To make this list a player has to be on a team that won’t be playing for a national title, however their team’s schedule has to be set up in a way that key wins or losses can shape the championship picture. There were three areas in which the players were rated. Statistics (simply numbers only), The eye test (size, speed, flash, poise, etc), and influence opportunity (number of games against championship contenders, out of conference games to boost their own conference strength, and overall strength of schedule). Players were ranked 1-11 in each category then given inverse point values. In other words, if you’re first in a category you get 11 points, if you come in last you get 1 point. Then the three scores were added together to come up with an overall score out of 33, then ranked accordingly. Ties in the final rankings were broken by dropping the player’s highest and lowest category score and going with the highest median category score. Believe it or not, there was still a tie after this so I simply went with last year’s win total as a final tie-breaker. So without further ado here are the most skillful and influential quarterbacks that you won’t see in Miami on January 7, 2013:
11. Ryan Nassib – Syracuse
Nassib’s stats were near the bottom of the list, but his on-the-field leadership and football IQ give him better than average scores in the eye test. The only real issue I have with Nassib is his tendency to throw off his back foot. The Orange get a shot at USC in week two. The game is in New Jersey so they should have the crowd behind them and they can definitely use the help. They also have winnable out of conference road games at Minnesota and Missouri.
10 Tommy Rees – Notre Dame
It’s dangerous to put someone on this list that probably won’t start in their team’s first game. Rees ran afoul of the law in the spring and that most likely guaranteed Andrew Hendrix the week one start. By week three, however, Rees should be back in command. The Irish will depend on him to improve upon his turnover numbers and lead them through what is at best, a hellish schedule. Notre Dame’s road schedule takes them to Oklahoma, USC, and Michigan State, which is bad enough, never mind home games against Michigan and Stanford. In fact, the closest thing to playing a mid-major team comes in game seven against BYU. With a big game here or there Rees can ruin a few national title dreams, but it seems a long shot that Irish eyes will be smiling after this season.
9. Mike Glennon – N.C.State
At 6’6, Glennon has the stature to look the part, and he will also put up big numbers throughout the season. He does a fantastic job of taking what the defense gives him, however at times he makes bad decisions when trying to do more. He can be a slow starter, but he doesn’t panic when his team is behind and he definitely knows how to rally the troops. The Wolfpack comeback against Maryland last year still defies the imagination. N.C. State will get Florida State at home with the chance to derail the ‘Noles title hopes, and a chance to do the same to Clemson on the road. A neutral site game against, what figures to be, an improved Tennessee team may set the tone for Glennon’s senior campaign.
8. Tyler Bray – Tennessee
Maybe it’s his California roots, but Bray always seems relaxed no matter his predicament on the field. He’s got good height and great pocket presence. Despite locking onto his receiver a little early at times, he still doesn’t throw interceptions. This is largely due to him putting the ball where only his receiver has a chance at catching it. Bray gets a nice neutral site game against fellow spoiler listee Mike Glennon. South Carolina in Columbia and Georgia between the hedges will test his mettle, but the Vols should get one of those wins. His real chance to make some hay comes when Bama rolls into town. The last time the tide came to Rocky Top, Tennessee was a Terrance Cody blocked field goal away from ending Saban et al’s title dreams.
7. Keith Price – Washington
Price has flourished in Steve Sarkisian’s offense at U-Dub. He can run everything from the gun, but he doesn’t break rhythm when he goes under center, which is refreshing to see. He will take chances, which gives him a little higher attempts per interception number than I like to see, but so did Bret Favre. Price will take his Huskies to Baton Rouge early in the season for a chance to knock off LSU, who will surely be ranked 1 or 2. They will also travel to Autzen Stadium to face Oregon in the nut house. USC and Stanford will come to Seattle for Pac12 battles at CenturyLink Field, the Huskies temporary home stadium. Steve Sarkisian has proven that he can knock off good Trojan teams, and I think Price has a great opportunity to shake up the Championship scene with a little help from his teammates
6. Seth Doege – Texas Tech
Yes, Doege’s high stats score has a lot to do with the fact he’s a “system quarterback”. But when you get down to it, isn’t every quarterback in a system of some kind? At the end of the day his accuracy is almost 70% and his attempts per interception number is fantastic. A system doesn’t produce these numbers, an accurate trigger man does. Doege is on the smallish size which makes his field vision that much more impressive. The Red Raiders will get the cream of the Big 12 crop in Lubbock as the Sooners, Longhorns, and the newly added Mountaineers all come to town. Doege orchestrated the shocker over the Sooners in Norman last year, and if he catches any team napping this year it could be “Guns Up” for Tech.
5. Logan Thomas – Virginia Tech
Honestly, Logan Thomas may be the best player on this list. No one was really close to him in the “Eye Test” category. He is BIG! Think Dante Culpepper big. He’s fast, long strides help him cover ground quickly and he looks smooth in the process. His arm is a cannon. He can flick his wrist and send the ball 50 yards downfield, and he can throw across his body and the ball still has zip when it reaches his receiver. If there’s a knock it’s his throwing motion, I’m sure they’ll hack him for it whenever he enters the draft, but with his height, I don’t see batted passes being a problem. Thomas will get his biggest chance to shake up the national scene when he and the Hokies get Florida State in Blacksburg in a much anticipated Thursday night game.
4. James Vandenberg – Iowa
In the Hawkeye’s third to last game of 2009, starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured in an upset loss to Northwestern. The next week Iowa traveled to the Horseshoe in Columbus to take on Ohio State for the de facto Big Ten Championship and a trip to Pasadena. Freshman QB James Vandenberg calmly stepped in and took the Buckeyes to the brink, before being beaten with a field goal in overtime. Last year when I saw Vandenberg on the field, I saw that same guy except with a more polished game. There are no easy nights against a Kirk Ferentz team and Vandenberg is a typical Ferentz QB. Tough, smart, and scrappy for every play of every game. The Hawkeyes have their annual out of conference battle with Iowa State but then step in deep during conference play. Trips to East Lansing and Ann Arbor loom large and Iowa will welcome Nebraska in the newly created day after Thanksgiving rivalry.
3. James Franklin – Missouri
It wasn’t easy for a running QB to do well in the stats category, but Franklin held his own. While watching tape on players can sometimes get tedious, that was never the case with The Missouri Junior. In a word, he is “Electric” with the ball in his hands. You must respect his ability to run, but he will burn you with adequate arm strength and he has great touch on the ball. As is the case with dual threat quarterbacks, sometimes Franklin takes off a little early. I’d like to see him go through his progression more often. He has a great target in T.J. Moe and Mizzou fans are some of the best. They will have plenty of chances to get behind Franklin and his Tigers as the toughest teams on the schedule come to Columbia. They play their first game as an SEC team against Georgia in week two. They will also host Alabama with a shot to put the traditional conference powers on notice.
2. Braxton Miller – Ohio State
What happens when one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country gets a coach whose offense was developed specifically for a guy like him? The best of the Big Ten is about to find out. Miller grew by leaps and bounds right before our eyes last season. After being thrust into the starting role, he took his time and let the game come to him. At times it was obvious he was trying to be too perfect, and had a couple of key fumbles when he tried to do too much. Look for him to be much more relaxed this year, after all, this is essentially the offense he ran in high school. If Jake Stoneburner gets out of Urban Meyer’s doghouse he will be Braxton’s Aaron Hernandez, and if the wide receivers step up at all, look for a passing attack to compliment what will be a stellar ground game. It’s strange to call Ohio State a spoiler, but with the NCAA sanctions that’s exactly the role they will play. It will be tough sledding for the Buckeyes as they’ll play the three teams that should compete for the legends division title, and anytime you go to Madison you’d better bring your “A” game. The Michigan game could be the most anticipated in years, since that will be Ohio State’s bowl game and Michigan could be playing for a shot at the big prize.
1. Casey Pachall – TCU
Boise St. may get all the Mid-major publicity, but TCU has arguably been more consistent and owns several recent victories against the Broncos. This year the Horned Frogs join the Big 12 and will get more than one shot at the national elite. Gary Patterson’s teams are always hard nosed, and they are always led by hard-nosed guys. Pachall is no different. He is all heart on the field, and honestly there is nothing he really does poorly. Even in the areas he scored the worst, he was still in the middle of the pack. When you watch him, he gives the impression that he will take on whatever dirty work needed to get the job done. His aptitude for decision making is probably higher than most of his peers, and to put it bluntly he IS the guy that you want leading your team in a season where the level of competition is going up this drastically. The most interesting matchup in the Big 12 this year may be TCU going to Morgantown in a battle of conference newcomers. Pachall and the frogs’ season will end with a possibly undefeated Oklahoma team coming to Ft. Worth.