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Published: May 31, 2016 at 10:39 a.m.

16 for '16: College football QBs we'd want with game on line

» Complete 16 for '16 series

College Football 24/7's "16 for '16" series continues with a look at 16 quarterbacks we'd want with the game on the line. Some are stars and some aren't quite as well-known, but opposing defensive coordinators don't want any of them to have the ball when it matters most.

16 Photos Total

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-foot-0, 210 pounds)
<br><br>Without Flowers running the show, USF won just four games in 2014; with Flowers at the helm last year, they only lost four in the regular season as one of the nation's most improved teams. He stole a win on the road against East Carolina last year with a 67-yard TD pass with 4:40 left to play, and ended up earning team MVP honors. Flowers is the biggest reason the Bulls are a threat to win the AAC this fall. 16

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    16. Quinton Flowers, USF

    Class (size): Junior (6-foot-0, 210 pounds)

    Without Flowers running the show, USF won just four games in 2014; with Flowers at the helm last year, they only lost four in the regular season as one of the nation's most improved teams. He stole a win on the road against East Carolina last year with a 67-yard TD pass with 4:40 left to play, and ended up earning team MVP honors. Flowers is the biggest reason the Bulls are a threat to win the AAC this fall.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-2, 205)
<br><br>The FCS All-American took Jacksonville State to a 13-2 mark last year and took the Gamecocks to the FCS title game, where they lost to North Dakota State and No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz. His only other loss came when he forced a much more talented Auburn team into overtime on the road, only to fall 27-20. Recently named the Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year, the dual-threat quarterback is a leader with 35 career starts. 15

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    15. Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State

    Class (size): Senior (6-2, 205)

    The FCS All-American took Jacksonville State to a 13-2 mark last year and took the Gamecocks to the FCS title game, where they lost to North Dakota State and No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz. His only other loss came when he forced a much more talented Auburn team into overtime on the road, only to fall 27-20. Recently named the Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year, the dual-threat quarterback is a leader with 35 career starts.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-3, 227)
<br><br>The Chippewas star comes back in 2016 as a veteran of 36 career starts, and he's coming off of a record-breaking season. He pulled out tight road wins at Ball State and at Akron, and really showed an ability to spread the ball to different targets (five receivers recorded 500-plus yards). 14

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    14. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan

    Class (size): Senior (6-3, 227)

    The Chippewas star comes back in 2016 as a veteran of 36 career starts, and he's coming off of a record-breaking season. He pulled out tight road wins at Ball State and at Akron, and really showed an ability to spread the ball to different targets (five receivers recorded 500-plus yards).

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-2, 215)
<br><br> Kelly gained big-game experience in 2015. Last year he became the first QB to lead the Rebels to wins over Alabama, LSU and Auburn in the same season. Luck was on his side in the <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/greatest-cfb-plays/0ap3000000556430/Kelly-to-Adeboyejo-for-magical-TD-Ole-Miss-vs-Alabama-2015" target="new">win over the Crimson Tide</a>. Oh, and he has <a target="new" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BF7d9BdFYLW/">plenty of arm strength</a> to get the ball deep if needed down the stretch. 13

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    13. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

    Class (size): Senior (6-2, 215)

    Kelly gained big-game experience in 2015. Last year he became the first QB to lead the Rebels to wins over Alabama, LSU and Auburn in the same season. Luck was on his side in the win over the Crimson Tide. Oh, and he has plenty of arm strength to get the ball deep if needed down the stretch.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-3, 219)
<br><br>The Red Raiders star engineers a quick-strike offense that keeps the pressure on the opposition, averaging 45.1 points per game last year (ranked No. 2 in FBS). He overcame a miserable Texas Tech defense to lead the Red Raiders to the Texas Bowl with a gunslinger mentality and lots of elusiveness to avoid pressure. He closed the regular season with a big win over Kansas State to reach bowl eligibility, then a road win at Texas that snapped a six-game losing streak to the Longhorns. 12

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Pre

    12. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

    Class (size): Junior (6-3, 219)

    The Red Raiders star engineers a quick-strike offense that keeps the pressure on the opposition, averaging 45.1 points per game last year (ranked No. 2 in FBS). He overcame a miserable Texas Tech defense to lead the Red Raiders to the Texas Bowl with a gunslinger mentality and lots of elusiveness to avoid pressure. He closed the regular season with a big win over Kansas State to reach bowl eligibility, then a road win at Texas that snapped a six-game losing streak to the Longhorns.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Sophomore (6-3, 215)
<br><br>The Cougars' comeback kid can't be left out, not with the penchant he showed for late heroics as a freshman last year. His first career TD pass was <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/greatest-cfb-plays/0ap3000000556433/Mangum-to-Mathews-Hail-Mary-TD-BYU-vs-Nebraska-2015" target="new">a last-second Hail Mary</a> to beat Nebraska on the road. A week later, he <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/greatest-cfb-plays/0ap3000000557169/Tanner-Mangum-35-yard-Hail-Mary-again-BYU-vs-Boise-State-2015" target="new">beat Boise State with a 35-yard strike</a> on fourth-and-7 with 45 seconds left. 11

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated P

    11. Tanner Mangum, BYU

    Class (size): Sophomore (6-3, 215)

    The Cougars' comeback kid can't be left out, not with the penchant he showed for late heroics as a freshman last year. His first career TD pass was a last-second Hail Mary to beat Nebraska on the road. A week later, he beat Boise State with a 35-yard strike on fourth-and-7 with 45 seconds left.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-1, 196)
<br><br>There isn't a quarterback in college football who has shown more steady career improvement than Mullens, and he was the catalyst for the similarly steady team improvement that put the Golden Eagles in a bowl game last year for the first time since 2011. Against the only three Power Five schools he faced last year (Mississippi State, Nebraska, Washington), Mullens threw for 300-plus yards against them all, including a season-high 447 against the Cornhuskers. 10

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Pres

    10. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss

    Class (size): Senior (6-1, 196)

    There isn't a quarterback in college football who has shown more steady career improvement than Mullens, and he was the catalyst for the similarly steady team improvement that put the Golden Eagles in a bowl game last year for the first time since 2011. Against the only three Power Five schools he faced last year (Mississippi State, Nebraska, Washington), Mullens threw for 300-plus yards against them all, including a season-high 447 against the Cornhuskers.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-3, 220)
<br><br>It's tough to argue with undefeated, and Russell's never been beaten as a starter in his career (8-0). Granted, only four of those starts have come in Big 12 play, but the fact remains that the Bears were 7-0 before a neck injury ended Russell's season last year, and 3-3 after. Now medically cleared, he'll be back this fall to put his unbeaten streak on the line. 9

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    9. Seth Russell, Baylor

    Class (size): Senior (6-3, 220)

    It's tough to argue with undefeated, and Russell's never been beaten as a starter in his career (8-0). Granted, only four of those starts have come in Big 12 play, but the fact remains that the Bears were 7-0 before a neck injury ended Russell's season last year, and 3-3 after. Now medically cleared, he'll be back this fall to put his unbeaten streak on the line.

  • <b>Class, size:</b> Senior (5-11, 185)
<br><br>The Cougars' dynamic dual-threat is 19-3 as a starting quarterback, including a 13-1 mark last year as UH won the AAC title. For big plays in clutch moments, Ward offers a game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of a 34-31 upset at Louisville last year. Ward also topped three consecutive ranked opponents to end the year, including No. 9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl. 8

    David Goldman/Associated Press

    8. Greg Ward, Houston

    Class, size: Senior (5-11, 185)

    The Cougars' dynamic dual-threat is 19-3 as a starting quarterback, including a 13-1 mark last year as UH won the AAC title. For big plays in clutch moments, Ward offers a game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of a 34-31 upset at Louisville last year. Ward also topped three consecutive ranked opponents to end the year, including No. 9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-4, 230)
<br><br>Notre Dame's season looked like it might be lost when Malik Zaire broke his ankle last September against Virginia. Instead, Kizer stepped in as an inexperienced sophomore and kept the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff race until late November. He rallied ND in the fourth quarter to beat USC and Temple in back-to-back weeks, and despite his lack of experience, delivered in big moments time and time again. 7

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Pres

    7. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

    Class (size): Junior (6-4, 230)

    Notre Dame's season looked like it might be lost when Malik Zaire broke his ankle last September against Virginia. Instead, Kizer stepped in as an inexperienced sophomore and kept the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff race until late November. He rallied ND in the fourth quarter to beat USC and Temple in back-to-back weeks, and despite his lack of experience, delivered in big moments time and time again.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-5, 235)
<br><br>For all the big numbers Rudolph has posted in 15 career starts for the Cowboys, here's what stands out: He's 2-0 in overtime games, both on the road, and 5-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. He's 12-3 as a starter, including seven wins away from home. 6

    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Pres

    6. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

    Class (size): Junior (6-5, 235)

    For all the big numbers Rudolph has posted in 15 career starts for the Cowboys, here's what stands out: He's 2-0 in overtime games, both on the road, and 5-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. He's 12-3 as a starter, including seven wins away from home.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-2, 209)
<br><br>There's nothing too flashy about the Hawkeyes' fifth-year senior, but that zero in the loss column at the end of the regular season last year can't be overlooked. In his first year as a starter, the grandson of former NFL GM Bobby Beathard led the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten title game and threw just three interceptions the entire regular season. 5

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    5. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

    Class (size): Senior (6-2, 209)

    There's nothing too flashy about the Hawkeyes' fifth-year senior, but that zero in the loss column at the end of the regular season last year can't be overlooked. In his first year as a starter, the grandson of former NFL GM Bobby Beathard led the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten title game and threw just three interceptions the entire regular season.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Sophomore (6-4, 210)
<br><br>There wasn't a freshman in college football who faced more in the way of pressure and expectations than Rosen last year as the Bruins' starter from Day 1. The moment wasn't too big for him. Even in his worst game of the year, a Week 3 hiccup against BYU, Rosen threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to help to pull out a 24-23 win. 4

    Kevin Terrell/Associated Press

    4. Josh Rosen, UCLA

    Class (size): Sophomore (6-4, 210)

    There wasn't a freshman in college football who faced more in the way of pressure and expectations than Rosen last year as the Bruins' starter from Day 1. The moment wasn't too big for him. Even in his worst game of the year, a Week 3 hiccup against BYU, Rosen threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to help to pull out a 24-23 win.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-2, 225)
<br><br>Barrett left little doubt about his ability to lead OSU last year in overtaking Cardale Jones for the starting role and invigorating a struggling offense. He's 15-2 as a starter and gave a talented Notre Dame defense fits in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Most of all, Barrett comes up with big plays in big moments. Coach Urban Meyer cited third-down play and red-zone play as the reason he turned to Barrett over Jones last October. 3

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

    Class (size): Junior (6-2, 225)

    Barrett left little doubt about his ability to lead OSU last year in overtaking Cardale Jones for the starting role and invigorating a struggling offense. He's 15-2 as a starter and gave a talented Notre Dame defense fits in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Most of all, Barrett comes up with big plays in big moments. Coach Urban Meyer cited third-down play and red-zone play as the reason he turned to Barrett over Jones last October.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Senior (6-1, 212)
<br><br>Mayfield has the moxie, the "it" factor, that can give the Sooners' offense an edge of confidence and unpredictability. It was never on display more clearly last year than against Tennessee. In what was his worst statistical game of the year, Mayfield led a comeback, trailing 17-3 on the road, with four fourth-quarter touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) to win, 31-24. 2

    Joe Skipper/Associated Press

    2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

    Class (size): Senior (6-1, 212)

    Mayfield has the moxie, the "it" factor, that can give the Sooners' offense an edge of confidence and unpredictability. It was never on display more clearly last year than against Tennessee. In what was his worst statistical game of the year, Mayfield led a comeback, trailing 17-3 on the road, with four fourth-quarter touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) to win, 31-24.

  • <b>Class (size):</b> Junior (6-2, 210)
<br><br>Watson had never lost a game he started and finished until falling in the CFP title game against Alabama in January, and that game might have been his most impressive career performance. One factor that makes him so tough to beat: on the rare occasions when he struggles as a passer, he can make up for it as a rusher. Notre Dame and Oklahoma learned that the hard way last year. 1

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

    Class (size): Junior (6-2, 210)

    Watson had never lost a game he started and finished until falling in the CFP title game against Alabama in January, and that game might have been his most impressive career performance. One factor that makes him so tough to beat: on the rare occasions when he struggles as a passer, he can make up for it as a rusher. Notre Dame and Oklahoma learned that the hard way last year.