The college football season is reaching the tipping point, with several big games on the docket over the next few weeks. The performances of the quarterbacks is often the deciding factor in these matchups, providing evaluators with plenty of chances to see the top signal-callers perform in pressurized environments.
With a host of quarterbacks set to perform in rivalry games that will ultimately decide conference championships, let's take a look at how my quarterback tracker looks heading into Week 11:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
(Last week's rank: 1)
The Ducks have run roughshod over their opponents behind the stellar play of Mariota. The redshirt sophomore has accounted for 29 total touchdowns, while posting four 300-yard passing games and a pair of 100-yard games on the ground. Of course, the critics will suggest that the Ducks haven't played in a game that has tested Mariota's mettle under pressure, but this week's contest against Stanford will provide plenty of answers to those concerns about his big-game ability.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
(Last week's rank: 2)
If the Aggies didn't drop a pair of games in SEC play, Manziel would be a lock to claim his second consecutive Heisman Trophy based on his sensational individual play. He has kept the Aggies in contests with his spectacular improvisational skills, while also showing off a vastly improved game from the pocket. Additionally, Manziel has displayed an incredible competitive zeal that allows him to keep the Aggies in games where they're clearly overmatched on the defensive side of the ball. With those factors in mind, I believe Manziel will make a serious push to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner since Archie Griffin in 1975.
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State
(Last week's rank: 3)
Winston didn't bring his A-game against Miami (Fla.), but still posted a 300-yard performance against the Hurricanes that showcased his immense talent and skill as a passer. Additionally, he displayed resiliency and unshakeable confidence by continuing to make high-risk throws after tossing a pair of interceptions early in the contest. Of course, the college football world will tune in to see how Winston bounces back from his poor performance this weekend, the NFL scouting community is already convinced the kid has the tools to be a great one down the road.
4. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
(Last week's rank: 4)
The buzz has quieted around Bridgewater since the Cardinals' surprising loss a few weeks ago, but NFL evaluators still view him as the top quarterback in the class. He displays all of the mental attributes that coaches covet in a franchise quarterback, while also possessing the arm talent, athleticism and pocket-passing skills to play in a traditional or unconventional offense at the next level. Although some scouts question his rail thin frame (6-foot-3, 196 pounds), it is important to note that Aaron Rodgers left Cal as a scrawny 6-2, 200-pound gunslinger. With a game that is nearly identical in every sense, it would be a mistake to dismiss Bridgewater's chances of becoming a star as a pro.
5. Derek Carr, Fresno State
(Last week's rank: 5)
Some will argue that Carr's remarkable numbers ring hollow due to the level of competition, but a close look at his play on tape reveals a talented gunslinger with an NFL-ready game. From his rock-steady confidence to his superior arm talent, Carr has all of the tools and intangibles to be a quality starter at the next level. Now, he must continue to display those traits down the stretch and in all-star games to cement his status as a potential top pick, but the Fresno State star is certainly on the rise in NFL circles.
6. AJ McCarron, Alabama
(Last week's rank: 6)
The dreaded "game manager" label has been attached to McCarron's name since guiding the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national titles, but astute observers see a polished quarterback with the skills to win games on the strength of his right arm. With the naysayers continuing to take a wait-and-see position on his game, McCarron can prove his worth as a big-time quarterback with a huge game against LSU this weekend.
7. Bryce Petty, Baylor
(Last week's rank: 8)
Skeptics are anxiously awaiting Baylor's Big 12 showdown with Oklahoma to see if the hype surrounding Petty's game is merited. The spunky junior has connected on 69.3 percent of his passes, while sporting a remarkable 19:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. Considering Petty has rarely played into the fourth quarter, those numbers are indicative of his terrific play at the position.
8. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
(Last week's rank: 9)
Boyd will end his career as the ACC's most prolific touchdown maker after pushing his total to 116 (93 passing and 23 rushing) with a four-touchdown effort against Virginia. He continues to torment opponents with his versatile game, while impressing scouts with his mastery of the Tigers' fast-paced offense. Although he must play better in Clemson's next big game (against South Carolina) to squelch some of the concerns about his ability to play on a big stage, Boyd has certainly earned the right to be considered one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
9. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
(Last week's rank: 10)
Miller's early-season injury wiped out his Heisman Trophy chances, but hardcore college football fans should pay close attention to his developing game as a dual-threat playmaker. The Buckeyes' star is completing more than 72 percent of his passes with a 15:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in seven starts. Additionally, he has totaled 410 rushing yards on 87 attempts with a couple of scores. While those numbers don't jump off the stat sheet when compared to some of Miller's more notable colleagues, the fact that he has made major strides as a passer makes the Buckeyes' offense far more dangerous than last year's version.
10. Brett Hundley, UCLA
(Last week's rank: 11)
After a pair of disappointing performances, Hundley got back on track by torching Colorado for 345 yards of total offense (273 pass yards and 72 rush yards) with four combined touchdowns. Most importantly, he showed the confidence and swagger that piqued the interest of NFL scouts searching for a potential franchise quarterback down the road.
11. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
(Last week's rank: 7)
Mannion has seen his production dip since the Beavers reached the meat of their schedule, but he remains the top passer in the country. Of course, his three-interception performance against USC didn't help the Beavers' cause, but I remained impressed by his ability to carry an offense without a smidgen of a running game. If Mannion can produce big numbers against defenses stacked against the run, I wonder how effective he would be playing in a balanced offense that generated single-high safety looks from the defense.
12. Aaron Murray, Georgia
(Last week's rank: 13)
The Georgia standout has successfully silenced the critics questioning his big-game moxie by single-handedly carrying the Bulldogs' offense that's missing several key playmakers on the outside. Murray keyed wins over Tennessee and Florida on the strength of his right arm alone, while slowly bringing along a handful of newcomers adjusting to the intensity of SEC football. With a few more notable games on the schedule to solidify his resume as the most prolific passer in SEC history, Murray will walk away from Athens as one of the best to ever play between the hedges.
13. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
(Last week's rank: 12)
After a sizzling start, Mettenberger has cooled a little bit over the past few weeks. He has put up a few disappointing starts (he has thrown five interceptions in his previous two games after having just two picks in the season's first seven games), but he has the opportunity to make major waves in NFL circles with a big performance against Alabama. With Nick Saban known for testing the football acumen of quarterbacks with his complex coverage and exotic pre-snap disguises, Mettenberger will showcase his skills to scouts in an NFL-like contest.
14. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
(Last week's rank: 15)
It's time to start recognizing Lynch as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender based on his remarkable production as the ultimate offensive weapon. He has totaled 75 combined touchdowns since 2011, which ranks as the second-best mark in FCS during that span. Additionally, he has carried the Huskies to a BCS game (the 2013 Orange Bowl) and made the team a viable contender for another berth this season.
15. Quinn Epperly, Princeton
(Last week's rank: NR)
Whenever a quarterback connects on 29 consecutive completions, it deserves a mention on the list, especially when it is a part of an efficient performance (32 of 35 for 325 yards with three touchdowns; three rushing scores) that leads to a "W". Epperly picked apart Cornell with a series of pinpoint throws to every area of the field, while also tormenting the Big Red with a handful of impromptu runs that drove defenders crazy over a 60-minute game. Although it's unlikely that Epperly will be able to maintain his exceptional play over the rest of the season, he definitely deserves kudos for putting on a spectacular show last weekend.
16. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
(Last week's rank: NR)
It is hard to score seven touchdowns in a college football game, but Kelly did it in spectacular fashion in Arizona State's 55-21 win over Washington State last weekend. He connected on 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards with five touchdowns, and scored twice on the ground with 66 rushing yards. Although Kelly has been maddeningly inconsistent over the past few weeks, he earns a spot on the list with his strong play against the Cougars.
Out of the list: Devin Gardner, Michigan (last week's rank: 14); Garrett Gilbert, SMU (last week's rank: 16).