The college football season is only three weeks old, but quarterbacks are already making strong statements about their talent and potential with their play on the field. Last week, Michigan's Devin Gardner had a coming out party in the Wolverines' 41-30 win over Notre Dame. Although his emergence had been expected based on his impressive flashes a season ago, the strong showing on a big stage confirmed his arrival as a potential star at the position.
Not to be outdone, BYU's Taysom Hill altered the college football landscape by running roughshod over Texas in a physical beatdown that saw the Cougars amass over 500 yards on the ground. With a host of other signal-callers, including Georgia's Aaron Murray, also making noise this week with their stellar play, it's time to take a look at the movers and shakers on my latest list of top college quarterbacks.
Here are my rankings of the top 16 quarterbacks in college football heading into the third week of the season:
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
(Last week's rank: 1)
The Cardinals' standout put on another solid showing against Eastern Kentucky with 397 passing yards and four touchdowns. Although the level of competition failed to provide much of a challenge for Bridgewater, he deserves credit for staying sharp (completing 22 of 32 passes) and avoiding critical blunders (zero turnovers) in a glorified scrimmage.
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
(Last week's rank: 3)
The Ducks' offensive juggernaut continues to roll behind Mariota's efficient play. The redshirt sophomore passed for 199 yards with two scores, and added 122 yards on the ground, to spark an Oregon offense that piled up 557 yards of offense against Virginia. Although some scouts will take Mariota to task for only completing 50 percent of his passes against the Cavaliers, the fact that he has kept the Ducks' offense humming without Chip Kelly has solidified his standing as one of the top game managers in college football.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
(Last week's rank: 5)
It's a shame most of the attention on Johnny Football centers around his off-field exploits because his spectacular game is certainly praise worthy. The Heisman Trophy winner threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns, while adding another rushing touchdown in three quarters of play against Sam Houston State. The performance marked the seventh time Manziel has three passing touchdowns and one rushing score in a game, which is the most of any quarterback over the past two seasons.
4. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
(Last week's rank: 2)
After accounting for five touchdowns against Georgia a week ago, Boyd found paydirt once in the Tigers' 52-13 win over South Carolina State last weekend. He connected on 14 of 23 pass attempts for 169 yards, but failed to throw a touchdown pass for only the second time since becoming the team's starter in 2011. Although scouts will pay little attention to Boyd's performance against a lightweight opponent, the fact that he has scored rushing touchdowns in nine of the Tigers' last 11 games says a lot about his nose for the goal line as a runner.
5. Devin Gardner, Michigan
(Last week's rank: 11)
There's nothing like a marquee game against Notre Dame to bring out the best in an intriguing young prospect. Gardner was arguably the best player on the field on Saturday, passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Additionally, he rushed for 82 yards on 13 carries, while showing explosive skills as a dual-threat playmaker. Most impressively, Gardner displayed resiliency and mental toughness bouncing back from a bonehead "pick six" to seal the game with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the strength of his right arm and nimble feet. Given Gardner's spectacular coming-out party in front of a large contingent of NFL scouts and executives, it's time to consider the Michigan standout one of the quarterbacks to watch this fall.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia
(Last week's rank: 12)
Credit Murray for getting the monkey off his back with a sensational performance against South Carolina. The Bulldog standout finally won a big game against an elite opponent; he did so in impressive fashion completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns. Murray picked apart the South Carolina with laser-like throws to every area of the field, while also displaying the athleticism and awareness to make plays inside or outside of the pocket. Although a single victory over a ranked foe won't erase Murray's disappointing track record in big games, it does provide scouts with some hope that he can turn it around at the next level.
7. Brett Hundley, UCLA
(Last week's rank: 4)
An open date kept Hundley from building on the momentum created by his terrific performance against Nevada. But the UCLA standout will have a chance to exploit an overmatched Nebraska defense. If Hundley can capitalize on the chance to throw the ball all over the yard, he could shoot to the top of the charts as the ideal dual-threat quarterback.
The "U" is certainly back in the college football conversation following the Hurricanes' 21-16 win over Florida. While the numbers will suggest that Morris had little to do with the win, the fact he helped the Hurricanes get off to a fast start with a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes shouldn't be underestimated. Morris dropped pinpoint throws on each of his touchdown tosses, which showcased his anticipation, accuracy and awareness as a touch passer. Most importantly, it showed scouts that Morris could step up in big moments to make critical plays.
9. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
(Last week's rank: 14)
If you're looking for a sleeper to follow in the 2014 NFL Draft, I would suggest putting Mettenberger on the short list of candidates. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound standout has completed 62.7 percent of his passes in a pro-style offense that pushes the ball down the field on an assortment of vertical routes. Additionally, he has tossed six touchdowns without an interception, which speaks volumes about his sound decisions from the pocket. Of course, Mettenberger will need to play well against the SEC's top-tier opponents to convince scouts he is worthy of consideration as a high pick, but the arrow is certainly pointing up when assessing his chances at the next level.
10. Jameis Winston, Florida State
(Last week's rank: 8)
There haven't been many quarterbacks who have enjoyed a better debut performance than Winston. However, the college football world is clamoring for more after witnessing the fireworks and catching a glimpse of Winston's impressive talents. With an out-of-conference game against Nevada on the horizon, scouts are curious to see what the redshirt freshman will do for an encore performance this weekend.
11. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
(Last week's rank: 6)
Miller entered the season as one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy based on his dynamic talents as a dual-threat quarterback. But a knee injury could put a damper on those hopes as he potentially misses a game this weekend against Cal. While the absence is certainly understandable based on the nature of his injury, scouts and interested observers will pay close attention to how Miller responds to determine if he has the requisite toughness to be a franchise player at the next level.
12. Derek Carr, Fresno State
(Last week's rank: 9)
Carr put in a workmanlike performance in the Bulldogs' 41-25 win over Cal Poly last weekend. He connected on 23 of 31 passes for 205 yards with three passing touchdowns. Although those numbers pale in comparison to his spectacular statistical performance from the season opener against Rutgers (52 of 73 passes for 456 yards with five touchdowns and one interception), Carr showed better patience and discipline relying on a "dink and dunk" approach to pick apart the Mustangs.
13. AJ McCarron, Alabama
(Last week's rank: 13)
A week to re-evaluate his game against Virginia Tech should help McCarron come out firing on all cylinders against Texas A&M in a SEC showdown this weekend. Scouts want to see if McCarron can lead a team as a playmaker instead of a game manager, so it's important for him to make a few plays in the passing game to reveal his value to the team.
14. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
(Last week's rank: NR)
Kelly got off to a fast start this season by torching Sacramento State in a glorified scrimmage last weekend. Kelly posted a 300-yard game and tossed five touchdowns directing the Sun Devils' up-tempo attack against the Hornets. While scouts will pore over the game tape to assess Kelly's performance from a technical standpoint, there are a number of scouts waiting to see how the Arizona State star performs this weekend against a battle-tested Wisconsin squad to see where his game stands at this stage of his development.
15. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
(Last week's rank: 15)
David Shaw has a budding superstar on his hands with Hogan emerging as a difference maker at quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound standout can pick apart opponents as a precise passer, while also tormenting foes with his underrated athleticism and running skills. As a result, he is nearly indefensible in the Cardinal's multi-faceted offense, as evidenced by his solid performance against San Jose State (17 of 27 passes for 207 yards with two touchdowns). With another lightweight (Army) on tap this weekend, Hogan should continue to build momentum heading into Pac-12 conference play.
16. Taysom Hill, BYU
(Last week's rank: NR)
It's unlikely Hill emerges as a legitimate pro prospect based on his one-dimensional game, but he definitely deserves a spot on this list after torching Texas with his spectacular running skills as a zone-read director. Hill rushed for 259 yards on 17 carries with three rushing scores, and added 126 yards through the air. Although his inconsistent passing prowess prevented the Cougars from delivering a knockout punch earlier in the contest, Hill's improvisational plays eventually helped BYU earn a landmark victory and secured his spot on this list.
Out of the list: Keith Price, Washington (last week's rank: 10); Vernon Adams, Eastern Washington (last week's rank: 16).