College football’s opening weekend is finally upon us. There are playoff-shifting games on our doorstep, electric entrances to look forward to, and best of all, we finally have depth charts to mull over and answer all of our offseason questions.
The most important area of an offense is the offensive line (sorry, it’s true), but the most exciting and most talked about player on the field is the quarterback. They’re the face of the team, the leader on the field and the scapegoat when things go south. It’s time to meet the starting quarterback of every AP Top 25 team.
1. Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa/Jalen Hurts
SHOCKER: Nick Saban still hasn’t named one starter between these two. They’ve battled all training camp, have proved that they’re both deserving, but it will take more than a few measly months of practice to decide who will be THE starter for the Crimson Tide. Both will split time during the Tide’s opener against Louisville, and chances are high that both could receive significant snaps at different times throughout the season.
2. Clemson: Kelly Bryant
Head coach Dabo Swinney named the senior the starter over highly-touted freshman Trevor Lawrence. He wasn’t asked to carry the load last season, but Bryant did lead Clemson to a 12-2 record in his first year as a starter. The Tigers have, arguably, the most dominant defensive line in the country. Pairing that with a high-powered offense makes Clemson a favorite to advance to the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row.
3. Georgia: Jake Fromm
As a freshman, Fromm started 14 games, finished ninth in the nation with a 160.1 passing efficiency rating, and led Georgia all the way to overtime of the National Championship game. In year two, the sophomore is surrounded with talent, and it’s his show in Athens, Georgia. Fromm has all the tools to not only lead Georgia to the promised land, but potentially win the Heisman Trophy in the process.
4. Wisconsin: Alex Hornibrook
The Badgers are known for their ground attack, but Hornibrook’s experience makes them a legitimate CFP threat in 2018. The junior southpaw is 20-3 as Wisconsin’s starter and capped last season by being named MVP of the Orange Bowl, throwing for four touchdowns in a win over Miami. Despite his documented efficiency as a passer and poise in command of Wisconsin’s offense, Hornibrook remains one of the most underrated signal callers in the nation.
5. Ohio State: Dwayne Haskins
Big Ten legend J.T. Barrett is gone, and Dwayne Haskins is the new sheriff in Columbus. He held off redshirt freshman Tate Martell for the starting job, and Haskins has the tall task of leading Ohio State out from under the Zach Smith scandal in 2018. Martell is going to get some snaps, so this job isn’t totally locked in for Haskins just yet. He’s the starter for now, but with Ohio State’s program in flux, there’s no guarantee the sophomore remains the starter if he struggles.
6. Washington: Jake Browning
As a sophomore, Browning finished sixth in the Heisman voting and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. He followed that up by being named second-team All-Pac 12 and breaking the Washington record for career touchdown passes. As a senior, the sky is the limit for Browning. The Huskies are the favorite to win the conference, and potentially land back in the College Football Playoff. They’ll be riding Browning’s coat tails, and the senior has the ability to lead them to the promised land.
7. Oklahoma: Kyler Murray
He was drafted ninth overall in the MLB Draft as an outfielder by the Oakland Athletics, but Kyler Murray’s current venture will be replacing Heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield in Oklahoma. Murray won the starting job over redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall during training camp. The two-sport athlete mixes speed with a cannon for an arm, and he figures to help Lincoln Riley’s Sooners make a run at the Big 12 championship once again.
8. Miami (FL): Malik Rosier
The redshirt senior led the Hurricanes to a 10-3 record last season and broke the Hurricanes record for total touchdowns responsible for (31) in a season. Rosier threw for over 3,000 yards and tacked on another 468 on the ground last season. The Hurricanes have a chance to win the ACC Coastal Division once again, but the monster that is Clemson still stands in the way of Rosier leading Miami back to the top.
9. Auburn: Jarrett Stidham
He’s considered one of the top quarterback prospects heading into next year’s NFL Draft for a reason: Jarrett Stidham can flat out ball. In 2017, Stidham was named SEC Newcomer of the Year after transferring from McLennon Community College — Stidham had been at Baylor, but left amid the Art Briles fiasco. You can bet the former five-star recruit is hungry to avenge last season’s loss to UCF to end the year, but more importantly, finally knock off Alabama and make a run at the College Football Playoff.
10. Penn State: Trace McSorley
According to many analysts, including College Gameday’s Kirk Herbstreit, McSorley is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Many people outside State College, Pennsylvania see the loss of Saquon Barkley to the NFL as a death sentence, and that’s probably because they haven’t watched McSorley play. He makes every throw on the field, can use his legs at-will (evidenced by his 18 rushing touchdowns in two seasons as a starter). Penn State can win the Big Ten, and it’ll take McSorley being special to do it.
11. Michigan State: Brian Lewerke
The redshirt junior is 10-5 as a starter for the Spartans, and he’s widely considered one of the top ten quarterbacks in all of college football in 2018. Lewerke has amassed 3,882 total yards and 27 total touchdowns in his 17 career appearances for the Spartans. Mark Dantonio’s team is always close, and they’re primed to get back into the College Football Playoff for the second time in four years. Having Lewerke back once again will certainly aid them getting back into the discussion.
12. Notre Dame: Brandon Wimbush
The hype train is rolling out of Notre Dame for opening weekend when the Fighting Irish take on Michigan. Wimbush wasn’t spectacular with his arm in year one as a starter, but the dual-threat quarterback did manage to ramble off 803 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground last season. If the senior continues to improve in his final year in South Bend, then Chip Kelly’s talented roster can sneak up the rankings pretty quickly.
13. Stanford: K.J. Costello
The 2017 Pac-12 Honorable Mention only started seven games last season, but the former five-star recruit made them count. Costello threw for more than 1,500 yards and added 14 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. Returning for his junior season, Costello was named a team captain. From Andrew Luck to Kevin Hogan, the pro style quarterback figures to add to Stanford’s recent history of success with quarterbacks under head coach David Shaw.
14. Michigan: Shea Patterson
Patterson logged 10 starts at Ole Miss before deciding to leave the program behind and head north, where Jim Harbaugh was ironing his khaki’s and licking his chops. Harbaugh hasn’t had a stable quarterback situation yet during his time in Ann Arbor, but the transfer of Patterson, who compiled a 151.5 quarterback rating before being lost for the year due to injury last season, makes the Wolverines a threat once again. If Harbaugh grooms Patterson in time, they, too, can make a run at the Big Ten Championship.
15. Southern California: JT Daniels
There have been two freshman in history to start at quarterback on opening weekend for USC: Matt Barkley in 2009, and now, JT Daniels in 2018. Daniels earned every national accolade you could imagine during his time at Mater Dei High School in California, and he’s earned the right to start for the Trojans week one against UNLV. The freshman will only have one week to prepare before a huge test on the road against No. 13 Stanford on September 8.
16. TCU: Shawn Robinson
The 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas will be the Horned Frogs full-time starter in year number two, after playing in just six games as a freshman last year. In his lone start, Robinson logged 85 yards and a touchdown through the air, 84 more yards on the ground, and led TCU to a 27-3 win over Texas Tech. The sophomore has room to grow, but his dual-threat capability should make him a candidate to explode in a few games this season.
17. West Virginia: Will Grier
The Heisman hype is palpable as Grier enters his final collegiate season. It’s so serious in Morgantown that when you click on Grier’s online bio on the team’s official roster, you’re redirected to Grier7Heisman.com, the official website of all things Will Grier. He was the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year last season after transferring from Florida, and he was among the nation’s leaders with 34 passing touchdowns. The Mountaineers will put up a lot of points, but wins will be the deciding factor in Grier’s Heisman run.
18. Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald
He’s suspended for opening weekend, but Nick Fitzgerald is set up to be a stud in year one under offensive guru Joe Moorhead. The dual-threat quarterback has amassed 6,926 total yards and 72 total touchdowns in his career — he has a chance to become just the 11th player in SEC history to rack up 10,000+ total yards and needs just 15 total touchdowns to rank top-10 in SEC history. The kid is a Bulldogs legend, and he has a chance to put up serious number during his senior campaign.
19. Florida State: Deondre Francois
Francois was lost on opening weekend last season against Alabama, but don’t forget about what he did as a redshirt freshman — the IMG Academy quarterback ran up 3,350 passing yards and 25 total touchdowns on his way to being named ACC Rookie of the Year in 2016. If Francois can return to form under first year head coach Willie Taggart, the former No. 1 ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country can help lead Florida State back to the top of the ACC power rankings, and he can do it in week one: FSU hosts No. 20 Virginia Tech on opening weekend.
20. Virginia Tech: Josh Jackson
Last year, Jackson set just about every freshman passing record for the Hokies and started all 13 games for head coach Justin Fuente. The redshirt sophomore was reportedly on the verge of being suspended indefinitely earlier this summer, but those issues have been resolved, and he is good to go for opening weekend. Jackson’s growth will be put to the test in year two, but Virginia Tech is just a few wins away from being an elite program — they’ve finished 10-4 and 9-4 in Fuente’s first two years in Blacksburg.
21. Central Florida: McKenzie Milton
The UCF bandwagon is full, but there’s still some room if you want to run behind them. The Colley Matrix, which was a factor into the now debunked BCS system, labeled them the 2017 National Champions, so naturally, the entire UCF fan base now calls themselves the defending national champs. Milton is a dark horse Heisman candidate, but his prowess will be put to the test now that Scott Frost has headed home to coach Nebraska. He’s entering his third season as a starter and will likely set every UCF passing record by the time he’s done.
22. Boise State: Brett Rypien
The senior from Spokane, Washington has been named to the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell preseason watch lists three years in a row, and he’s prepared to help the Broncos make a run in his senior season. The three-year starter only needs 124 yards to eclipse 10,000 career passing yards, and he’s has a chance to lead Bryan Harsin’s Broncos to another Mountain West Conference title, and potentially, a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl.
23. Texas: Sam Ehlinger
The sophomore hails from Austin, Texas, and he’s won the starting job for opening weekend over Shane Buechele. While the job could be in flux should Ehlinger struggle, it’s his chance to prove to head coach Tom Herman that Ehlinger is the truth. He was the MaxPreps National Junior Player of the Year in high school and contributed right away as a freshman last season, starting six games for the Longhorns. Texas football is on the rise, but is Ehlinger the final cog in the engine?
24. Oregon: Justin Herbert
Herbert is the real deal, and only an injury kept him from breaking the bank last season as a sophomore. The Eugene, Oregon native became the fastest quarterback in school history to reach 3,000 career passing yards. During his eight games as Oregon’s starter, the Ducks went 6-2, averaged 49.1 points per game and a mind-melting 516.5 total yards of offense. As a high school junior, Herbert was named second-team All-State as a first baseman in the spring, then earned first-team All-State honors as a quarterback in the fall. When Herbert’s healthy, he’s easily the next great Oregon Ducks quarterback to earn national accolades.
25. LSU: Joe Burrow
The Ohio State transfer turned heads when he headed south to play for Ed Orgeron, and now he’s been named the starting quarterback in Baton Rouge. He didn’t receive significant playing time for the Buckeyes, but the graduate transfer was named Ohio Mr. Football and was twice named first-team All-State before he heading to Columbus. He may not have significant college stats yet, but try this on for size: Joe Burrow had 184 total touchdowns during his high school football career.