17 for '17: College football QBs we'd want with game on line

College Football 24/7 closes out the 17 for '17 series with a look at the quarterbacks in the game whom we would most want with a game on the line. The No. 1 choice on


  last year's list -- Clemson's 
 [Deshaun Watson](/player/deshaunwatson/2558063/profile) -- certainly delivered on the distinction with a game-winning touchdown drive in the CFP title game against Alabama. Could the next CFP hero be listed here, as well? We'll know in January. The list was compiled in consultation with NFL scouts, draft analysts and college staffers. 

17. Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State

Who better to navigate the crucial moments of a football game than the head coach's son? Stockstill enters his third season as a starter under father Rick Stockstill, and the results to date have been a prolific passing attack and two straight bowl appearances for the Blue Raiders. He takes care of the ball the way one would expect of a coach's son, with a TD-INT ratio of 61-16 over the last two years. He also showed the toughness that any offensive huddle could appreciate in coming back from a broken clavicle, after missing just three games, to play in the Hawaii Bowl last year.

16. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

It says a lot about Thorson that coach Pat Fitzgerald named him a starter as a freshman in 2015, and even more that he upset Stanford in his career debut and went on to become the only Northwestern quarterback to win 10 games as a first-year starter. There's an unmistakable moxie with Thorson that showed up again last year as he took 38 sacks and still managed to make significant strides as a passer. To cap the year, he took four sacks against Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl, but led two fourth-quarter scoring drives to secure a 31-24 win.

15. Mike White, Western Kentucky

White has won the starting job at two different FBS programs, first at South Florida, where he won the program's leadership award after his freshman year. He sat out the 2015 season under NCAA transfer rules before emerging as Western Kentucky's starter. The 2016 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year led the most prolific offense in the FBS last year (45.5 points per game), and he can eat up yardage in a hurry; his 44 completions of 30-plus yards led all FBS quarterbacks last year. That's the kind of big-play production that makes a two-minute drill easy.

14. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

No, Stidham doesn't have a pile of fourth-quarter comebacks to his credit, or even much game experience, for that matter. But his physical tools for the position are rare and the Auburn fan base is rightfully excited for his Tigers career to get underway. Stidham transferred from Baylor, where he was thrust into a three-game starting role as a true freshman as an injury replacement for Seth Russell. In his career debut, he torched Kansas State on its own field for 409 yards and three touchdowns. That kind of debut requires a certain level of fearlessness that will serve Stidham well at Auburn. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein ranks Stidham the nation's No. 6 QB to watch this fall.

13. Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Rockets QB is back to strike more fear into Mid-American Conference secondaries after leading the FBS in TD passes last year (45). Against Northern Illinois, he erased a 14-3 halftime deficit with three second-half TD passes for a 31-24 win. Woodside threw at least three TD passes in every regular season game last year, and threw four or more in six consecutive games. NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis sees a confident passer in evaluating tape of Woodside, and sees good reason for it as well.

12. Deondre Francois, FSU

Francois took an awful beating last year as a freshman starter, absorbing 34 sacks and countless other hits as a gutsy pocket passer willing to wait for his second and third reads to come open. He's a capable runner, but Francois looks to beat opponents with his arm first. The result was 3,350 yards and 20 touchdown passes in his first season, including some tightly contested wins over rival Miami (20-19), and N.C. State (24-20). Francois can put big hits and bad plays behind him, and come back on the next snap to make a big-time throw.

11. Quinton Flowers, South Florida

Flowers was chosen to last year's list of gamers at the position and after leading the Bulls to an 11-2 record last season, he's only solidified that status. He's a nightmare for defensive coordinators because of his ability to run the ball, but with a 24-7 TD-INT ratio, his passing skills aren't to be overlooked. Flowers won four games in a row to close out the 2016 regular season last year -- three of them by single-digit margins -- to enhance USF's bowl standing. He also has quite a resource to call on for advice, as he's good friends with Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.

10. Josh Allen, Wyoming

Allen can make a throw here and there that looks impossible, whether it's delivering one into a tight window or simply getting off an accurate pass from an off-balance position. Against good defenses, it can take plays like that to win big games late. Just ask San Diego State, against whom Allen threw a game-winning 29-yard TD pass off his back foot with 1:07 left. Scouts will beat a wide trail to Laramie, Wyo., this fall to measure Allen's progress, and he's fully capable of showing them some clutch fourth-quarter play.

9. Jake Browning, Washington

With the game on the line, you want a quarterback with some toughness, and Browning showed it last year in playing through a shoulder injury to help keep his team on track for its Pac-12 crown. His play slipped some as a result, but a healthy Browning is undoubtedly one of the nation's best passers. Washington won a lot of games last year by an easy margin, but in the closest one of all, Browning found Dante Pettis in overtime against Arizona last year for a game-winner.

8. Josh Rosen, UCLA

The array of throws Rosen can make is just what game-winning drives are made of. In a tight window over the middle, he can dial up velocity. On fades and screens, he shows touch and anticipation. It all makes for a heavy bag of tricks, and the fact that he's been at the Bruins offensive helm since the opening game of his freshman year tells you all you need to know about his confidence.

7. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

The Cowboys' veteran has developed a reputation for bringing his team back from behind. He's 22-6 in his career as a starter, and eight of those 22 wins have required a second-half comeback. He picked up four wins by seven points or less last year, most notably leading two fourth-quarter TD drives to spark a 43-37 road win at Kansas State. He's also arguably the best in the game when it comes to ball security. He threw just four interceptions in 448 pass attempts, and enters 2017 with an active streak of 123 throws without an INT.

6. Jalen Hurts, Alabama

Although Hurts isn't as prolific a passer as most listed here, there is no denying his ability to deliver in the clutch. As a true freshman, he led the Crimson Tide to a 14-1 mark, including a late touchdown run against LSU that sealed a key win over a rival. And lest we forget, had Alabama's defense been able to hold Clemson on the final drive in the national title game, Hurts' 30-yard touchdown with 2:07 left would have been the game's signature moment.

5. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Barrett might not have the passing production as some of the top quarterbacks in the game, but his credentials as a winner are undisputed. He's the only quarterback to lead his team to two College Football Playoff berths, although an injury prevented him from participating in the first of those. He enters 2017 with a 26-4 career record as a starter, and will be the first three-time captain in OSU history. No quarterback in the game is as battle-tested as Barrett.

4. Luke Falk, Washington State

With the game on the line, an experienced quarterback can make all the difference, and with 1,500 career pass attempts, nobody has more of it than Falk. But he's more than experienced; he's also proven to be clutch. He led WSU to three wins as a sophomore with a last-minute drive, against UCLA, Oregon and Rutgers. Last year, he rallied WSU from a 24-6 halftime deficit against Oregon State with four second-half TD passes for a 35-31 win.

3. Sam Darnold, USC

Darnold delivered 17 fourth-quarter points to rally a win in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history, 52-49 over Penn State. It was a performance that put a signature win on his first year as a starter and left no doubt that he's not only a talented passer, but a clutch one, as well. In drawing a comparison between Darnold and another former Pac-12 star, Andrew Luck, NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted that Darnold is at his best in crucial situations.

2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Jackson is a big-play machine, generating huge chuncks of yardage either by air or ground. Better not play man defense in the two-minute drill, because if the receivers run deep enough routes to force DBs to turn their backs on Jackson, he can run at will for first downs. He won a lot of games last year by blowout scores, but Virginia was an exception. Down 25-24 with less than two minutes left, Jackson led an eight-play, 75-yard drive resulting in a game-winning 29-yard TD pass with 13 seconds left.

1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Who wouldn't trust Mayfield's knack for the big play with a big game at stake? He's an escape artist under pressure, he's the master of improvising beyond the design of the play, and he's never lacked for confidence. And why should he? This is a guy who was a walk-on at not one but two Power Five programs and emerged as the starting quarterback for both. Now entering his final college season, Mayfield has both experience and ability in spades.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.