphy came in and has been starting ever since. And it hasn’t been pretty. Murphy has completed 112 of his 185 passes for just 1216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. Last weekend Florida lost to Vanderbilt in The Swamp for the first time in nearly 70 years and it extended the Gators losing streak to four games. Now the Gators 22-year bowl streak is in serious jeopardy. They are 4-5 and they will have to upset at least one of South Carolina or Florida State in order to keep that streak alive.
In other words, Florida will be at home for the first time during bowl season since most of their current player’s were born.
14) Maxwell Smith/Jalen Whitlow – Kentucky
Finally, we arrive at the bottom of the list. You almost have to feel sorry for the Kentucky quarterbacks because they have no offensive line and hardly any talent at receiver. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has voiced his displeasure with his quarterbacks at different times this season. Jalen Whitlow has the better stats but Stoops likes to mix it up sometimes in the backfield by putting Smith in at quarterback.
If there is one thing you can say about both of these quarterbacks, it’s that they don’t throw interceptions very often. Both of them only have one interception each on the season. Whitlow appears to be the clear cut better quarterback completing 84 of 130 passes for a team high 915 yards and five touchdowns. In addition to that he has also run the ball 87 times for 395 yards and six touchdowns. But while some of these stats are promising, Whitlow and his counterpart are at the bottom of the SEC at their position. Wildcat fans are counting down the days until highly recruited quarterback Drew Barker steps on the field in a Kentucky uniform.
–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com
–You can email Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org