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Tuesday Morning Brews (10/14/14)

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Kevin C. Cox

Top Ten Quarterbacks

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks

Complaints about his inopportune turnovers aside, the march goes on for Mariota's Heisman race. This past Saturday, it was a 4-touchdown, turnover-free performance against a Bruins squad that beat Texas, Arizona State, and Virginia (who are now 4-2, 2-0 ACC). When he's on, he makes it look easy. And it seems like those one or two times he's not will not keep him from victory.

2. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M Aggies

Hill has come down to earth a little after a coming-out party against Spurrier's Gamecocks, who were retooling a remade pass defense. Still, take out that 511-yard performance and he has still averaged 333 yards a game against three lightweights (282 yards average) and three division foes (384), two of whom are top-five teams. Yes, there have been some growing pains, but his season has been spectacular, and proof of Kevin Sumlin's mastery.

3. Connor Halliday, Washington State Cougars

His numbers are all outrageous, save for one: 7.64 yards per attempt. It shows that his inflated stats come from his outrageous number of passes more than what he's doing on each play. Then, there's the small matter of him playing for a 2-5 team. Still, a record-breaking quarterback has to find his way on here somewhere.

4. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State Bulldogs

The numbers are not Manziellian. But Prescott passes the eye test with flying colors, thanks to an improved decision-making ability that brings out the best in a dual-threat attack. No, he's not the most accurate throwing downfield, but don't call him an athlete playing quarterback. He's good enough to make defenses respect him, and occasionally pin-point on his throws, all while forcing eight defenders in the box to try and stop his slow and steady march downfield. The way he plays the game, old QBs like Terry Bradshaw would be proud.

5. Everett Golson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Golson has proven his worth without his #1 option and amidst plenty of off-the-field drama. Golson displays a maturity and calmness that befit a veteran, but Golson is in fact still a redshirt junior with one season of play under his belt. Scary.

* Pass Rush Total TD's
Marcus Mariota 69.7% 17 0 1,621 290 23
Kenny Hill 66.8% 23 7 2,511 167 23
Connor Halliday 66.7% 28 8 3,344 -120 28
Dak Prescott 61.5% 14 4 1,478 576 23
Everett Golson 62.5% 16 4 1,683 209 20
Nick Marshall 55.4% 10 3 964 492 14
Bryce Petty 56.7% 15 3 1,534 109 18
Jared Goff 65.5% 22 3 2,179 -72 22
Connor Cook 58.3% 13 4 1,309 36 15
Clint Trickett 68.5% 12 4 2,203 -31 13

6. Nick Marshall, Auburn Tigers

Marshall's stats are almost identical from a year ago, save for a slight uptick in touchdowns produced. His passing numbers are not dramatically improved, but Auburn seems to be one of the only teams that can get away with the kind of ground-and-pound that Big Ten teams have occasionally turned to to move the ball.

7. Bryce Petty, Baylor Bears

Petty has not yet hit his stride this season, and he has also missed some time. Still, a 6-touchdown, 500-yard performance against TCU - one of the better defenses in the country - showed what he is capable of. Admittedly, he is on this list in part because of that ripe potential, and Petty will have some good chances to acquit himself as a Heisman candidate against Trevor Knight's Sooners, Oklahoma State, and KSU.

8. Jared Goff, California Golden Bears

Goff's numbers are a bit inflated by a system that loves airing it out. Still, it's hard to deny what the sophomore has put up for Sonny Dykes. He will also have a chance to prove he belongs in this conversation with games this weekend against a terrific UCLA secondary, as well as USC and Stanford upcoming.

9. Connor Cook, Michigan State Spartans

Watch Cook on the football field for a few minutes, and you're likely to see him doing something stupid. It might be throwing the ball back toward the line of scrimmage to prevent a sack, and almost finding a linebacker with nifty hands. It might be throwing deep over the middle when he shouldn't have.

But Cook and Mark Dantonio have never had Michigan's problems with turnovers, because Cook and his teammates have learned to live with - and carefully work around - the risk of turnovers when trying to make plays downfield. It's a testament to Dantonio's range as a defensive coach, and also Cook's ability to combine playmaking DNA with a steadily developing old head and game managing skills.

10. Clint Trickett, West Virginia Mountaineers

Why, another product of an offensive system. The game's brain trust has sunk into making this position more explosive and dynamic, and it's worked to transform a pro-style set into a modern assortment of defense-breaking techniques. Trickett is there to reap the benefits, while Brett Hundley, Jameis Winston, and Cody Kessler wait in the wings.

Still the Same

For all that football changes, in some critical ways it stays the same. For example, for all the hype surrounding the NFL Draft, it's severely difficult to enter the league and make a mark right away. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who overhauled their offense in the draft by acquiring Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Storm Johnson, is last in the NFL in points per game by a wide margin. (Allen Robinson, though, has done moderately well, and he's on pace for 800 yards.) Oakland, with Derek Carr, is second-worst. The Jets, with Geno Smith, are third-worst. Teddy Bridgewater and Minnesota is tied for fourth. All of them have varying degrees of a youth movement on offense.

Another such example is being reaffirmed in the college game - it takes a QB to win. Two powerhouse programs, LSU and Florida, have been crippled by ineffective quarterbacks despite rosters loaded with talent. Michigan's offensive line has taken dramatic steps forward, but the problems at quarterback (turnovers, not running through progressions, not being comfortable despite an improving roster) have produced a worse record than last year at this time. Kentucky, meanwhile, has stepped towards the SEC's middle class at the same time as Patrick Towles stepped into the middle class of conference quarterbacks. Alabama looked mortal, until Blake Sims took control of the offense.

Another truism is the teams that had the most prove had a leg up. Rather than be intimidated by Oregon's mystique, Arizona players felt offended by it, confident they had more to add to the conversation. Just when the state of Alabama was primed to assert control of the conference, Mississippi found it had learned a thing or two from its neighbor. Rutgers heard for months that it wasn't fit for even its own conference; the Big 12 was a second-hand conference without any real defenses; and offense couldn't survive in the SEC.

Yet again, this season also offered proof that teamwork is at least as important as talent, that coaching is the engine for success, that drama and glory make soft that which was impenetrable. The only question is when these begin to apply to the SEC, which looks more unstoppable and impressive year after year, no matter how much glory it makes. In fact, it looks rather like Todd Gurley, running between tackles into the endzone, somehow impossible to stop.

Hitting the Links Is Making Waves

The Enemy Within

Eleven Warriors takes a look at Michigan's problems, and sees the potential for a repeat in Columbus.

NFL: Branden Oliver Making Waves

Oliver is a rookie undrafted running back for the San Diego Chargers, and one of the whispers from this is that it's more proof that drafting backs in the first round is foolish.

FOX Investigation Finds That FSU, Police Hampered Winston Case

This is a sensitive topic, though one that comes up fairly often in sports news. Plenty of Florida State fans have complained about how this is just them being picked on by the national media, and also ruins their chance to simply enjoy a football season.

There was also this, after a pretty ugly online assault of the people who tweeted about Winston's antics on campus:

One of my favorite moments this year - 'favorite' isn't really the right word - was in the Wisconsin-LSU game, after Konrad Zagzebski went down for several minutes after a nasty spill. Les Miles' Tigers and Gary Andersen's Badgers both waited on one knee, in a muted stadium, all 100,000 of them hoping the young man was okay before he eventually was carted off and gave the thumbs up. Football can be competitive, and the culture can get extremely competitive - but above that, there should also always be a respect for each other. That's all.

Big Picture: Ole Miss's Rise, More

The Mississippi schools have certainly earned it.

Ten Things: Being an Offensive Lineman, More

This is a little more hit-and-miss, but some of these were really entertaining. Also, Dennis Norfleet is a terrific dancer.

Pac-12 Storylines

A very good, quick way to stay on top of what's happening out West.

Nate Sudfeld Done For the Year

This was Indiana's worst-case scenario, including getting beat by Bowling Green. The Hoosiers have missed Tre Roberson this year.

Hard Times For Jim Mora, UCLA

Winning cures all ills, but it's still interesting how fans support and then vilify their head coaches. Coaching almost requires infinite flexibility (through different rosters, different strengths, changing trends) and infinite durability.

DeShaun Watson Injures Hand, Out Five Weeks

The phenom freshman will miss games against Syracuse and perhaps Georgia Tech, but he will be back by the time South Carolina comes to town.

2007 Itself

This piece by SB Nation discusses the rankings chaos. Though there was relative stability the first five weeks, that was in part because the polls were imitating molasses, or else an Iowa offense. Florida State looked very shaky well before being dropped down to second, and Alabama looked very worrisome and then rounded into shape. All of the other options had nagging questions.

Big Ten Mailbag

There were some good questions in here, including about Kurtis Drummond, who Purdue found a way to attack on Saturday (make him play run support, instead of up in the box).


Stat of the week: Mariota, Hill, and Halliday have combined for 74 touchdowns, while Michigan's offense, Vanderbilt's offense, Texas's offense, Wake Forest's offense, Penn State's offense, and Syracuse's offense have combined for 71.