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Ranking the QBs

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Editor's note: Originally published June 2, updated June 6

One of the most important aspects of handicapping football is quarterback play. I rate QB play right up there with coaching as the two main variables that impact whether or not to pull the trigger on a particular game.

With this premise in mind, let’s take a look at the QB situations at a number of schools before ranking the top 10 signal callers in the nation.

Because Florida has Tim Tebow, it is the plus-220 favorite at Sportsbook.com (risk $100 to win $220) to repeat as nationals champs and win the BCS title game for the third time in four seasons. Because Georgia no longer has Matthew Stafford, few expect the Bulldogs (or anyone else) to compete with the Gators for the SEC East.

The Dawgs will turn to fifth-year senior Joe Cox, who was highly regarded coming out of high school but has played second fiddle to D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford. Mark Richt is hoping that Cox can ‘pull a Shockley’ by leading Georgia to an SEC title in his only year as a starter. Remember, Shockley was the back-up to David Greene for three seasons.

“Joe absolutely understands our system very well and he's a very accurate passer," Richt told UGASports.com. "He's similar to D.J. Shockley in that even though he wasn't a starter, he's one of the leaders of our football team."

Cox has completed 33-of-58 career passes for 432 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. He has only one career start and the second will be a tall task – facing Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Sep. 5.

UGA is a plus-6000 longshot to win it all (risk $100 to win $6,000) at Sportsbook.com.

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Alabama appears to be back under Nick Saban, who has been killing it on the recruiting trail. But the Crimson Tide is going to have to break in a new starting QB in fourth-year junior Greg McElroy. He will have to perform well early because ‘Bama opens the season in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome against Va. Tech, which was tabbed as the fifth-best team in the country by Lindy’s pre-season magazine.

If there’s a sleeper team in the SEC West, it might be Arkansas, especially if it gets improved play at QB from Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett. However, Mallett got a strong push from redshirt fresman Tyler Wilson in spring practice and he will now miss two weeks of workouts after breaking the ring finger on his throwing hand while lifting weights. The Razorbacks have two of the finest offensive weapons in the SEC in TE D.J. Williams and RB Michael Smith.

The Big 12 was known for its stellar QB play in 2008 and 2009 should be no different. All of the premier signal callers are back with Graham Harrell serving as the lone exception at Texas Tech. But as we all know, Mike Leach just plugs another QB into his system and keeps his offense churning along. (We’ll touch much more on these players in our rankings below.)

USC’s Aaron Corp won the starting QB position coming out of spring practice. The depth chart had true freshman Matt Barkley as the No. 2 guy, followed by Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain, who has two years of eligibility remaining.

Unlike last season when the Trojans had all of their toughest games at home (Ohio St., Oregon, Cal and Arizona St.), each of those contests will be played on the road this year.

With Pat White going to the Dolphins in the second round after becoming the first college quarterback to lead a school to four bowl wins, there’s a huge hole left to fill in Morgantown. The incumbent will be Jarrett Brown, but he’ll have a lot less pressure on him due to the dynamic presence of versatile RB/WR Noel Devine. Lindy tabbed WVU as 20th in its pre-season magazine.

As usual, Troy appears to be the class of the Sun Belt this season. I can’t complete this column without touching on one of my favorite squads to support financially over the last half-dozen seasons.

This space was extremely concerned in 2008 when Larry Blakeney lost his offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin) and QB (Omar Haugabook). As it turns out, there was nothing to fret about last year or this season because the Trojans have three quality signal callers on the roster.

Jamie Hampton was enjoying an outstanding campaign before sustaining a season-ending knee injury midway through 2008. Levi Brown stepped in for eight starts and led the Trojans to five victories, garnering Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year honors in the process. Brown threw for 15 touchdowns compared to merely three interceptions.

With Brown now entrenched as the starter and Hampton not quite back to 100 percent, there’s speculation that Blakeney might redshirt Hampton. He can do so because the third QB Tanner Jones has also played well when called upon.

Here’s my top 10 QBs in the country:

1-Tim Tebow (Florida) - If the Gators win their third national title in four seasons, Tebow will probably go down as the best player in college football history.

2-Colt McCoy (Texas) - We could see a McCoy/Tebow matchup in Pasadena.

3-Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) - Bradford is considered the better NFL prospect, but I’d take Tebow and McCoy ahead of him on the college gridiron.

4-Jevan Snead (Ole Miss) - After de-committing to Florida because of Tebow and transferring from Texas due to McCoy’s presence, Snead has found a home in Oxford and he’s the main reason why the Rebels are getting a bunch of pre-season ink.

5-Todd Reesing (Kansas) - There’s a reason why Mark Mangino has put KU football on the map the last couple of years.

6-Zac Robinson (Oklahoma St.) - He has all the tools and weapons galore at his disposal. Robinson can make a big splash against UGA in the season opener.

7-Russell Wilson (North Carolina St.) - As a true freshman, Wilson was first-team All-ACC and threw just one pick in 275 pass attempts. And he can scramble.

8-Juice Williams (Illinois) - It says here that the Big Ten’s total offense leader in 2008 will be more consistent as a senior in ’09. And it helps to have WR Arrelious Benn.

9-Robert Griffin (Baylor) - No sophomore slump for this explosive QB who suddenly put Baylor on the map as a true frosh.

10-Riley Skinner (Wake Forest) - His junior year was somewhat of a disappointment due in part to a nagging shoulder injury, but Skinner has led Wake to 28 wins in three seasons. He'll have a big senior year.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--I’ll have a column up in the next week or so about college football schedules but I wanted to go ahead and get this note out of the way. I mentioned Arkansas as a possible sleeper in the SEC West, but the reality is that the loop appears to be a three-team race between ‘Bama, LSU and Ole Miss. That leads me to my point – the Rebels get the Bayou Bengals and the Tide in Oxford.

--Beyond UF, the second-shortest odds on the futures board at Sportsbook.com belong to Oklahoma (+450) and Texas (+500). USC is listed at plus-700, while Ohio St. has plus-800 odds. The Trojans and Buckeyes will square off at The Shoe in Week 2.

--If Oklahoma St. beats Georgia in Week 1, the Cowboys will have an excellent chance to be 7-0 when they host Texas on Oct. 31. OSU has eight home games this year and three of its road games – at Texas A&M, Baylor and Iowa St. – will most likely be played from the ‘chalk’ role. The fourth road game is the regular-season finale against the Sooners in Norman.

--I say these five RBs will be the nation’s best in 2009:
1-Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State)
2-C.J. Spiller (Clemson)
3-Jonathan Dwyer (Ga. Tech)
4-Charles Scott (LSU)
5-Jahvid Best (Cal)

--Country’s most underrated running back: Mississsippi State’s Anthony Dixon.

--Most overrated QB: Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)

--Speaking of the Irish, they have plus 3000 odds to win their first national championship since the Lou Holtz Era (risk $100 to win $3,000).

--Five coaches on the hot seat:
1-Charlie Weis (Notre Dame)
2-Steve Kragthorpe (Louisville)
3-Dan Hawkins (Colorado)
4-Al Groh (Virginia)
5-Mike Sherman (Texas A&M)

Brian Edwards can be reached at briane@vegasinsider.com.

  
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