The college football season is at the midway point, and we are starting to see the cream rise to the top in the quarterback tracker rankings. Led by Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater, the headliners of a deep and talented collection of college quarterbacks are beginning to dazzle the football world on a weekly basis.
From their brilliant throws from the pocket to the spectacular improvisational plays that stand out on highlight reels, the stars are shining throughout the college football landscape. Given another week to analyze and discuss the performance of quarterbacks around the country with a handful of friends and scouting colleagues, here is my list of the top quarterbacks in college football for Week 6:
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
(Last week's rank: 1)
It's hard to knock Johnny Football off his perch atop the college football landscape when he has continued to thrive as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game. Manziel is completing over 71 percent of his passes with a remarkable 14:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Factor in his spectacular performance against the defending national champions, and it's impossible to start a list of top quarterbacks without the reigning Heisman Trophy winner entrenched in the No. 1 spot.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
(Last week's rank: 4)
The Tigers' offense steamrolls opponents behind the efficient performances of Boyd in the pocket. The fifth-year senior has tossed at least three touchdowns in four of the Tigers' five contests, while connecting on 66 percent of his passing attempts. Although he has taken 11 sacks as a passer, the fact that he has accounted for four touchdowns on the ground as the Tigers' designated short-yardage runner says a lot about Boyd's versatility as a dual-threat playmaker. With a showdown with Florida State looming on Oct. 19, Boyd's leadership skills will be tested as the Tigers take on Boston College this weekend in a trap game.
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
(Last week's rank: 3)
The Cardinals' soft schedule has taken away some of the luster on Bridgewater's spectacular season, but astute observers should appreciate the growth and development of his game in his third season of major college football. Bridgewater has continued to refine a game that is pro-ready in every aspect. From his deadly accuracy on passes to every area of the field to his superb efficiency working through progressions in the pocket, Bridgewater plays the game like a 10-year NFL veteran. Although the skeptics might doubt the Cardinals' ability to take down one of college football's heavyweights, there is no disputing Bridgewater's potential as the top quarterback prospect in the 2014 or 2015 draft class.
4. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
(Last week's rank: 2)
The Ducks continue to obliterate opponents behind an offense that averages 59.2 points per game. Mariota has certainly keyed the juggernaut by posting 14 passing touchdowns against zero interceptions in the pocket. Additionally, he has averaged more than 12 yards per carry on the ground and totaled seven touchdowns on only 28 rushing attempts. While there are certainly some legitimate questions about Mariota's accuracy and touch, the fact he has killed opponents as a dual-threat playmaker gives the Ducks a chance to remain atop the college football landscape despite facing a schedule littered with landmines over the next few weeks (Oregon faces three ranked opponents -- Washington, UCLA and Stanford -- in a four-week period).
5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
(Last week's rank: 5)
The Tigers' standout is unquestionably the most improved quarterback in the college game. He is not only impressing NFL scouts with his superb play from the pocket, but he is making SEC opponents cringe at the thought of facing a high-powered LSU offense that is far more balanced than Les Miles' previous teams. With Cam Cameron continuing to implement NFL passing concepts to the playbook, Mettenberger's continued development as deadly pocket passer could keep LSU in the national championship contender conversation for the rest of the season.
6. Brett Hundley, UCLA
(Last week's rank: 7)
Scouts look for the clutch factor in quarterbacks because the pro game is typically decided in the fourth quarter. Watching Hundley lead the Bruins to a hard-fought win over Utah a week ago, there should be little doubt in the minds of NFL evaluators that Hundley has the goods to get it done when the game is on the line. The sensational redshirt sophomore only passed for 211 yards in the game, but completed a touchdown trifecta (Hundley scored a rushing, passing and receiving touchdown) that helped the Bruins earn a tough victory on the road.
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7. Jameis Winston, Florida State
(Last week's rank: 8)
It seems like the legend of "Famous" Jameis Winston grows by the week. The redshirt freshman continues to dazzle college football observers around the country with his brilliant skills as a playmaker by picking apart opponents with his skills as an athletic passer. He torched Maryland for 393 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 63-0 shellacking that announced the return of the Seminoles as a national power. With Winston setting the pace with his spectacular skills as a passer (73.2 completion percentage with a 17:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio), the impending showdown with Clemson could launch a surprising Heisman Trophy campaign.
8. Aaron Murray, Georgia
(Last week's rank: 6)
A host of injuries to the Bulldogs' offensive skill players has forced Murray to carry the offense on the strength of his right arm. Luckily for Mark Richt, the senior standout is capable of handling the responsibility, while also engineering wins on the road. Against Tennessee, Murray's stat sheet didn't necessarily tell the story of his remarkable ability, but anyone watching him make big play after big play walked away with a greater appreciation for his skills as a leader and playmaker. Although a one-dimensional Georgia squad might not be good enough to win the SEC East, the experience of putting the weight of a team on his back could be invaluable for Murray at the next level.
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9. Derek Carr, Fresno State
(Last week's rank: 10)
Gunslingers relish the opportunity to put the ball up 40-plus times, so it's not a surprise that Carr is at his best when the Bulldogs call on him to throw the ball all over the yard. He has guided the Bulldogs to an unexpected 5-0 start by four games with at least 300 yards, including three 400-yard efforts. While some will dismiss his accomplishments due to the level of competition in the MWC, the fact that he has consistently posted that kind of production throughout a stellar career leads some NFL scouts to view him as draft-day sleeper in the 2014 NFL Draft class.
10. AJ McCarron, Alabama
(Last week's rank: 9)
If quarterbacks are judged primarily on winning games, there isn't a better signal-caller in college football than McCarron. The gutsy senior has done it all during his career at Alabama and continues to lead the Crimson Tide down the winning path with his efficient play at the position. Although a game against Georgia State represents nothing more than a scrimmage, the fact that he helped his squad maintain their focus with a workmanlike effort (166 passing yards with four touchdowns) suggests that his leadership and winning intangibles are off the charts. If NFL scouts can get a better glimpse of his playmaking ability in the clutch, McCarron will continue to rise up the charts as the ultimate game manager in this year's draft.
11. Keith Price, Washington
(Last week's rank: 14)
It's time to consider Price as a legitimate franchise quarterback candidate. The fifth-year senior has not regained the spectacular form that made him an intriguing prospect in 2011, but he has shown the kind of big-game moxie that leads me to believe that he is ready to excel at the next level. Against Stanford, he battled through a painful thumb injury to keep the Huskies in the game until the waning moments. While stat geeks will focus on his efficiency during the 350-yard effort, scouts and coaches will be more impressed with the guts, leadership skills and feistiness that Price exhibited in the contest. Those traits are critical to his evaluation as a mid-round prospect with tremendous upside and potential.
12. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
(Last week's rank: 11)
Coach David Shaw has frequently told me that Hogan has the goods to be one of the best to play the quarterback position at Stanford. From his superb football IQ to his underrated athleticism, Hogan definitely entices scouts with his multidimensional skills from the pocket. Although the Cardinal still prefer to grind it out behind a power-based offense that skews heavy toward the run, Hogan's flashes of brilliance as a passer gives Shaw plenty of confidence that the offense could lean on an emerging passing game to get it done. With tough matchups against UCLA, Oregon, USC and Notre Dame remaining on the schedule, we will soon get a chance to see how far Hogan has progressed as a playmaker in the pocket.
13. Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.)
(Last week's rank: 13)
Part of the reason the "U" is back in the college football conversation is due to the growth of Morris as a passer. The senior standout is unquestionably one of the most gifted throwers in the game; he is starting to play to his potential despite battling an assortment of injuries. Morris is coming off a 300-yard passing game against Georgia Tech that showcased his superb touch and accuracy as a deep ball passer. In addition, Morris continues to display leadership skills and a winning pedigree that coaches covet in a franchise-caliber quarterback at the next level.
14. Bryce Petty, Baylor
(Last week's rank: NR)
Whenever an offense puts 70 points on the board it's a big deal, especially if it has happened against three consecutive opponents. Petty has been the driving force of an unstoppable attack that torments opponents with a wide-open offensive approach. Although he definitely benefits from the collection of speedsters on the perimeter, Petty is not getting enough credit for delivering accurate passes to all areas of the field. Most importantly, he is not getting enough respect for posting a 10:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the conductor of one of college football's top offenses.
15. James Franklin, Missouri
(Last week's rank: NR)
He's back! That's what Missouri fans are chanting after watching Franklin put on a weekly offensive showcase as the director of the Tigers' spread offense. The senior standout has bounced back from a disappointing 2012 campaign to guide Missouri to a 5-0 record on the strength of his brilliance as a run-pass threat in the backfield. Franklin has accounted for nearly 1,700 yards of total offense and recorded 15 combined touchdowns, while terrorizing opponents with his explosive athleticism. Additionally, he has rediscovered the confidence and swagger that was such a nightmare to defend two seasons ago when he nearly joined the exclusive 3,000-1,000 club in 2011.
16. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
(Last week's rank: 12)
Miller wasn't on his game against Northwestern, but he still made enough plays on the perimeter to help the Buckeyes earn their 18th consecutive win. Of course, the fumbles and bonehead mistakes stood out in the performance, but I still came away with several positive impressions of Miller's game while watching from afar. He is unquestionably the best athlete on the field whenever he is in the game, and his natural arm talent rivals the top passers in college football. Although he remains a work in progress in the pocket, Miller is such an explosive playmaker that deserves to stay on the list despite exhibiting his flaws against the Wildcats.
Out of the list: Sean Mannion, Oregon State (last week's rank: 15); Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (last week's rank: 16).