As we enter the 12th week of the college football season, the cream is starting to rise to the top in the quarterback rankings. Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron have set themselves apart from the pack with their steady play throughout the season.
While Derek Carr and Bryce Petty have entered the conversation as potential elite college players, the disappointing play of Marcus Mariota against Stanford has put a damper on his chances of earning the top spot. With another week of play in the books, let's take a closer look at quarterbacks that are shining in the college game:
Jameis Winston through the yearsCheck out Florida State's new quarterback, "Famous" Jameis Winston, as he emerges as one of college football's new stars.
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
(Last week's rank: 3)
It's uncommon for a young quarterback to quickly adjust to the college game, but Winston is a rare find at the position. The redshirt freshman has been a sensational performer for the Seminoles, completing 69.2 percent of his passes with a 26:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Factor in his spectacular improvisational skills, Winston could be the difference maker on a championship-caliber team.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
(Last week's rank: 4)
Bridgewater entered the season with a lot of hype, but is surprisingly flying under the radar despite posting six 300-yard games and completing more than 70 percent of his passes. Skeptics question the level of competition that he's faced this season, but Bridgewater's consistency and production make him worthy of a spot near the top of the list.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
(Last week's rank: 2)
Johnny Football should be a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, but the disdain for his on-field antics has prevented some observers from appreciating his drastically improved game from the pocket. Manziel is on pace to improve his passer rating, passing yards and touchdowns over his previous totals, while continuing to display the exceptional playmaking skills that have captivated the attention of NFL scouts.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State
(Last week's rank: 5)
The buzz has been building around Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall draft pick David Carr, since he put on an impressive performance in the season opener. Scouts have been fascinated with his superb arm talent and unshakable confidence, while coaches are undoubtedly impressed with his ability to direct the offense efficiently. With the Bulldogs making a run to crash the BCS party, the spunky gunslinger could get an opportunity to show off his skills on a big stage.
5. AJ McCarron, Alabama
(Last week's rank: 6)
It's time to give McCarron credit for his winning ways despite pedestrian numbers that suggest he is simply a game manager. The two-time national champion makes plays when it matters most, and thrives when the pressure is on. With 13 of his 19 touchdown passes thrown while facing the blitz, McCarron's poise makes him one of the best players at the position.
6. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
(Last week's rank: 1)
Oregon received a shellacking at the hands of Stanford, which plummeted Mariota's chances of claiming the Heisman Trophy. Additionally, the dismal performance raised some concerns about the redshirt sophomore's accuracy, ball placement and awareness. Although those issues haven't diminished the groundswell of support Mariota enjoys in NFL circles, it will prompt scouts to do a little more digging on his overall game before anointing him the next great thing at the position.
7. Bryce Petty, Baylor
(Last week's rank: 7)
At some point, we need to appreciate the outstanding work Petty is putting in as the leader of the Bears' offense. He is efficient and effective directing Art Briles' spread attack, and shows better-than-anticipated arm talent as a passer. With the Bears running over Big 12 competition, Petty might receive an invitation to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
8. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
(Last week's rank: 8)
As one of the most prolific passers in ACC history, Boyd has cemented his status as a big-time player in the college game. However, NFL scouts still wonder if he has the skills and mentality to excel as a potential franchise quarterback at the next level. While his disappointing play last month against the Seminoles has prompted more questions, Boyd can silence the critics with a strong performance against Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
9. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
(Last week's rank: 9)
The Buckeyes have reeled off an impressive win streak behind Miller's emergence as a competent passer from the pocket. With Miller still capable of tormenting opponents with his athleticism and running skills, the Buckeyes' offense is far more difficult to defend in Urban Meyer's second year.
10. Brett Hundley, UCLA
(Last week's rank: 10)
Hundley has bounced back from a midseason slump with a pair of solid outings against Colorada and Arizona. He has completed 37 of 49 passes for 500 yards with four touchdowns. Throw in three rushing scores and a few highlight runs, and the Bruins' star is ascending heading down the stretch.
11. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
(Last week's rank: 13)
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has helped Mettenberger become a legitimate quarterback prospect in his final season by coaching the LSU star to make better decisions from the pocket. Mettenberger has avoided the big miscues that frequently undermined the Tigers' chances of success, while continuing to make the difficult throws demanded by quarterbacks at the next level. If he can continue to perform at a high level down the stretch, Mettenberger will enter the conversation as a possible early round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
12. Aaron Murray, Georgia
(Last week's rank: 12)
Murray has seemingly answered all of the questions about his big-game ability this season, but gets another opportunity to fortify his career resume with a big game against Auburn. The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in college football, so a standout performance this weekend will add another feather to Murray's cap.
13. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
(Last week's rank: 14)
Lynch is underrated on the national scene, but astute observers view the Huskies' star as a dangerous playmaker with the potential to score from anywhere on the field. He has tallied 31 combined touchdowns, while guiding the Huskies to the verge of back-to-back BCS bowl game appearances.
14. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
(Last week's rank: 11)
The Pac-12 has seemingly caught up with the Beavers' pass-happy offense, but Mannion's phenomenal numbers make him worthy of inclusion on this list. The Beavers' standout has compiled eight 300-yard games and tossed at least three touchdowns seven times this season. Although the three interceptions against USC still stand out in observers' minds, it's tough to ignore his remarkable overall production.
15. Nick Marshall, Auburn
(Last week's rank: NR)
It's hard for a quarterback to toss the ball seven times and make this list, but Marshall's 214 rushing yards is certainly worthy of recognition. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a win over Tennessee, while displaying a rough and rugged running style that is problematic for opponents in the open field. For the Tigers to win the big games remaining on their schedule, Marshall will have to do more as a passer, but it's hard to knock him for his sensational performance as a runner last weekend.
16. Shane Carden, East Carolina
(Last week's rank: NR)
Anytime a quarterback totals seven touchdowns, it deserves a mention on this list. Carden torched Tulsa for 409 yards of total offense and found paydirt seven times (five touchdown passes and two rushing scores). Most importantly, he led the Pirates to a 58-24 win that sealed their chances of making it to the postseason.
Out of the list: Quinn Epperly, Princeton (last week's rank: 15); Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (last week's rank: 16).
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.