College Kids Talking College Sports Week 4 Power Rankings

The SEC jumped back into action this week, two top-6 teams fell, and overall, the college football world was a chaotic, beautiful, mess this past weekend. As usual, after the weekend’s slate of games, our team got together and voted on our official Top 10 (plus a few honorable mention) power rankings.

Honorable Mention

  • UCF
  • Penn State
  • Oklahoma State

#10 – Cincinnati Bearcats (Last Week: NR)

The Bearcats did not get off to a great start, as a mishandled pitch led to a defensive touchdown for Army on the game’s first drive. However, Cincy controlled the game after that, limiting a potent Black Knights’ rushing attack, while grinding out 24 points against a very tough defense. Army entered the game having given up 7 points in two games and ranked #22 in the country, so this was a pretty sweet win for Cincinnati, who are looking to secure a NY6 Bowl Game, and, maybe in some chaotic universe, a longshot CFP bid.

#9Texas Longhorns (Last Week: 10)

The Longhorns didn’t look particularly impressive, but they still rise a spot due to the losses of Oklahoma and LSU. Texas trailed by 15 to Texas Tech with under four minutes remaining, but a touchdown, onside kick recovery, second touchdown and a two-point conversion sent the Longhorns to overtime, where they ended the Red Raiders’ upset dreams. It wasn’t reassuring, but in a wild conference that already saw Kansas State upset the Sooners, any win is critical. Texas also may have an inside track to the CFP if they can defeat Oklahoma in the regular season and eliminate their archrivals from Big 12 title contention.

#8 – Miami Hurricanes (Last Week: NR)

The Hurricanes are gaining more and more believers every week. D’Eriq King has looked elite under center in Miami, and Cam’Ron Harris adds great rushing production. They’ve been dynamic on offense, and their defense is opportunistic and completely shut down an anemic FSU offense this past weekend. The Hurricanes rolled 52-10 and have now outscored opponts 130-58 over three games. A date with Clemson looms in two weeks.

#7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Last Week: 7)

The idle Irish gain no ground this week, as they’re still another ten days away from their next game, a home clash with Florida State. A COVID outbreak has halted football activities for the time being, but the Irish hope to begin practice again in a day or two, with an eye towards recaturing the momentum from their 52-0 stomping of USF.

#6 – Georgia Bulldogs (Last Week: 4)

The unofficial, but kind of official, policy is that if you are losing to Arkansas at halftime, you will drop in the rankings. Although Georgia figured it out for a comfortable 37-10 win, that ugly 7-5 scoreline at the end of the second quarter isn’t easy to forget. The defense looked very good, but the offense was out of sync and uncomfortable for a long period of time. The return of USC transfer J.T. Daniels will hopefully help, but we’ll find out really soon, when the ‘Dawgs take on Auburn this weekend.

#5 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: 6)

Auburn needed a while to pull away from the #23 Kentucky Wildcats, but ultimately, they did so en route to a 29-13 victory. They only led 8-7 at halftime, but that was pretty impressive given that they held the ball for barely over 8 minutes of game time in the first two quarters. Bo Nix and receiver Seth Williams helped liven up the offense in the second half, striking for three touchdowns to help seal the game away. Their offense faces a very stiff defensive challenge in their road trip to Athens to take on Georgia this weekend.

#4 – Florida Gators (Last Week: 8)

The Gators are our biggest riser of the week. They also take advantage of the multiple top-10 upsets this week, and their thrilling offensive performance was very impressive on Saturday. The defense left much to be desired, but a 51-point effort from the Gators on offense, along with 6 touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Trask, stole the show. While Georgia struggled to put away the Razorbacks, it looked like Florida may have established themselves as the team to beat in the East.

#3 – Ohio State Buckeyes (Last Week: 5)

There was some hesitation on where to rank the Buckeyes, as we kept them a little lower last week. But with the recent upsets, and the Big 10’s official inclusion on the AP Poll, it feels right to slot Ohio State in as the third best team. They’re going to be dangerous in 2020.

#2 – Alabama Crimson Tide (Last Week: 2)

No major alarm bells were sounding in Alabama’s clean 38-19 win over Missouri. Najee Harris ran for three touchdowns, while Mac Jones posted a QBR of over 95, the highest mark in the SEC for the week. Missouri outscored the Alabama bench by 10 points in the final frame to make the score seem a little closer, but this one was never in doubt. Combined with LSU’s loss and Texas A&M’s shaky performance against Vanderbilt, Alabama established themselves as the clear SEC West favorite early in the season.

#1 – Clemson Tigers (Last Week: 1)

Clemson was off after a 2-0 start, but they don’t slip from their perch atop the rankings. They’ve been very impressive early on against inferior competition, and they’ll look to tune up against Virginia before an October 10th showdown with the Miami Hurricanes.

College Football Relevancy Rankings: Top 15

What makes a college football team relevant? Is it wins? That would be unfairly biased towards Group of 5 programs with the ability to rack up wins against horrific teams while unfairly punishing teams out of the SEC, Big 10, and other Power-5 conferences that load their schedules with premier competition each year. No offense to Boise State (or maybe a little bit), but the Broncos are not the best team in the country by really any other measure. And beating up on San Jose State, New Mexico, and UNLV does not qualify one for college football supremacy. However, to strictly take playoff berths and national championships seems flawed as well, as that essentially completely discounts UCF, Boise State, and other great but smaller-name programs. What about elite recruiting? Or draft picks and successful NFL careers?

We did our best to combine the variety of factors, weighing the success of college alums in the NFL, draft position, bowl appearances – with an emphasis on New Year’s 6 bowls – and CFP appearances. Of course, extra points were awarded for national championships – Group of 5 teams can cry all they want about how biased the CFP committee is, but the reality is they don’t have the ability to consistently defeat high-level programs. In a recent simulation we ran, we expanded the CFP to include the top Group of 5 team from each season, the non Power-5 squads went 1-6 with only 2017 UCF picking up a win. Relevancy or dominance can also not be claimed from one amazing season (LSU fans would have you believe they’re the greatest program in history because Joe Burrow dropped about a million points on everyone), nor can it be claimed by a 1988 national championship (looking at myself and fellow Irish fans on that one). 

So, taking all these factors into consideration, here are the rankings of the top 15 most relevant football programs heading into the 2020 season. For the keyboard warriors, rage type all your angry thoughts to collegetalking@gmail.com, where you can contact any of our writers.

15. Wisconsin 

Wisconsin just exudes hard and tough vibes, and that’s exactly the type of product the Badgers put out on the gridiron year in and year out. Their biggest strengths lie in their backfield and in the trenches. Recent alum of the program and 2017 first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk has already posted 47 starts and garnered All-Pro honors, while 2019 picks Michael Deiter and David Edwards have already combined for 25 starts. Behind their grind-it-out, ground-and-pound style, Wisconsin has won four of six West Division titles since the Big 10 split into East/West divisions. They’ve posted three top-15 finishes in that time period, rising into the top-6 at various points in each of the past four years, along with a 5-1 record in Bowl Games, including an Orange Bowl victory in 2017. However, an 0-4 record in Big 10 championships and struggles on the recruiting class (not in the Top 25 over the past five seasons), keep the Badgers from rising too far up this list. 

14. Washington

The Huskies edged out Wisconsin on the strength of three NY6 bowl appearances, and a spectacular stretch from 2016-2018 that was highlighted by a College Football Playoff berth in 2017. Playoff berths were certainly valued highly in the compilation of these rankings, as were conference championships, both areas where Washington beat out the Badgers, as the Huskies have won a pair of Pac-12 titles. They’ve had success in developing professional prospects in the secondary and at tight end, and they had no losing records in the past decade. However, they were really only elite for a 3-year stretch and went 2-3 in their last five bowl appearances, so Washington stays at #14 here. 

13. Boise State

As much as I like to give grief to the Broncos, they do at least belong on this list. Spoiler Alert: They’re the only Group-of-5 team that cracked the top 15. Boise State has not been the best Group-of-5 squad in recent years, having not been to a New Year’s 6 bowl since 2014, but their remarkable consistency earns them a place here – the Broncos have won at least 8 games in every season since 1998, posting 17 ten-win campaigns in that 21-year stretch. Their easy strength of schedule (not a single above-average SOS in program history) will always present an asterisk to their name that anyone will throw in their face, but Boise State gets Ws, and they have for 25 years, and they’ve been superb since joining the FBS in 2011, cracking the top 25 in every season. Their winning percentage over the last decade ranks fifth in the country at .805, and the Broncos sit fourth with 107 wins during that time. Now, I will throw in this statistic, so whether you’re a Boise State fan ready to brag about breaking the top 15 or insulted that you are put that low ( I truly don’t know what to expect out of that rabid and slightly delusional fanbase) – Since 2012, Boise State is just 1-4 against ranked Power-5 teams, and they don’t have a top-10 win since 2010. So they’re not a top-10 program, but they do deserve recognition for their consistency and sheer quantity of wins. 

12. Florida 

Florida would be a lot higher on this list if we were putting greater emphasis on history. Long gone are the days of Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow,  and the 2008 national championship, and even further gone is the era of Steve Spurrier, accompanied by four consecutive SEC championships and a couple more national titles. However, the Gators haven’t won the SEC title since that ‘08 run, and they haven’t appeared in the championship game since 2016. They’ve continued to recruit well, with their recruiting classes ranked #14 over the past five seasons, and they still pump out solid NFL talent, particularly on the offensive line and at defensive back – the boys in Gainesville are one of many teams to claim DBU. Florida has a pair of losing seasons in the past decades, but they’ve rebounded nicely in the past couple seasons, ending their previous two campaigns with major bowl victories (Peach and Orange Bowls), keeping them in the top 15. 

11. Notre Dame

Yes they’ve struggled in big games recently, and the Irish are still sitting on zero championships in the BCS/CFP era, but Notre Dame’s ability to bring in top level talent and turn that talent into NFL prospects keeps the Irish highly relevant, but I couldn’t justify bringing them into the top 10 without major recent accomplishments. However, the Irish produce some elite professional players, particularly on their offensive line in recent years (Quentin Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Zack Martin). They have a .713 winning percentage in the past decade, and they’re 4-2 in their past six bowl game appearances, highlighted by a pair of thrilling victories over LSU. They’ve been ranked in the top 12 in four of the past five seasons, and combined with a Playoff appearance, it was enough to put Notre Dame at #11 on the list. 

10. Florida State

One of the most dominant teams in college football in the first half of the decade, Florida State has faded from relevancy, posting just an 18-20 record in their prior three seasons. However, the Seminoles’ 59-9 record in the five years prior was more than enough to earn FSU some consideration for making this list. Ultimately, their BCS national championship and CFP appearance was enough to just barely crack the top 10. The Seminoles have continued to recruit at a high level, despite their recent struggles, as they’ve boasted the 6th-best recruiting classes over the past five years. They’ve had a pair of quarterbacks drafted in the first round, and clearly on-field talent isn’t the issue – if Florida State can sort out some off-field issues, the Seminoles should return to their elite ways. If not? They’ll slip very quickly off this list. 

9. Oregon
Recent first-round pick Justin Herbert has completed the Ducks’ turnaround, after Oregon spent nearly a decade as one of the best teams in the country. From 2008-2014, the Ducks went 80-15, with that stretch of dominance sandwiched by a pair of 9-4 seasons. They also were a consistent presence in major bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl twice, the Fiesta Bowl once, and appearing in two national championship games and the Playoff. Oregon bottomed out in 2016 with a 4-8 record, but they’ve surged once more, with a 21-6 record over the past two years, punctuated by another thrilling Rose Bowl victory in 2020. The Ducks continue one of the premier teams on the West Coast, but they need to break through to get a national title to stay in the top 10. 

8. Auburn

The Tigers started the decade off with the brilliance of Cam Newton and a national championship, so it was certainly tough to match that, but Auburn certainly continues to a premier team in college football. Playing in the SEC, the Tigers constantly face one of the most brutal schedules in the country, and I think they could be trending upwards, with another two seasons of Bo Nix coming and some victories on the recruiting trail. Their record (62-31) over the past seven seasons may not be as flashy as others on this list, but don’t forget that winning two of three in the SEC is far more impressive than winning three of four in most other conferences, and seven straight winning seasons while playing in the toughest division in the toughest conference in college football is worthy of a top-10 appearance. A CFP appearance is needed soon, but that BCS national championship and consistent SEC relevancy slots Auburn at #8. 

7. USC

Look, I get it. This seems way to high for a team that hasn’t won a championship since 2003-2004, and I’m not particularly happy about slotting the Trojans here – I’m a diehard Irish fan and Notre Dame student, and one of my favorite memories of my freshman year was watching the boys in blue and gold dust USC at Notre Dame Stadium. But before a recent slump, USC had posted winning records in every season from 2002 to 2017, including seven straight years of at least 11 wins. Despise some recent struggles, the Trojans have been ranked in the AP Poll at some point for each of the past 19 seasons, including a #3 finish in 2016. In recruiting talent and NFL talent they bring in and pump out, USC deserves to be in the top 10. Notre Dame may lead the series in this rivalry, but USC has been better in big games. This will likely be the most controversial ranking on the list, but I’ll stick with it. USC is such a national brand that with the premier talent they bring in year in and year out, they will always be a story, and if they can get a relatively hapless Clay Helton off the sideline, the Trojans can return to national glory. 

6. Georgia

Another great team that has just been completely unable to break through on the national level, as Georgia has returned to national relevance, but they can’t quite get that big win. After finishing every season from 1997-2008 ranked inside the Top 25, the Bulldogs faded slightly, but they stayed near the top of the rankings, appearing in the top 10 in every season since 2012. Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has surged once more, finishing no lower than seventh in the past three seasons, with an SEC Championship, three SEC title game appearances, a CFP and national championship appearance, as well as wins in the Rose and Sugar Bowls. Talent wise, Georgia has absolutely dominated their in-state rivalry, allowing them to dominate the in-state recruiting battles. As such, Georgia has dominated on the recruiting front, and they produce some elite NFL prospects, particularly in the backfield, pushing the Bulldogs to 6th in our 2020 relevancy rankings. 

5. Oklahoma

Since 2000, Oklahoma has consistently been one of the top teams in college football – cracking the top ten in every season in that stretch with appearances in the top 5 in 17 of those 20 seasons. They’ve qualified for four consecutive Playoffs, and while they’ve struggled on that stage, Oklahoma has dominated their conference, been a mainstay in the rankings, featured top-10 talent, had two Heisman winners, and produced highly sought after draft prospects for the NFL. By every standard except Playoff success, Oklahoma is one of the best programs in the country, so don’t let their struggles in the spotlight cloud your judgement of the Sooners. 

4. LSU

Yes LSU is great. No they are not the best team in the nation. The Tigers returned to true national relevance in Joe Burrow’s first season, finishing sixth in the AP Poll – their first top ten finish since 2011. Then, of course, there was last year: one of the greatest seasons and quarterbacking efforts of all-time en route to a 15-0 season. That CFP appearance and national championship bumps the Tigers into the top 5. LSU recruits at a top-five level in most seasons, and they probably have the most legitimate claim to DBU with four All-Pro alums and 2017 first-round pick Jamal Adams on his way to becoming the best safety in the NFL. LSU is always relevant, and they’ve turned the corner after spending much of the decade as an afterthought in the national championship race – now they need to succeed in the post-Burrow era to validate this ranking. 

3. Ohio State

Seemingly always a powerhouse, but rarely on top. The Alabama-Clemson dual-dynasties may have dominated the second half of the decade, but Ohio State was always right in the mix, but, sans the first ever College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes have not been able to break through. Ohio State has been ranked second in the AP Poll in each of the past four years, but they haven’t sat atop the rankings since 2015. However, outside a blip in 2011 when the Buckeyes went 6-7, Ohio State has been one of the most consistent teams in the country, with extended stretches of dominance – you have to go back to 1967 to find the last season that OSU didn’t make an appearance in the AP Poll. However, Ohio State has not been able to punctuate their dynasty with more than the occasional title, meaning their spot at #3 is anything but secure, with LSU’s recent surge and Oklahoma a CFP win or two from being considered a premier program. 

2. Clemson

These rankings were always going to come down to Bama-Clemson at 1 and 2, it was just a matter of who ranked where. Ultimately, while it’s brutally difficult to decide in just the last few years, Alabama’s dynasty has simply been longer (more on that later), so Clemson ranks second. They’ve been incredibly dominant for five seasons now, and their dynasty doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. I believe the Tigers have the biggest claim to WRU, where they’ve produced DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams, and their 6-3 record in the CFP  and two national titles are wildly impressive. Had I wrote this article in 2015, I’m not sure Clemson would even be on this list, so it’s safe to say it’s a truly special period of dominance that saw the Tigers skyrocket to the top so fast.

1. Alabama

2007. That was the last time that a season went by and Alabama wasn’t ranked #1 at some point during the season. Toss in five national championships in that era, and the top ranking on this list simply couldn’t go to anyone but the Tide. Last year, they finished eighth in the AP Poll, their first time outside the top 5 since 2013 and their lowest ranking since 2010. As for the other qualifications for this list? Alabama dominates the recruiting landscape virtually every season, and they pump out NFL talent at almost every position. Although I stick with my pick of Clemson, Alabama stake a claim for WRU, and defensively, nobody can top the Tide who boast defensive line and linebacker talent like no other program. Their running backs tear up the NFL (see Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram), and the Tide have been the standard in the best conference in America for over a decade. It’s really not a question who is #1 here. 

DeGeorge: Big 12 Quarterback Rankings 2020

10: Miles Kendrick, Kansas, Junior

2018 Stats: 11-19 passing for 100 yards and 1 touchdown. 16 rushing attempts for 47 yards and 1 touchdown.

Kendrick played in a backup role in 2018 and did not play in 2019. He is a dual threat quarterback and was listed as a three star recruit by 247sports, and he is a decent decision maker and does not make a lot of mistakes. My concerns about Kendrick, however, are that he has not played much, he is undersized (5’10, 205 lbs), and he does not have talent around him. He also does not have the potential to carry his team. He is still in a battle with Thomas MacVittie, but he is projected to win that competition – my take on Kendrick is he is an average player on a below average team.

9: Jarrett Doege, West Virginia, Senior

2019 Stats: 79-120 passing for 818 yards, 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 11 rushing attempts for -41 yards and 0 touchdowns.

Doege has experience as a transfer from Bowling Green, where he was a starter. Last year, he won the starting job and played pretty well in four games. He is a pro style quarterback at 6-2, 200 pounds and was rated as a three star quarterback by 247sports. Another quarterback with not a lot of talent around him, I think Doege will have a decent year and may surprise people, but in a pretty stacked Big 12 quarterback room, I have him ranked 9th. He is a good decision maker with experience, but in an offensive conference, not having weapons around you can be fatal.

8: Skylar Thompson, Kansas State, Senior

2019 Stats: 177-297 for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. 114 rushing attempts for 405 yards and 11 touchdowns.

A 6’2 and 210 pounds, Thompson is a dual threat quarterback, who was ranked as a three star recruit by 247sports. A quarterback with a lot of experience playing the Big 12 gauntlet, he has plus decision making and leadership. He has been praised for his leadership, and he brings back a strong receiving core, but K-State replaces all five offensive lineman. The reason Thompson is rated low is because he struggles with his accuracy, and he will struggle with that entirely new offensive line. For another year, Thompson will lead Kansas State to mediocrity. I like his leadership ability, but I do not believe he has the talent or the throwing ability to really succeed in the Big 12.

7: Max Duggan, TCU, Sophomore

2019 Stats: 181-339 for 2,077 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. 130 rushing attempts for 555 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Duggan played well at times as a freshman for a struggling TCU team. He showed a fierce competitive drive and leadership that is not often seen in freshman. As a 6’2, 190-lb, dual threat quarterback, the TCU signal-caller was ranked as a four star recruit by 247sports. Duggan has the potential to have a breakout year, which we saw at times last year. However, I think that he’s one year away from that happening. TCU does not have a lot of offensive weapons, and Duggan still will suffer through some growing pains. He will eventually be a dominant quarterback in this league, but he still needs to improve. I believe he will build on his freshman season in 2020, but I do not believe he will have the breakout year that many project.

6: Alan Bowman, Texas Tech, Junior

Alan Bowman

2019 Stats: 101-157 for 1,020 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 7 rushing attempts for 14 yards and 1 touchdown.

Bowman played in only three games in 2019, but he had impressive numbers in the air raid offense. The former three-star recruit (247sports) has had to battle through injuries in his last two seasons. He is a 6’3, 210-pound, pro style quarterback The biggest question surrounding Bowman is his health. If he remains injury-free, I believe he will have a breakout year. He has all the talent and potential in the world to excel in a weak defensive conference. He is the perfect quarterback for the Big 12 because of his arm strength and accuracy. He does not have insane talent around him, but he has enough to pair with his talent. The only reason he is not ranked higher is because the Big 12 has great quarterbacks, and injuries are a question. A lot of experts rank him lower, but I believe Bowman will be dominant this year if he is on the field.

5: Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State, Sophmore

Spencer Sanders

2019 Stats: 155-247 for 2,065 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. 139 rushing attempts for 628. yards and 2 touchdowns.

Sanders, a 6-2 195 ILBs dual threat quarterback who was a four star by 247sports, returns to Stillwater for his second year. His numbers were good his freshman yea,r and there is definitely talent to build off of. The main concern is the 11 interceptions, but I chalk many of those up to inexperience. He can run and throw at a high level, and he has talent around him coming back in Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard. I have him at #5 because I think the guys in front of him are better, but I really think the top six on this list can finish in any order – that is how deep of a list this is. I look for Sanders to have a big year for the Cowboys.

4: Charlie Brewer, Baylor, Senior

Charlie Brewer

2019 Stats: 251-389 for 3,161, 21 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. 147 rushing attempts for 344 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Brewer is a 6-1, 188 ILBs pro style quarterback, who was a three star prospect by 247sports. He is a fierce competitor with talent and I believe he will have a really good year, but there are multiple questions surrounding his 2020 campaign. First, how will he blend with a new coach in Dave Aranda? Many people believe his success was due to new Carolina Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule, and this is his chance to prove them wrong. Also, his offensive line really struggled last year, and he needs to be protected to succeed in 2020. He lost Denzel Mims to the draft, but he does have playmakers around him. I believe Brewer will have a great year based off of his competitive spirit and will to win. He is not the most talented guy on this list, and he may not have the most talented team around him, but I believe he has the most grit out of all the quarterbacks in the Big 12 and that is why I see him having a good year.

3: Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Junior

2019 Stats: 312 of 475 for 3,982 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. 93 rushing attempts for 249 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Purdy is 6-1, 202 ILBs, pro style quarterback, who was a three star by 247sports. Purdy could be number one on this list. He is an absolute stud. The reason I have him at #3 is that he does not have the talent around him that Ehlinger and Rattler have, which limits his ability to put up big-time numbers. He has great accuracy and good arm strength. He is not known as a running quarterback, but he can do so effectively if needed. Look for another big year out of him at the helm of this Iowa State offense. He is proven as a talent and he is a good leader. Do not be surprised if Purdy is a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

2: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma, Freshman

A five star rated by 247sports, Rattler is 6-1, 198 ILBs, and he was the number one pro style quarterback in the 2019 class. He is an absolute stud who can throw and run at high levels. He is inexperienced, but I believe that inexperience is helpful to him because he sat behind Heisman finalist Jalen Hurts and learned how to be a great quarterback and leader. The other thing that makes me optimistic about Rattler is the system and coach Lincoln Riley. Since Riley took over, his three quarterbacks have at least been Heisman finalists and two have won. The reason I rank him at two is because he is relatively unproven, and as much as I want to put him at #1 and believe he could be the best quarterback in the Big 12, I can not really justify it before he takes a snap in the 2020 season. That being said, look for a great year out of Rattler and the Sooners.

1: Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Senior

Sam Ehlinger

2019 Stats: 296-454 for 3,663 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. 163 rushing attempts for 663 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Ehlinger is a 6-2, 230 ILBs, dual threat quarterback rated as a four star by 247sports. As much as I believe there really are six guys that could top this list, I put the most proven and most experienced quarterback at number one. Ehlinger has played in a lot of big games and made a lot of big plays in his career at Texas. The team underachieved last year, but his numbers were great, and I believe they will improve in 2020. I see no reason that he will not be a Heisman finalist. I would not definitively say he is the most talented quarterback on this list, but you can not coach experience. Ehlinger will have another big year in Austin, and hopefully he will prove me right and be the best quarterback in the Big 12.

Cimino: Ranking College Football’s Best 15 Quarterbacks

A lot goes into the ranking of quarterbacks in college football. These rankings are based off of talent, experience, winning, and some gut feelings. Here we go.

T-15. Charlie Brewer (Baylor)

T-15. Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State)

14. Mac Jones (Alabama)

13. Bo Nix (Auburn)

12. Kyle Trask (Florida)

11. Kellen Mond (Texas A&M)

10. Sam Elingher (Texas)

9. Kedon Slovis (Southern California)

8. Brock Purdy (Iowa State)

7. KJ Costello (Mississippi State)

6. Sam Howell (North Carolina)

5. Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)

If I saw this name in a top 5 at the beginning of last season, I would’ve thought it was a joke. PJ Fleck gets a lot of credit for the Gophers recent success, but Morgan has been a key component. He put up big numbers in a conference that is built on defense. Morgan is just a junior, and he will be back in full force this season.

4. Ian Book (Notre Dame)

Ian Book catches a lot of heat, but really only because he plays for Notre Dame. The Irish are a very hated team, and that comes with major scrutiny for the quarterback. Book led the Irish to the playoff in his sophomore season and he threw for over 3000 yards, 34 TDs, and 6 picks last year. Book is a very good quarterback, and it is about time he gets some respect.

3. Jayden Daniels (Arizona State)

I might be a year early on Daniels in some people’s minds, but this kid is a stud. I don’t like to make long term predictions, but I’ll take Daniels as the next Russell Wilson at the next level. This kid has a big arm, he is quick, and he is CLUTCH. Daniels is only a sophomore, and at some point in the next couple years, he could have a Heisman in his trophy case.

2. Justin Fields (Ohio State)

I was a little hesitant before the beginning of last year when it came to Fields. I wanted to see more of his arm in action before buying in. After a year at Ohio State, Fields proved everyone wrong. He has tremendous arm talent and showed he knows how to win big games. The only reason he is behind Lawrence? Lawrence outplayed him when they faced off, but the gap is slim.

1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)

This seems like a no-brainer to me. Lawrence is a proven winner, has tremendous arm talent, and knows how to run his system. Lawrence continues to prove why he is one of the best QB prospects ever. He will be nothing short of spectacular this season.

College Kids Talking College Sports Way-Too-Early Power Rankings

Keep your fingers crossed, but we are now under 100 days until the scheduled start of the college football season, so 7 members of our team each cast a ballot for the top 10 teams heading into 2020. Here are the rankings, along with two honorable mentions that got multiple votes, but didn’t quite crack the official rankings. As always, feel free to contact us at collegetalking@gmail.com to present your take.

Honorable Mention (Received multiple top-10 votes)

  • Texas
  • Notre Dame

The Rankings

10. Oregon Ducks
The Ducks lost their four-year starter in Justin Herbert, who went sixth overall in the NFL Draft, but there are still very high expectations for the reigning Pac-12 champions this year. Expect them to transition to a more ground-based offense, a system they are very comfortable with. With Penei Sewell, the best tackle in the nation, leading the charge in the trenches, Oregon should be the team to beat in the Pac-12, although the Playoff may be a bit of a longshot. 

9. Florida Gators
The Gators are a trendy pick to make it out of the SEC East, and for good reason. With Kyle Trask returning under center and a very solid defense, Florida seems just as competitive as most other teams in the conference. If they can break through and beat Georgia, then it will be their division to lose. 

8. Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State very quietly put up a very impressive 11-2 campaign. A badly timed upset loss to Minnesota took them out of the Playoff conversation, as many forgot about the Nittany Lions. But they were very impressive all season, putting up stiff resistance against Ohio State, and winning the Cotton Bowl. Led by darkhorse Heisman contender Sean Clifford, Penn State is clearly the second-best team in the Big 10 West, and if they pull a shocker against the Buckeyes, this team could find themselves knocking at the door of the College Football Playoff. 

7. LSU Tigers
They may have been the best team in college football history last year (we’ll discuss that debate another time), but LSU lost massive amounts of production. With the largely unproven Myles Brennan taking the snaps, their top receiver and running back gone, along with their two tight ends, and a defense that lost a few of its premier playmakers, LSU has serious question marks, and despite the coaching ingenuity of Ed Orgeron, LSU may not be the team to beat in the SEC West this season. 

6. Oklahoma Sooners

Is Spencer Rattler the next in a lengthening line of great Oklahoma quarterbacks? Lincoln Riley has produced Heisman finalists in four straight seasons, so expect the Oklahoma offense to be up there with the best of them again. Their defense will be good by Big 12 standards, but as has been the question the past few years, is a good Big 12 defense able to compete against the SEC or other major conferences. Oklahoma will be in the Playoff conversation again, as they are favorites to win a relatively weak Big 12.

5. Auburn Tigers

Auburn has arguably the best quarterback in the SEC with Bo Nix – although Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman may want to dispute that. Regardless, Nix is coming off an excellent true freshman season, and although there is reason to worry about his ability to perform away from home, Auburn also boasts a quickly-improving ground game, as well as a defense that held LSU to just 23 points last season. Only one other team held Burrow and Co. under 40 points, so the defense was legit, and with Nix gaining experience, Auburn is likely an Iron Bowl win away from competing in the SEC Championship. 

4. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is essentially the de facto favorite out of the SEC East, until somebody proves them otherwise. They’ve won three straight division titles, although their performance in the championship game has gotten worse each season. With Newman under center, Georgia hopes they can rebound from some devastating draft-day losses and compete for a Playoff spot again in 2020. Can Kirby Smart finally win the big one? 

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

There was a clear top-3 in our way-too-early preseason Top 25, and Alabama missed out on second by a hair. Out of seven voters, six had Alabama in the top 3, but one surprising sixth-place vote cost them a critical couple of points, relegating them to third in these rankings. Alabama no doubt lost a great college quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, but as heard in our latest episode, one can argue that Mac Jones will help lead the Tide back to their balanced/favor-run style that led to Alabama’s dynasty. With Najee Harris returning in the backfield, the Crimson Tide will be a force this season, and ready to return to the Playoff after their first-ever absence last season. 

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (1 first-place vote)
Justin Fields is a top-2 quarterback in college football for this upcoming season. He led an extremely explosive Ohio State offense last season, and much of that was due to his play under center. The loss of J.K. Dobbins hurts, but Ohio State always has plenty of talent in the backfield, so expect the Buckeyes to be there with the best of them once more. Road games against Oregon and Penn State loom large, but the Buckeyes are betting favorites for another unbeaten season and Big 10 championship.

1. Clemson Tigers (6 first-place votes)

Was it going to be anyone else? Returning Trevor Lawrence alone makes the Tigers dangerous, but when you throw in Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross, plus their usual great defense and outstanding coaching, Clemson is quite simply the clear team to beat this season. It took one of the most historic seasons of all-time by LSU for Trevor Lawrence to lose a college football game. Clemson’s toughest game is a road contest at Notre Dame, but they’re given an 87% chance to win that. The danger is that if they slip up, a one-loss ACC champion may not make it given the weak conference, but regardless, Clemson is an overwhelming favorite to be back in the Playoff this season.

Cimino: 2020 B1G Ten Football Power Rankings

The Big Ten is in for another great year of football, but is it just another year for Ohio State to run through and win? Here are the rankings:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes: The short answer to the question above is yes. Ohio State comes off a very impressive season ending with a heartbreaking loss to Clemson. It appears that, with star QB Justin Fields and many other elite players returning, that the Buckeyes are the top team once again.

The Prediction: 12-0 (9-0) Big Ten Champions, National Runner-Up

2. Penn State Nittany Lions: Penn State is always a team that seems to be in the conversation for the playoff each year… until they play Ohio State. The case was no different last year, and I don’t expect it will be this year. The Lions have a tough schedule, but they are a top 10 team with a lot of returning talent.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2)

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Gophers over blue blood Michigan? Yup, that’s right. Minnesota comes off a tremendous 2019 under coach PJ Fleck. No one is really sure how long Fleck is going to be hanging around in St. Paul, but this year will be another great one for his team. The Gophers return a lot and should be a contender in the conference.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2) Conference Runner-Up

4. Wisconsin Badgers: Still waiting on Michigan? You won’t find them here. Wisconsin is a wildcard of a team. The Badgers had a very nice season last year, and return some offensive talent, but they do lose second round draft pick Jonathan Taylor. However, the Badgers do return 81% of production on defense, which will keep them in games. A tough schedule keeps them away from 10 wins, but this is a very good team.

The Prediction: 9-3 (6-3)

5. Michigan Wolverines: Michigan is a tough team to gauge this season. The Wolverines lose a decent amount of talent on the offensive line and on defense, but they seem to pump in NFL talent year after year. It will all depend on quarterback play, and that position is still a complete unknown. The problem once again will be poor coaching and Ohio State, but outside of that, the Wolverines have a full slate of very tough opponents coming to Ann Arbor.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2)

6. Iowa Hawkeyes: After the top 5, the conference takes a bit of a dip. Iowa had a great year last year, but they do lose quite a bit. For one, reliable QB Nate Stanley is gone, as is stud defensive end AJ Epenesa. That said, Kirk Ferentz will get this team to be respectable and competitive as they usually are. Expect the Hawkeyes to grind out some wins and stay relevant in 2020.

The Prediction: 8-4 (5-4)

7. Indiana Hoosiers: Tom Allen! The Hoosiers return a lot from a team that had a great year by their standards. Tom Allen’s biggest issue has been games against top teams, but there’s only so much to be done at Indiana. The Hoosiers will be going bowling again.

The Prediction: 7-5 (4-5)

8. Purdue Boilermakers: Purdue had a tough year last season, but the Boilermakers are in for a very nice bounce back campaign. Jeff Brohm has proven he can get his team ready to play when he needs to, and I expect them to be bowling this year. Rondale Moore is back, of course, and he will be tough for any defense to stop. This team has some good skill players all around.

The Prediction: 7-5 (5-4)

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers: The last of the Big Ten teams going to a bowl will be Nebraska. The Huskers had an extremely underwhelming first year under Scott Frost. Adrian Martinez battled injuries last season, and I expect him to be a little better this year. The Huskers will make a bowl, but I don’t see much more.

The Prediction: 6-6 (3-6)

10. Northwestern Wildcats: This is actually an interesting team with a lot of potential. Pat Fitzgerald has proven to be a top level coach, and he brings in Peyton Ramsey to man the quarterback position. Watch out for the Wildcats to pull a couple of upsets.

The Prediction: 5-7 (2-7)

11. Michigan State Spartans: Some may be a little surprised to see the Spartans this low, but this ranking might even be a little generous. The Spartans do not return much from a tough 2019 season, and they also lose their legendary head coach Mark Dantonio. Mel Tucker is going to need a few years to get this program up and running again. They’ll be a little worse than their record.

The Prediction: 5-7 (4-5)

12. Maryland Terrapins: Maryland is always one of those teams who makes a big splash in the offseason that doesn’t pay off. This year, the splash was landing Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa. I don’t even think he will start. Josh Jackson had a great career at Virginia Tech and although he wasn’t great last year, I believe he is the best option. This is just not a team anyone can trust.

The Prediction: 4-8 (2-7)

13. Illinois Fighting Illini: Lovie Smith pretty much hit the ceiling at Illinois last year. He returns QB Brandon Peters, but not much else. The Illini get some scheduling breaks, but don’t expect much.

The Prediction: 5-7 (2-7)

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Do I need to explain?

The Prediction: 1-11 (0-9)

SEC West QB Rankings

They may have lost two quarterbacks in the top five picks of the draft, but the SEC West will be the nation’s best passing conference this upcoming season. Due to Tua Taugovailoa’s injury, six of seven teams have their starting QB making a return to the field – only LSU Myles Brennan has yet to take a snap under center as a teams starting QB. Mac Jones should thrive in the Alabama system, and Bo Nix showcased his potential last year. Is this finally Kellen Mond’s breakout season, and who does LSU really have in Brennan as their signal-caller? Unlike years past, there may not be a clear star to watch, and this will be the year of the entire SEC West.
 

  1. Bo Nix- Auburn 

The best QB Auburn has seen since Cam Newton has the Tigers excited for this upcoming season. Bo Nix had a promising freshman year leading Auburn to a 9-4 record with an Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota. Although Nix didn’t blow up the stat sheet he proved he can show up in big games, like the Iron Bowl against Alabama, and do whatever it takes to win. Bo Nix reminds me a lot of Justin Herbert – his numbers may not dazzle, but with he’s a physical prototype at quarterback, and he’s a winner. Look for Nix to lead the Tigers to Atlanta next December.

  1. Mac Jones- Alabama 

Mac Jones had it rough in Tuscaloosa last season, as he was pretty much the ‘guy that wasn’t Tua’. Alabama fans now cannot complain about Mac Jones since their savior has up and gone to the NFL, and they will come to realize that it is a good thing. A perfectly run Nick Saban offense has defenses preparing for the ground game and still runs it down everyone’s throat. With Tua under center, the Tide got away from their ground and pound style on offense and they paid the price for it, missing the Playoff for the first time in program history last season. Putting Jones under center allows the Tide to return to their gritty style of offense and return to glory.

  1. Kellan Mond- Texas A&M 

How is Kellan Mond still in college and at what point do we all stop expecting him to be great? Kellan Mond is a good QB. He isn’t great and will never bring A&M to the playoff, but you can consistently count on A&M ending the season 9-4 ,winning every game they are favored in and losing every game they are an underdog in. Kellan Mond will have a good season and the Aggies should sit top 4 in the West and ranked in the Top 25 when the season is over.

  1. KJ Costello- Mississippi 

The Pac12 is coming to the SEC… kind of. This past offseason was big for Mississippi State, bringing in Head Coach Mike Leach from Washinton State and poaching Stanford’s starting quarterback in KJ Costello. Although Costello struggled his junior year, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns his sophomore year. I expect big things from Costello in Mike Leache’s air raid offense so look for another 3,000-yard season, around 35 passing TD, and a 7-5 record this upcoming season in Starkville. 

  1. John Rhys Plumlee- Ole Miss

Lane Kiffen is back in the SEC, and his starting QB is expected to be John Rhys Plumlee. Last season as a true freshman Plumlee split time under center with Matt Coral but made the most of his time when on the field. Plumlee threw for 900 yards and 4 TD’s while running for 1,000 yards and 12 TDs. With Plumlee being the guy this season in Oxford, I expect a 2,000 yard passing and rushing season from Plumlee, along with 30 all-purpose touchdowns. The man is athletic and one of the fastest QB’s in the SEC – I expect some offensive fireworks this season in Oxford. Expect a 6-6 season from the Rebels for Kiffen and Plumlee’s first season together.

  1. Feleipe Franks- Arkansas 

Feleipe Franks just screams .500. The quarterback is mediocre in everything he does. His career completion percentage is just around .500 his team was always slightly over with a career winning percentage of .642 which, for Florida,won’t cut it in the SEC East. Franks getting hurt may end up being the best thing to happen to Florida football since Tim Tebow. I expect Franks to go .500 at Arkansas and to struggle mightily in his new environment of the SEC West. 

  1. Myles Brennan- LSU

Myles Brennan is the one QB in the SEC who has yet to start a game. Freshman year Brennan backed up for Danny Etling, and sophomore and junior year, he backed up for the great Joe Burrow. After patiently waiting his turn Brennan is set to be the guy in Death Valley this fall with huge shoes to fill. I wouldn’t expect him to have a Joe Burrow-type season, but I expect him to be decent. People may read these rankings and believe I’m saying he sucks, but Brennan is 7th purely from the fact that he is in the best passing conference in the country, and he is the only one who hasn’t proven himself. I anticipate a solid if not spectacular 8-4 season for Brennan and the Tigers.

Thomas: Top 10 College Football Quarterbacks for 2020

A few days ago, I analyzed ESPN’s top 10 quarterbacks, offering a few of my own criticisms, and hinted at my own rankings, which I will now share. Without ado, here are my Top 10 (and a few extra) college football quarterbacks for the 2020 season. 

Just Missed the Cut

13. Ian Book, Notre Dame 

12. Levi Lewis, Louisiana 

11. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

The Top 10

10. Kyle Trask, Florida

Trask made headlines last season when he took over as the Florida starter, becoming his team’s starting signal-caller for the first time since early in his high school career. Kyle Trask boasted a few notable accomplishments, including being the only quarterback in the country to lead Joe Burrow in the second half. The Gators lost just twice, with the other defeat coming at the hands of Georgia, and Trask put up solid numbers, throwing for 25 touchdowns. He will be Florida’s rock in 2020, as the Gators hope to break through in the SEC, and maybe even take their shot at the College Football Playoff picture. 

9. Dillon Gabriel, UCF

We’re staying in the state of Florida for #9 as well. Gabriel was one of the most underrated QBs in the country, as there was quite literally nothing he would have been able to do that could have lived up to McKenzie Milton, the best signal-caller in UCF program history. Gabriel took over the starting job in the middle of Week 1, and he tossed for 3,653 yards, 29 touchdowns and just seven picks. He led the Knights to another double-digit win season, and Gabriel will be back in 2020.

8. Sam Howell, North Carolina

Cal Christoforo, when ranking the ACC quarterbacks for the upcoming season, put it pretty simply and accurately: Howell put up one of the best true freshman seasons in college football history. With 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and 3,641 passing yards, Howell has been pronounced the savior of the Tar Heels. UNC has been killing it on the recruiting front, and with two more years of Howell, they could be a prominent team, not just in the ACC, but on the national scale pretty soon. 

7. Dustin Crum, Kent State

ESPN had Crum ranked 8th, and I loved it. Kent State is a small program, and it could be easy for the Golden Flashes’ signal-caller to go unnoticed, but Crum is a great talent, and he could find himself playing on Sundays. (Remember a certain Kent State quarterback that became an elite slot receiver). 

6. Brady White, Memphis

I was stunned that White didn’t make it on ESPN’s list, as the Memphis quarterback led one of the most explosive offenses in the country. After squeaking out an ugly 15-10 victory over Ole Miss in the season opener, Memphis scored at least 28 points in every game. Most impressively, White and the Tigers rolled all over Penn State’s illustrious defense for 39 points in the Cotton Bowl. Despite the team loss, it was a very impressive performance from a quarterback who impressed all year long, tossing for over 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. Look out for Brady White and Memphis in 2020. 

5. Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State

The former Alabama quarterback transferred to Arkansas State after redshirting his freshman year, and in his first season as a starter, Hatcher was very efficient and led the Red Wolves to 28 points or more in all but two contests, with one of those being a road game at Georgia. Hatcher’s numbers may not be jawdropping, but he finished sixth last season in pass efficiency, and he was a very capable leader of the Arkansas State offense. I’m really high on this young QB, so keep an eye on him in the next season or two. 

4. Kedon Slovis, USC

I mean, you know it’s legit because this is coming from a Notre Dame fan. Slovis is the real deal, and as a freshman Slovis threw for a little more than 3500 yards, thirty touchdowns, and nine interceptions, leading USC to a three-win improvement in 2019. One of Slovis’s most impressive performances came in a road night game at Notre Dame. In a hostile environment, Slovis put up 27 points on a very strong Irish defense, nearly leading the Trojans to victory. He also put up 30 points on a top-10 Utah team that challenged for a Playoff berth until the Pac-12 championship game. Slovis is legit, and you heard it here…from an Irish fan…don’t make me say it again. 

3. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Not second?? I’ll be brief in my explanation as I’m sure you want to see who is second, and you may have already scrolled to that point. Anyways, Lawrence is obviously one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, but I’m ranking him third. He showed a little sloppiness last year early in ACC play, but he’s still dynamic. One of the best, but I wouldn’t say he’s 1 or 2. 

2.Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Over Trevor Lawrence? Yes sir. Tanner Morgan simply did more with far less than Lawrence. All respect to Minnesota, but they are not Clemson, and they don’t have Clemson’s skill. Morgan led the Gophers, who most thought to be a middling Big 10 team, to the bring of the Big 10 championship and into the top 10. Morgan averaged more yards per game, had better pass efficiency, and competed in a much tougher conference. Clemson is an elite team who also has Trevor Lawrence. Minnesota is a great team because of Tanner Morgan.

1. Justin Fields, Ohio State
If you want proof of how good Fields is, look to the year before, when the Buckeyes were led by first round draft pick Dwayne Haskins under center. Under Haskins, the Buckeyes put together a solid campaign, winning the Rose Bowl, but they had several close calls, and they lost by 29 points to Purdue. Under Fields, the Buckeyes won six games by 40+ points, and only one opponent came within 20 points in the regular season. Fields is a dynamic dual-threat QB, and he simply elevates his team to an entirely new level.

2020 ACC Atlantic Division Quarterback Rankings

The Atlantic Division, and the ACC in general, is run by Clemson. It still may be Trevor Lawrences’s conference, but what other signal-callers are going to shine in the ACC in 2020? Here’s the Atlantic Division QB rankings.

7. Dennis Grosel, Red-shirt Junior, Boston College

After Eagles’ starter Anthony Brown suffered a season-ending leg injury against Louisville in week 6, it was up to Grosel to finish out the 2019 season under center. He finished 3-4 as a starter and was primarily a game manager for the BC offense, which was 8th in the country and 1st in the ACC in rushing offense with 3,291 yards. After Brown transferred to Oregon in April, it seems like it is Grosel’s starting job to lose in 2020. Even with stud running back AJ Dillion off to the NFL,  the Eagles still have an excellent back in David Baily and a rock-solid offensive line that should lead to open passing lanes for Grosel off of play-action. 

6. Devin Leary, Red-shirt Sophomore NC State

Three different players threw for over 500 yards for the Wolfpack in 2019 but Leary was the leader throwing for 1,219 in eight games. Now in his redishirt sophomore season, the former four-star from Sicklerville, New Jersey, has been announced the starter going into camp. He became the first red-shirt freshman to start for NC State since Russell Wilson after starting the last 6 games of the season. However, he definitely has a long way to go. Leary completed just 47.5% of his passes in those 6 starts throwing only 8 touchdowns to go with his 5 interceptions as the Wolfpack lost every one of those starts. Hopefully going into the season as the main man under center will be just what he needs for more success. 

5. Sam Hartman, Red-shirt Sophomore, Wake Forest

After winning the starting job in his true freshman season back in 2018, Hartman lost the quarterback battle to Jamie Newman in 2019. But, with Newman transferring to Georgia, the job is Hartman’s again in 2020. Hartman was just a three-star recruit coming out of high school in  South Carolina, but he really improved when he got to Wake, throwing for nearly two thousand yards as a freshman. He can run into a bit of trouble with turnovers, throwing 10 career interceptions as opposed to his 20 touchdown passes. Hartman was able to get a red-shirt after losing the job last year, so with the team back under his reins in his sophomore season in 2020, Hartman will look to improve off of his 2018 campaign. 

4. Tommy Devito, Red-shirt Junior, Syracuse

The great people of central New York were expecting big things from Devito in his first year as the starter. But the Orange win total regressed from 10 in 2018 to just 5 in 2019. Most of that, however,  was not the fault of Devito who spent most of the season either on his back or running for his life behind one of the worst offensive lines in the conference. Devito was sacked more than any other quarterback in the nation – 44 times in 2019.  The New Jersey native, who was a four-star recruit, completed 63% of his passes for 2,360 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hopefully, with a full year under his belt and a better O-line, Devito and the Orange can get back on track in 2020.

3. James Blackman, Red-shirt, Junior, Florida State

Blackman has had a very interesting career in Tallahassee. He won the starting job as a true freshman back in 2017, throwing for 1,997 yards in 12 starts. In 2018 he lost the QB battle to Deondre Francois and took a redshirt season. Then in 2019, he beat out Wisconsin grad-transfer Alex Hornibrook and threw for ,2339 yards in 10 starts. At 6’5” Blackman was a three-star recruit out of high school and another QB with the misfortune of playing behind a pitiful offensive line. He was sacked 27 times in his 10 starts and Hornibrook who also made starts for FSU was sacked 20 times. Hopefully, with a better line upfront, Blackman can have a breakout season in 2020. 

2. Micale Cunningham Red-shirt Junior, Louisville

Micale Cunningham turned Louisville football around in 2019. After going 2-10 with wins against Indiana State and Western Kentucky in 2018, the Cards had an eight-win season in 2019, including a victory in the Music City Bowl. After leading the Birds by rushing for 497 yards in 2018, the former three-star from Montgomery, Alabama threw for 2,061 yards and ran for 482 more in 2019. Cunningham also set the Louisville record for passing efficiency with a mark of 194.45. The highly talented dual-threat signal-caller will look to continue to improve his numbers as well as the team’s success in 2020.

1. Trevor Lawrence, Junior, Clemson

Not maybe, possibly, or potentially – Lawrence IS and WILL BE the number one selection in the 2021 draft. Coming out of high school in Cartersville, Georgia Lawrence was the number one recruit in the class of 2018 and the sixth-highest recruit since 2000. At Clemson, he has lived up to expectations and then some. As a true freshman, he beat out returning starter Kelly Bryant, who took the Tigers into the college football playoff as the #1 team the year before, and won the national title. As a sophomore, Lawrence went all the way back to the national championship game. He led the ACC in passing in 2019, throwing for 3,665 yards to go along with 36 touchdowns. Lawrence will look to continue his college football dominance in 2020 for a Clemson team who once again is a favorite to win another national championship. 

ACC Coastal Quarterback Rankings

The ACC Coastal division, as it has been for several years, is both the little brother of the ACC and completely wide open. The division has sent all seven of its teams to the conference title game in the past seven years, although none of them have emerged a winner. That trend figures to continue, as the winner of this division will have an uphill battle against Clemson, assuming the Tigers hold serve in the Atlantic Division. However, this should make the regular season highly interesting, as no team is truly incapable of making a run within the division. A key part of each team’s ability to make such a run will hinge on their quarterbacks, so let’s take a look at the rankings for the ACC Coastal signal-callers.

7. Chris Katrenick, Red-shirt Junior, Duke

Katrenick was a true backup in 2019 behind senior Quentin Harris, who started all 12 games for the Blue Devils. The former three-star recruit is a 6’3 red-shirt Junior from Algonquin, Illinois. He is just 8 for 25 passing in his collegiate career and is not in the best situation to succeed in Durham. Duke was 114th in total offense in 2019 and just 5-7 on the year. The sample size is very small for Katrenick, but with a lack of experience and not much offensive talent around him, it might be an uphill battle in 2020.

6. Brennan Armstrong, Red-shirt Sophmore, Virginia

Another guy who spent last season servicing as a backup. Unlike Katrenick, Armstrong is getting put into a good situation, as the Cavaliers spent most of 2019 ranked inside the top 25 and played in the ACC championship game. The former three-star is a  6’2 southpaw from Shelby, Ohio, and he looks to pick up right where last season’s starter Bryce Perkins left off. Perkins threw for 3538 yards in 2019, breaking the school’s passing record. Armstrong showed promise in his limited action in 2019 completing 15 of 20 passes for 196 yards. He could succeed in 2020 but he finds himself at #6 on the list largely due to his lack of experience. 

5. James Graham, Red-shirt Sophmore, Georgia Tech

Graham and the rest of the Yellow Jackets really struggled in their first season away from Paul Johnson and the triple option. In his red-shirt freshman season, Graham was the main guy under center in Atlanta. He came to Tech as a four-star commit out of Fitzgerald Georgia with big upside as a dual-threat QB. After a red-shirt year, he only completed 45% of his 193 passing attempts in 2019. He finished second on the team in rushing with 290 yards. Graham will look to make a jump in his second full year under center for the Jackets.

4. Hendon Hooker, Red-shirt Junior, Virginia Tech

After injuries left starting QB Ryan Willis sidelined, Hooker was forced into action in his red-shirt sophomore year making eight starts for the Hokies. At 6’4” the former four-star for Greensboro, North Carolina, is a very dangerous dual-threat quarterback who was second on the team in rushing a season ago with 520 yards. Hooker is also a very accurate thrower who completed 61% of his passes while only getting picked off twice. Coming into the season as the starter, Hooker is set up for success with more control of the offense on a team that is favored to win the ACC Coastal. 

3. Kenny Pickett, Senior Pittsburgh

It took us all the way to number three on our list to find a guy who has not taken a red-shirt season in his college career. In his true junior season, Pickett’s number took a massive jump, turning himself into one of the top passers in the conference. Pickett went from averaging 140 yards per game passing in 2018 to nearly 260 yards per contest in 2019. He was a three star-recruit coming out of Oakhurst, New Jersey, and tossed for nearly 3,100 yards in 2019, the fourth-most in the ACC. If Pickett’s numbers continue to raise he could be a late-round steal in the 2021 draft. 

2. D’Eriq King, Red-shirt, Senior, Miami

Don’t look now, but the U has a quarterback. King said enough with the University of Huston just four games into the 2019 season and decided to red-shirt to keep a year of eligibility, before choosing Miami in January. He is a very dangerous dual-threat QB who rushed for 674 yards in 2018 to go along with 2,982 passing yards. He accounted for 50, yes 50, Cougars’ touchdowns in 2018, the most in a single season in school history, and he also sat out the last 2 1/2 games with an injury. If King can put up anywhere near the production for his historic 2018 season, the Hurricanes will get what the so desperately crave: national relevancy

1. Sam Howell, Sophomore, North Carolina

Sam Howell had one of the best true freshman seasons in the history of college football in 2019. He was second in the ACC in passing with 3,641 yards, and he set the FBS freshman record as well as the UNC school record with 38 passing touchdowns. He was the 2019 ACC Rookie of the Year and took the Tar Heels from two wins in 2018 to seven wins in 2019, punctuated by a 55-13 beatdown of Temple in the Military Bowl. The sky is the limit for Howell in 2020, as the sophomore will look to build off of his incredible first-year campaign.