Latest posts by Joe Broback (see all)
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College football came to an end when Clemson dominated Alabama in the national championship. Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence became a big topic of conversation with his play against the Tide, and sparked debate about his bright future.
Lawrence could very well be one of the best to play college football and has at least two more years to prove it. Where he ranks among the best is up to him. He proved that having an elite quarterback puts championships on the table, and there have been many in college football? But who is the best up to this point? Let’s take a look at the Top 10 college football quarterbacks of all time.
Creating a subjective list isn’t easy and usually creates controversy, so we decided to use rankings to decide this list. Originally, 30 quarterbacks were chosen, but the list was cut in half to 15 for this article. Each quarterback was put into a spreadsheet, and their careers were analyzed using six categories.
The categories used to create the list included were: total yards per game, total touchdowns per game, interceptions per game, performances in big games, and winning percentage.
The top player in each category received 15 points going all the way to the last place player that received one point in the categories. A cumulative score was given to each quarterback. Five bonus points were given for each Heisman and national championship won. From these scores, the Top 10 was created. Let’s take a look at the 10 with the honorable mention first.
Danny Wuerffel, Florida: 37 points
Gators star won the Heisman Trophy in 1996, but also helped win the national championship that year as well.
Kellen Moore, Boise State: 39 points
Moore led the Broncos to a record 50 wins in his tenure. Boise State was a consistent Group of 5 threat because of their star.
Case Keenum, Houston: 41 points
College football’s leading all time passer, Keenum’s tenure at Houston continues to be admired.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: 41 points
Mayfield’s competitive nature never went unnoticed. From his play to his actions, Mayfield knew how to provide entertainment.
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: 45 points
Bradford’s career was cut short in 2009 due a shoulder injury, but the 2008 Heisman winner torched Big 12 defenses when healthy.
Top 10 Quarterbacks
10. Vince Young, Texas: 46 points
Best season: 3,036 yards passing, 26 touchdowns; 1,050 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns
The Longhorns won the best game in college football history, mostly thanks to their star quarterback. He accounted for 467 yards and three rushing touchdowns in the 2006 Rose Bowl to win the national championship for Texas. This single game performance is considered one of the best ever, and vaulted him into the Top 10. “He’s going for the corner, he’s got it” should give you chills if you know Vince Young.
9. Deshaun Watson, Clemson: 51 points
Best season: 4,109 yards passing, 35 touchdowns; 1,105 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns
We all remember Watson’s game-winning pass to Hunter Renfrow in the 2016 national championship game. The one that beat arguably the best Alabama team ever. Watson dominated Alabama defenses for two years straight, Nick Saban must have been relieved when he left. It’s rare for a quarterback to pick apart a Crimson Tide defense, but Watson did so with ease. Watson’s composure rubbed off on his teammates, and the Tigers were never out of a game because of it.
8. Colt Brennan, Hawaii: 54 points
Best season: 5,549 yards passing, 58 touchdowns
Brennan and the Rainbow Warriors broke records and lit up scoreboards in his tenure. A run in this offense occurred about as often as a pass in a triple option offense, but that didn’t matter. Timmy Chang started this trend for June Jones, but Brennan carried this team to new heights. Hawaii earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl in 2007, and Brennan finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting as well. His 58 touchdown passes in 2006 broke the NCAA record for touchdowns passing in a season.
7. Lamar Jackson, Louisville: 56 points
Best season: 3,543 yards passing, 30 touchdowns; 1,571 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns
Arguably the most gifted quarterback on this list, Jackson was a nightmare for opposing defenses. He did the most with what he had, and his Cardinals didn’t possess any big names like their quarterback. His speed and elusiveness provided fans with SportsCenter players every week, and Jackson was worth more than the price of admission. He was the best player ever to step on campus at Louisville, and it’s not even a discussion.
6. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech: 61 points
Best season: 5,705 yards passing, 48 touchdowns
Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree dominated Big 12 secondaries in the two years they worked together. These two alone combined for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2007 and 2008. Harrell made the offense tick, and his clutch touchdown pass to Crabtree against Texas continues to be one of the most iconic Red Raider moment ever.
5. Matt Leinart, USC: 62 points
Best season: 3,322 yards passing, 33 touchdowns
On the losing end of the 2006 Rose Bowl game is Leinart, but don’t feel too bad for him. Leinart and the Trojans won two national championships the two years before, and he won the 2004 Heisman Trophy too . The southpaw played for a USC team considered one of the most talented ever, and he played a key role.
4. Tim Tebow, Florida: 65 points
Best season: 3,286 yards passing, 32 touchdowns; 895 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns
Is Tim Tebow the best quarterback ever in college football or did he benefit from being on good teams? Tebow’s best year personally happened to be Florida’s worst season in his tenure. Coincidence? Regardless of how you feel, the Gators quarterback provided defenses with a tough challenge every week. Tebow’s fiery passion for the game got fans’ attention, and it translated to the field.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: 66 points
Best season: 3,706 yards passing, 26 touchdowns; 1,410 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns
Is there a more iconic college football player than Johnny Football? Manziel’s larger than life persona cultivated plenty of attention in his two years as a starter. Texas A&M’s 2012 upset of the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide on the road introduced Manziel’s magic to college football. Fans, whether they cheered for the Aggies or not, tuned in to watch him play every week. His off-field issues created controversy while on campus, but his play on the field made more noise.
2. Cam Newton, Auburn: 70 points
Best season: 2,854 yards passing, 30 touchdowns; 1,473 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns
Newton’s one season at Auburn (after transferring from Florida) produced a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. The Tiger’s quarterback could make big throws, but he also ran over and past defenders frequently in 2010. Newton rushed for over 150 yards six times that year, and scored two or more touchdowns in those games. Even defensive linemen didn’t want any part in trying to take him down. Auburn hasn’t reached the same heights they did with Newton running the show, but they certainly enjoyed his one season on campus.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 71 points
Best season: 4,454 yards passing, 42 touchdowns; 770 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns
Oregon’s offense and uniforms turned heads every week, however, it never resulted in a national championship. Still, the Ducks made life miserable for Pac 12 opponents. Mariota gave Oregon its best quarterback ever and, as a result, the Ducks made the national championship game in 2014 (a loss to Ohio State). Mariota’s quiet demeanor didn’t garner him much attention, but he preferred to do his talking on the field.