At every level of football, the quarterback is the most important position as he is in control of the offense. The quarterback is responsible for getting the ball to his playmakers on time, diagnosing the coverage and managing the game. Teams that do not have good quarterbacks struggle to win games, while the best teams have players capable of getting the job done. That logic is especially true in college football, where the nation’s top two quarterbacks dueled for the national title. Below is a list of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football. Honorable Mention: K.J. Costello Stanford, Mason Fine North Texas, Nate Stanley Iowa.
10. Justin Fields, Ohio State
2018 Stats: 27-39 for 328 yards four touchdowns zero interceptions; 42 carries 266 yards four touchdowns
The start of the list is with a little bit of controversy as Justin Fields has yet to start a game in college football and was unable to beat out Jake Fromm for the starting quarterback job at Georgia. The sophomore quarterback threw only 39 passes last season, but he completed 27 of them and threw four touchdowns. He also ran for four touchdowns in his limited playing time.
Fields was one of the most hyped quarterback recruits in the past five years as he was a consensus top three recruit in the entire country. His transfer to Ohio State puts him in the driver’s seat to start on opening day and is fighting for immediate eligibility. Fields has the arm talent and athletic ability to be a first round pick in a couple seasons and adds a rushing dynamic to the offense that Dwayne Haskins did not provide last season.
9. Cole McDonald, Hawaii
2018 Stats: 285-484 for 3,875 yards 36 touchdowns 10 interceptions; 93 carries 359 yards four touchdowns
You might find it a little odd that a quarterback from Hawaii finds himself on the list of the nation’s top quarterbacks, but Cole McDonald is the nation’s best kept secret at quarterback. His 3,875 is the second most of any returning quarterback and his 36 touchdown passes last season were good for seventh most in college football last season.
McDonald had four games last season with at least four passing touchdowns and had seven 300-yard games. His ability to make throws down the field is beneficial for a Hawaii offense that has been known to put up prolific numbers in the passing game. McDonald will not get the national recognition of any other player on the list, but his play and numbers make him one of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
8. Joe Burrow, LSU
Year: Redshirt Senior
2018 Stats: 219-379 for 2,894 yards 16 touchdowns five interceptions; 128 carries 399 yards seven touchdowns
Joe Burrow transferred to LSU as a grad transfer after losing out to Dwayne Haskins for Ohio State’s starting job. His play was solid as he led the Tigers to a 9-3 record and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF. Burrow’s 394-yard performance was nothing short of spectacular as he picked the Knights apart for four touchdowns.
The Fiesta Bowl performance came off another great game against Texas A&M where he accounted for 370 total yards and six touchdowns. Burrow’s play at the end of the season shows that he is capable of leading the Tigers’ offense and excels at limiting mistakes. His numbers will not be flashy at the end of the season, but Burrow gets the job done and does not turn the ball over.
7. Ian Book, Notre Dame
Year: Redshirt Junior
2018 Stats: 214-314 for 2,628 yards 19 touchdowns seven interceptions; 95 carries 280 yards four touchdowns
Ian Book was crucial to Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season as he gave Brian Kelly a quarterback who could throw the ball down the field. His accuracy waned toward the end of the season, but still completed 68.2 percent of his passes. Book struggled in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson, but he had little protection from his offensive line and his receivers made few plays for him down the field.
His accuracy gave him the starting job over Brandon Wimbush, but he needs to bring that to the big games for Notre Dame to be successful this season. Road trips to Georgia and Michigan will be challenging and Book will need to his best to topple them. If he is able to beat both teams on the road, Notre Dame will be in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt and Book will have a Heisman campaign.
6. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
2018 Stats: 51-70 for 765 yards eight touchdowns two interceptions; 36 carries 167 yards two touchdowns
Jalen Hurts’ decision to transfer to Oklahoma sent shockwaves across the college football landscape as he gives Lincoln Riley one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football. During his time at Alabama, Hurts went 24-2 as the starting quarterback and led the Crimson Tide to consecutive national championship game appearances.
He is more of a running threat than a passing threat as he ran for over 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns in his two years as a starter. Hurts has a lot of pressure to succeed right away as the last two Oklahoma quarterbacks won the Heisman trophy in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray respectively. The Sooners have one of the best wide receiver groups in the country, which will make it easier for Hurts to put up big numbers in his final season of college football.
5. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
2018 Stats: 275-425 for 3,292 yards 25 touchdowns five interceptions; 164 carries 482 yards 16 touchdowns
While Murray was clearly the best quarterback in the Big 12 last season, Sam Ehlinger put Texas into the national spotlight with his performances in big games. The Longhorns lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, but Ehlinger threw for 349 yards and had four total touchdowns. Against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, he completed 70.4 percent of his passes and had three rushing touchdowns.
Like Hurts, Ehlinger is a run-first quarterback who takes excellent control of the ball. He threw five interceptions all year with two of them coming in the season opener against Maryland. Ehlinger has to become a better pocket passer if he wants to play in the NFL, but he is a winner who could lead Texas to the College Football Playoff.
4. Jake Fromm, Georgia
2018 Stats: 206-306 for 2,749 yards 30 touchdowns six interceptions; 41 carries -27 yards
While Ehlinger emerged victorious in the Sugar Bowl, Jake Fromm gets the edge over him because of his accuracy down field. In his two seasons as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Fromm has thrown 54 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions while completing over 60 percent of his passes. His poise and leadership are some of the best in college football as he is 23-5 in his career as a starter.
Fromm’s lack of mobility does hurt him as he unable to avoid the rush like most of the guys on the list can. What Fromm does do better than the rest is diagnosing the defense before the snap as he always seems to be making the right reads. He has struggled to win the big games as he is 1-2 in bowl games and has squandered a pair of double digit leads against Alabama, making it hard for him to be one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon
2018 Stats: 240-485 for 3,151 yards 29 touchdowns eight interceptions; 71 carries 166 yards two touchdowns
Justin Herbert’s placement on the list is intriguing because he was considered to be one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. His decision to return to Oregon makes the Ducks one of the favorites in the Pac-12. Herbert has the size, accuracy and arm strength to succeed in the NFL, but needs to work on his decision making a little more.
He only completed 59.9 percent of his passes, a number way too low to be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Herbert stares down defenders at times, but he is capable of late game heroics like he had against Michigan State in the bowl game. If Herbert can lead Oregon to the College Football Playoff, his name will be in the discussion for the best quarterback in college football
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
2018 Stats: 245-355 for 3,955 yards 43 touchdowns six interceptions; 57 carries 190 yards five touchdowns
If you take out his performances against Georgia and Clemson, Tua Tagovailoa is the clear choice for being the nation’s best quarterback. His accuracy and decision making are off the charts as he rarely forces throws down the field, while always giving his receivers the ability to run after the catch. Tagovailoa had six games this year with at least six touchdown passes and it would have been more if not for his team winning by 40 points at halftime in almost all of his games.
His performance against Clemson was forgettable as he looked uncomfortable all night and made mistakes that he did not make all season. Tagovailoa was not able to get into a groove, but that should not take anything away from his enormous talent. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and will be in the middle of the Heisman race alongside the top quarterback on the list.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2018 Stats: 259-397 for 3,280 yards 30 touchdowns four interceptions; 60 carries 177 yards one touchdown
Is it a little premature to say that Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback in college football after only 11 starts? Maybe, but the rising sophomore quarterback was poised throughout the season and only threw four interceptions in the entire season. Lawrence’s combination of accuracy and arm strength is unmatched by anyone in college football as he picked apart Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff with 674 yards and six touchdowns.
His poise separates him from the pack as Lawrence was not rattled by the big stage at all and did not play like a freshman throughout the season. Lawrence is not a scrambler by any means, but he is great at moving in the pocket and was only sacked 11 times last season. He was the best quarterback for the nation’s best team and is the early favorite for 2019 Heisman Trophy.