My brother sent me a simple, but fascinating list, this week. The top 10 in the coaches poll, along with their quarterbacks:
1. Alabama: A.J. McCarron
2. Oregon: Marcus Mariota
3. Ohio State: Braxton Miller
4. Clemson: Tajh Boyd
5. Florida State: Jameis Winston
6. Louisville: Teddy Bridgewater
7. Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel
8. LSU: Zach Mettenberger
9. South Carolina: Connor Shaw
10. UCLA: Brett Hundley
What do the top-10 teams have in common? They all have a star quarterback. They all have a quarterback who will be a high NFL draft pick or are in the top 15 nationally in pass efficiency or both.
Here is the latest NFL quarterback draft prospect ratings by cbssports.com: No. 1 Bridgewater, No. 2 Mariota, No. 3 Hundley, No. 4 Manziel, No. 5 Boyd, No. 6 Mettenberger, No. 7 Derek Carr of unbeaten Fresno State, No. 8 Aaron Murray of Georgia, No. 9 Stephen Morris of unbeaten Miami and No. 10 McCarron.
If you don’t like the draft prospects angle, we can go pass efficiency. Here are the top 10: No. 1 Bryce Petty of unbeaten Baylor, No. 2 Jameis Winston (and draft ineligible until 2015) of unbeaten Florida State, No. 3 Bridgewater, No. 4 Mettenberger, No. 5 Mariota, No. 6 Manziel, No. 7 Shaw, No. 8 Boyd, No. 9 Morris and No. 10 Kenny Guiton of unbeaten Ohio State, who shares time with Braxton Miller. Hundley is 13th, Murray 14th and McCarron 15th.
There is no secret sauce to have a big-time year. You’re not doing much without great quarterbacking.
Blake Bell ranks 49th nationally in pass efficiency. J.W. Walsh ranks 60th. The Sooners and Cowboys are going to struggle with those kinds of ratings.
Now, in the Big 12, it won’t be so bad. They will win some games. They will win a ton of games. The Big 12 doesn’t offer up a bunch of quality quarterbacks.
After Petty, the next highest-rated QB is Bell. And after Bell, the next highest-rated Big 12 QBs aren’t even starters — Tech’s Davis Webb is 52nd, and Kansas State’s Jake Waters is 53rd. Tech’s Baker Mayfield is 56th, Walsh is 60th, Iowa State’s Sam Richardson is 73rd, TCU’s Trevone Boykin is 75th, Texas’ Case McCoy is 83rd and Kansas’ Jake Heaps is 104th. West Virginia doesn’t even have a quarterback rated.
Bob Stoops takes great delight in pointing out why Big 12 defenses have struggled in the past few years, and why SEC defenses are struggling now. But the converse of that is no team is going to do much without a big-time quarterback. No conference is going to excel without several big-time quarterbacks.
OU and OSU are both one-loss teams, ranked in the top 25, with plenty to play for. But both Bell and Walsh have had two straight mediocre (at best) performances. If those quarterbacks don’t improve, neither will the prospect of these seasons.