The college football season is just nine weeks old, but I've never seen better quarterback play at this level.
Now, I know traditionalists will likely disagree with my assertion, but signal callers across the country are putting up ridiculous numbers as drop-back passers in pro-style offenses or as run-pass threats directing read-option based spread attacks. Last week alone, we saw a quarterback pass for more than 500 yards (Devin Gardner, Michigan), while another rushed for more than 300 yards (Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois). In addition, a handful of passers topped the 400-yard mark directing wide-open offenses that are committed to throwing the ball all over the yard.
Given the remarkable production that we're seeing from quarterbacks at the FBS level, let's take a look at my latest list of the top quarterbacks in college football:
Not yet a franchise QB?
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
(Last week's rank: 2)
The Ducks' offensive supremacy is seemingly system-driven until you take a close look at the performance of Mariota. The redshirt sophomore is undoubtedly the driving force of the offense with his explosive skills as a dual-threat playmaker in the backfield. He has totaled 28 combined touchdowns, while averaging 10.4 yards per pass attempt and 10.1 yards per carry. Those numbers are ridiculous, yet indicative of the kind of impact Mariota makes when he steps onto the field.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
(Last week's rank: 1)
If Johnny Football had a competent defense, I believe he would be a lock to win his second consecutive Heisman Trophy based on his unbelievable play this season. He is the ultimate competitor with a big-game swagger that conveys an "I got this" attitude to his teammates and opponents. While it doesn't always translate to wins for the Aggies, the fact that Manziel has repeatedly put the offense on his shoulders in the clutch says a lot about his skills and boundless potential as a franchise quarterback.
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State
(Last week's rank: 6)
Winston lived up to the hype with a stupendous performance against Clemson in Death Valley. The redshirt freshman posted the first 400-yard passing game of his career, while dazzling observers with his exceptional skills as a passer. He showed the full repertoire of skills by torching the Clemson defense with an assortment of pinpoint throws at intermediate and deep range. Most impressively, Winston displayed a cool, unflappable demeanor, exuding a maturity and confidence that is surprising considering his youth and inexperience at the position.
4. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
(Last week's rank: 4)
The Cardinals' BCS national championship hopes were dashed in a loss to Central Florida, but it wasn't due to a poor performance from Bridgewater. He completed 29 of 38 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns, while displaying his trademark accuracy and ball placement on throws to every area of the field. In addition, Bridgewater directed a critical scoring drive in the fourth quarter that seemingly clinched the game for the Cardinals. Although his defense ultimately failed to protect the lead, the fact that he repeatedly made big plays under pressure will earn high praise from NFL scouts when they break down the tape.
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5. Derek Carr, Fresno State
(Last week's rank: 8)
If you're surprised to see Carr's name near the top of the list, you've haven't paid enough attention to the Bulldogs' re-emergence as a possible BCS killer. The senior has led Fresno State to an unbeaten start by posting ridiculous passing numbers this season. Carr has four 400-yard games this season, while completing 70 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Most importantly, he has shown the kind of arm talent and confidence that suggests he has the tools to thrive as a starter as a pro.
6. AJ McCarron, Alabama
(Last week's rank: 9)
McCarron will never receive proper recognition for his contributions to Alabama's dominance because his numbers rank well below the gunslingers dominating the college game. Yet, McCarron is worthy of praise as one of the most efficient players at his position. He has completed more than 69 percent of his passes, with a solid 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio that reflects his efficiency. With notable games against LSU and Auburn on the schedule, McCarron might get an opportunity to show scouts he is more than a game manager at the position.
7. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
(Last week's rank: 3)
The showdown with Florida State was expected to give Boyd an opportunity to show NFL evaluators his growth as a playmaker on a big stage. However, the disappointing performance against the Seminoles was one of the worst of his career and scouts will certainly have questions about his leadership skills after watching Clemson get outclassed in the battle of ACC heavyweights. While it's unfair to pin all of the woes on Boyd, the fact that the Tigers' offense sputtered against a rugged defense makes it hard to ignore the play of the quarterback.
8. Brett Hundley, UCLA
(Last week's rank: 5)
The new Wizard of Westwood struggled finding his rhythm against Stanford last weekend. Hundley finished with fewer than 200 passing yards for the first time this season, and tossed two interceptions against a stingy Cardinal defense. Although some of his woes could be attributed to leaky pass protection and miscommunication with wide receivers, the fact that he struggled pushing the ball down the field against an elite defense could lead to questions from NFL evaluators down the road.
9. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
(Last week's rank: 13)
It's becoming a routine occurrence to see Mannion post a 400-yard passing game this season. The junior standout has already surpassed the mark five times in seven games, while completing more than 68 percent of his passes. Additionally, he has amassed an impressive 29:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and shown the ability to make throws to every part of the field. Although the East Coast bias has kept him from garnering significant attention as a Heisman Trophy candidate, it's only a matter of time before he enters the conversation based on his ridiculous numbers this season.
10. Aaron Murray, Georgia
(Last week's rank: 10)
It's a shame injuries have ravaged the Bulldogs' offensive lineup because Murray was playing as well as any quarterback in the country up to that point. However, the lack of firepower on the perimeter has adversely affected his game and led the senior standout to force more throws into traffic. As a result, Murray has tossed three interceptions over the past three weeks, while watching his completion percentage decline significantly since the Tennessee game. While scouts will cut Murray some slack for his miscues under the current circumstances, the fact that his production and efficiency has declined makes it tough to keep him high on the list.
11. Bryce Petty, Baylor
(Last week's rank: 12)
The Bears' offensive machine continues to roll behind the efficient play of Petty. The junior quarterback topped the 300-yard mark for the sixth straight game, while helping while helping the Bears drop 70 points on an opponent for the fourth time this season. Factor in Petty's astonishing 15:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, it's time to give the Bears more credit for their offensive wizardry in the Big 12.
12. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
(Last week's rank: 7)
After watching Mettenberger's disastrous first-half performance against Ole Miss, I wondered if the senior standout was starting to regress as a decision maker in the pocket. However, he bounced back with a solid showing in the second half that showcased his skills as a deadly accurate passer between the numbers. While scouts will pore through the tape to see if his miscues are part of an emerging trend, I will hold out hope that the three-interception performance was an aberration for a quarterback who has made tremendous strides as a game manager as a senior.
13. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
(Last week's rank: 14)
The evolution of Miller's game from a run-first playmaker to a dangerous dual threat in the pocket is one of the reasons the Buckeyes continue to enjoy the nation's longest active winning streak. Miller simply punishes opponents with his arm and legs, as evidenced by his impressive 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing effort against Iowa. Although his overall game is still rounding into form, Miller is undoubtedly one of the most explosive playmakers in college football.
14. Devin Gardner, Michigan
(Last week's rank: NR)
After languishing through a few disappointing efforts following his standout performance against Notre Dame, Gardner has seemingly regained his swagger as the Wolverines' starting quarterback. The redshirt junior has completed 49 of 74 passes for 978 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in the last three games, including a spectacular performance against Indiana (21 of 29 for 503 yards; 15 carries for 81 rushing yards with five total touchdowns) that showcased his growth as a playmaker from the pocket. While the buzz about his developing game has subsided in the national media, NFL scouts are certainly paying attention to Gardner as an intriguing franchise-caliber quarterback down the road.
15. Maty Mauk, Missouri
(Last week's rank: NR)
Mauk shook up the SEC football world with his impressive debut performance against the Gators. The redshirt freshman connected on 18 of 36 passes for 295 yards with one touchdown and an interception in Missouri's 36-17 win over Florida. While his numbers aren't necessarily eye-popping by conventional standards, the fact that he tore up a defense that entered the game surrendering only 235.3 yards per game says a lot about his confidence and poise as a first-time starter. Most importantly, it suggests that the Tigers will continue to be a factor in the SEC race with or without James Franklin under center.
16. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
(Last week's rank: NR)
Whenever a runner tops the 300-yard rushing mark in a game it deserves a mention -- especially when it is a quarterback accomplishing the feat in dramatic fashion like Lynch. The senior standout rushed for 316 yards on 32 attempts, while also completing 20 of 30 passes for 155 yards in a 38-17 win over Central Michigan. He finished with four combined touchdowns and a handful of spectacular plays that thrust him into the conversation as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate. While it is unlikely that Lynch will generate enough buzz to overtake some of the more notable candidates, he definitely deserves a seat at the table based on his remarkable production as the masterful conductor of the Huskies' spread offense.
Out of the list: Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.) (last week's rank: 11); Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (last week's rank: 15); Anthony Boone, Duke (last week's rank: 16).