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College Football Power Rankings: Top 15 Quarterbacks In 2012

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Top 15 College Football Quarterbacks In 2012

AJ McCarron Celebrates
Derick Hingle - US PRESSWIRE

The quarterback position has grown increasingly important to football success. If a team hopes to be great, at any level, then they need to find a leader under center that can take the team to its highest levels.

To do this, they need to be a special combination of traits. They need to have intelligence, diligence, toughness, and athleticism to make the plays when called on and lead his offense down the field. While anyone can line up under center, it takes a special talent to be a quarterback.

In this day, we are blessed as fans to be living in a golden era of quarterback play. From the NFL, to college, to high school football, young men are growing up and becoming great quarterbacks younger and younger, which only means their eventual ceilings are that much higher.

Now, we take a look at the 15 best quarterbacks that the college game has to offer in 2012. There are plenty to choose from with some very worthy candidates left off of the list. When the position is filled with so much talent, it becomes difficult to choose the top 15 without feeling like you’ve left out some great talents. This countdown is no different.

But at the end of the day, there are certain players who distinguish themselves and set themselves apart from their peers. They are the best of the best and can lead their team to victory every time they take the field.

So without further ado, we count down the top 15 quarterbacks in 2012.

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15. David Fales, San Jose State Spartans

David Fales
Kyle Terada - US PRESSWIRE

One of the better mid-major teams this season has been the San Jose State Spartans, who at 7-2 are pressing for the WAC conference title. If they win it, they'll have quarterback David Fales to thank for it, because he has been fantastic this season.

Fales has been great for the Spartans this season, never completing fewer than 65-percent of his passes in a game this season. His 72.73-percent completion percentage ranks among the nation's best as he's averaged 316.67 yards per game. On the year, he's thrown for 2,856 yards with 21 touchdowns to six interceptions. He holds the eighth highest quarterback efficiency rating in the country at 165.74.

The WAC title race may not get much national attention, but the Spartans will be in it until the end thanks to the efforts of David Fales. He may not play for a big-name school, but he is playing with a big-time talent.

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14. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks

Marcus Mariota

The Oregon Ducks weren't sure who their starting quarterback was going to be almost right up until the first game of the season. Chip Kelly eventually decided on freshman Marcus Mariota, and that choice has made all the difference in Oregon's perfect season so far.

The Ducks' blur offense is predicated on running plays at a break-neck speed and getting the playmakers they have at running back into the open field. That doesn't leave a lot of opportunity for a quarterback to throw 40 times a game, but even with a limited opportunity, Mariota has impressed. He's exhibited a poise and intelligence beyond his years and has a nose for making plays. One out of every 10 pass attempts this season has gone for a touchdown. That's remarkable efficiency.

On the year, Mariota has thrown for only 1,787 yards, averaging under 200 yards per game. But he's making the most of his opportunities, though, because despite throwing the ball only 217 times this season, he's thrown 22 touchdown passes to just five interceptions while completing 70.51-percent of his throws. His 168.53 passer efficiency rating ranks seventh in the country.

Oregon is on its way to its second national title appearance in three seasons thanks to the play of their young quarterback Marcus Mariota. While it may not get talked about much, Mariota possesses a passing ability that rivals anyone in the country. As he continues to mature and Chip Kelly relies on him more, he will only get more impressive.

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13. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel
Spruce Derden - US PRESSWIRE

The Texas A&M Aggies moved into the SEC this season and there were widespread concerns about how well they would transition to the tougher environment. Those concerns were voiced before freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel took the field, though, because "Johnny Football" is making the Aggies move down south quite smooth.

Manziel is a true dual-threat quarterback in that he is just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm. In short, he's lethal with both. He's already set the SEC record for total yards in a game while consistently shredding SEC defenses that were supposed to make life difficult for the Aggies. Manziel has had a few freshman moments, but his play indicates nothing but a bright future for A&M in their new home.

On the season, Manziel has thrown for 2,527 yards (while rushing for 922) and is completing 66.56-percent of his passes. He's averaging 280 yards per game through the air and has scored 16 touchdowns with his arm (along with 15 on the ground) against six interceptions. His efficiency rating of 149.53 ranks 29th in the country.

Johnny Manziel's ability to make plays with his arm and his legs make him one of the most exciting young players in all of college football. There is no limit to what Manziel might be able to accomplish in his career in College Station, but SEC defenses have been put on notice. Johnny Football is coming.

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12. Nick Florence, Baylor Bears

Nick Florence
Jerome Miron - US PRESSWIRE

The Baylor Bears have struggled this season after the remarkable run they enjoyed last year with Robert Griffin III under center. At 4-4, Baylor sits second-to-last in the Big 12, but quarterback play can't be blamed for it, as RGIII's replacement, Nick Florence, has been prolific in the passing game.

With a defense as bad as Baylor's (117th in scoring), Florence has had plenty of opportunities to try and throw his team back into games. That is partially why the Bears have the number one passing attack in college football. The other part, however, is the skill of Florence.

This season, Florence is number one in the country in yards passing per game, averaging 377.38 yards every single game. He's thrown for a total of 3,019 yards in just eight games, completing 64.19-percent of his passes. He's found the endzone 25 times, but has thrown 11 interceptions to counteract them. He has an efficiency rating of 165.51, which ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears' defense has been so bad, if Nick Florence weren't putting up the numbers he has been, they'd be lucky to have won any games this season. Florence hasn't been able to lead his teams to big wins, which hurts his standing, but he's still putting together a remarkable statistical season.

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11. Geno Smith, West Virginia Mountaineers

Geno Smith
Charles LeClaire - US PRESSWIRE

At one point this season, Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers looked utterly unstoppable on offense. A three-game losing streak and an offensive slowdown have knock Smith down the list of top quarterbacks, but he remains one of the elite arms in college football.

A month ago, everyone was prepared to hand the Heisman Trophy over to Smith without a second thought. In his first five games, Smith was unstoppable, throwing for three or more touchdowns in each game with no interceptions while averaging 399 yards passing per game. Things have slowed down for Smith and WVU, though, during their three-game skid, with the formerly-assured Heisman winner throwing just five touchdowns against three interceptions while averaging just 227 yards per game.

Despite the three-game slowdown, Smith remains one of the more impressive quarterbacks in the country. On the year, he's thrown for 2,677 yards while completing a national best 72-percent of his passes. He's thrown for 29 touchdowns against just three interceptions while still averaging 334.63 yards passing per game. His 162.88 efficiency rating ranks 12th in the country.

While Smith hasn't been playing "bad" during the Mountaineers' losing streak, he hasn't been the same dynamic and unstoppable quarterback that he was for the first five games. His slow-down, combined with the porous defense of WVU, has led to a dismal downturn to the Mountaineers' inaugural season in the Big 12.

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10. Derek Carr, Fresno State Bulldogs

Derek Carr
Brian Losness - US PRESSWIRE

In the Mountain West Conference, you often hear about the Boise State Broncos or Nevada Wolfpack. But it's the Fresno State Bulldogs who are in a position to win the MWC thanks in large part to their junior quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr is a legacy at Fresno State, following in the footsteps of his older brother and former number one overall pick David Carr. He's shown the same kind of leadership and ability that his brother had in driving a high-powered Bulldogs passing attack to the 13th ranked passing offense in college football.

The junior QB is one of a handful of signal callers to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark this season, passing for 3,070 yards while completing 68.21-percent of his passes. He's thrown 30 touchdowns this season (tied for second-most in football) while averaging 307 yards passing per game and throwing just five interceptions. His 157.15 passer efficiency rating ranks 18th in the country.

The ever-competitive Mountain West has been a breeding ground for BCS busters over the years. Carr is leading his team over some of the best mid-majors in the country with his ability to throw the ball down the field and find the endzone.

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9. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville Cardinals

Teddy Bridgewater
Jamie Rhodes - US PRESSWIRE

The Louisville Cardinals are the "other" undefeated team in college football; the one that has no shot at playing for a national championship. Going undefeated in the Big East may not be impressive to voters, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has led the Cardinals to 9-0, has been very impressive.

Quietly, Bridgewater has put together one of the more solid seasons at quarterback of anyone in the country. He's been a steady hand for Louisville, which is even more impressive when you remember that he is just a sophomore. Every time that the Cardinals have been pushed, Bridgewater has been the one to lead them to victory.

On the year, Bridgewater is completing 70.43-percent of his passes for 2,434 yards. He's thrown a touchdown in every game since their season-opener, where he completed 90.5-percent of his passes, but couldn't find the end zone. Bridgewater has thrown 18 touchdowns, including five in his last game against the Temple Owls, and just four interceptions. His efficiency rating or 169.98 ranks fifth in the country.

It isn't often that one player can be the savior of an entire conference in addition to his own team. Teddy Bridgewater is just that for the Big East and the Louisville Cardinals. Without the Cardinals' perfect season and No. 9 BCS ranking, the Big East would have no teams in the top 20. Louisville has saved the reputation of the Big East from total collapse and that is due to the play of Teddy Bridgewater.

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8. Seth Doege, Texas Tech Red Raiders

Seth Doege
Scott Sewell - US PRESSWIRE

The Big 12 has been a wild shootout waiting to happen most weeks. The Texas Tech Red Raiders have won their fair share of those shootouts thanks to their quarterback, Seth Doege, who has been slinging the ball as well as anyone in the country.

Doege has brought a gun-slinger's mentality to the quarterback position for Texas Tech, giving fans flashbacks to the days of Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense that set just about every passing record imaginable. While the Red Raiders haven't won every shootout they've gotten into at just 6-3, they've only had a chance in any of them because of the talents of Doege.

On the year, the senior has thrown for 2,869 yards, completing 69.25-percent of his throws. He leads the nation with 31 touchdown passes, throwing five or more in four different games this season, with eight interceptions. He is averaging 318.78 yards per game and his 159.92 efficiency rating ranks 16th in the country.

Texas Tech wasn't necessarily supposed to be a force in the Big 12 this season, but Seth Doege has made them a dangerous opponent each and every week. He's given Tommy Tuberville's offense the bite that it has needed to rise up and win a few games it wasn't expected to this season.

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7. Aaron Murray, Georgia Bulldogs

Aaron Murray
Dale Zanine - US PRESSWIRE

The Georgia Bulldogs look poised to win the SEC East crown and take their shot at taking the SEC championship back from the SEC West. If Mark Richt and the Bulldogs are able to, they'll have quarterback Aaron Murray to thank for it.

The most remarkable thing about Murray's season may not be any stats or wins, but the circumstances that he has overcome to be successful this season. Earlier this fall, Murray found out that his father had been diagnosed with cancer right before a big game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. He struggled against SC, leading to Georgia's first -- and only -- loss of the season. He came right back, though, after a bye week and has been sensational since.

On the year, Murray has thrown for 2,448 yards, completing 64.94-percent of his passes. He's thrown for 21 touchdowns to seven interceptions while averaging 275 yards passing per game. His 168.90 efficiency rating ranks sixth in the country.

Murray has shown more poise in the face of adversity than most juniors in college would be able to muster. His strength makes him a leader of the Bulldogs and has elevated him to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season.

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6. Matt Barkley, USC Trojans

Matt Barkley

Matt Barkley returned to the USC Trojans for "unfinished business," and was the preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunner on the preseason No. 1 team. Things haven't gone quite as well as expected for Lane Kiffin and the Trojans, but Barkley is still turning in a very good senior season.

Barkley has matured since he was handed the starting job four years ago as a freshman in 2009. This season, he threw his 100th career touchdown pass, setting the Pac 12 record. He's thrown a touchdown in eight of the Trojans' nine games and has thrown two or more seven times. On four occasions, he's thrown four or more touchdown passes, including six in two different games. The Trojans boast one of the most talented offensive rosters in the country and Barkley has been one of the best among them.

This season, Barkley has thrown for 2,750 yards while completing 65.19-percent of his throws. He's averaging over 305 yards passing per game while throwing for 30 touchdowns, but has made some careless choices that resulted in 10 interceptions. He ranks 11th in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 163.29.

A few rough games have knocked Barkley out of the Heisman conversation and the Trojans have lost any shot at making a run at a national title, but that doesn't diminish the impact Barkley has had on the field this season. He's still one of the best quarterbacks in college football and a likely number one pick in next year's NFL draft.

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5. Collin Klein, Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Scott Sewell - US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas State Wildcats are in the thick of the national title race because of an opportunistic defense and the unrelenting drive of quarterback Collin Klein. "Optimus Klein" has elevated K-State to the brink of a national championship and put himself in the running for a Heisman Trophy in the process.

Knocking Klein down the rankings a bit is the fact that most of his contributions are with his legs. He is a phenomenal running quarterback who churns out tough yards for the Wildcats offense, moving them down the field by any means necessary. Klein hasn't shown himself to be the best quarterback, necessarily, on every Saturday, but he has been the best and most determined athlete on the field who happens to play quarterback.

That isn't to say that Klein isn't making plays with his arm. On the year, the K-State quarterback has thrown for just 1,875 yards (208.33 per game), but he's completing 71.12-percent of his passes, the third highest mark in football. He's attacking defenses down the field when he throws, with yards per attempt average of 10.03, which ranks second in the country. He's thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and leads the nation in efficiency rating at 174.39.

Anything that Kansas State has accomplished this season will largely be thanks to the efforts of Collin Klein. He's a gritty, emotional leader for the Cats who is going to do anything and everything in his power to push K-State into the national title game.

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4. Tajh Boyd, Clemson Tigers

Tajh Boyd
Jeremy Brevard - US PRESSWIRE

Dabo Swinney has the Clemson Tigers right back in the thick of the ACC hunt after winning the ACC Championship last season. The continued growth and maturation of quarterback Tajh Boyd is the biggest reason why.

Boyd has been phenomenal all year long, but seems to be improving as the season goes along. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season, and two or more in seven of nine. Over the last two weeks, Boyd has thrown 10 touchdown passes in a pair of blowout road-wins. He has completed fewer than 60-percent of his passes just twice this year and eclipsed 70-percent four times. He's the engine that makes the seventh highest scoring team in college football run.

On the year, Boyd has completed 67.84-percent of his passes for 2,680 yards. He's averaging nearly 300-yards passing per game while throwing 25 touchdown passes to nine interceptions. He ranks fourth in the country in passer-efficiency at 170.18.

The Tigers will need some help if they are going to repeat as the ACC champions, but they are still in a great position for a possible at-large BCS berth. Boyd's incredible level of play has kept Clemson from suffering from any kind backward slide this season.

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3. Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Colby Cameron
Troy Taormina - US PRESSWIRE

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are the leaders of the mid-major pack this season at 8-1. Their only loss of the season came in a shootout with the Texas A&M Aggies, who have proven themselves to be a very good team in the SEC. The biggest reason for the Bulldogs' success? Look no further than quarterback Colby Cameron.

The Bulldogs rely on a fast-paced offensive attack to roll up points in a hurry. Cameron is the perfect fit for that offense and has flourished this season, leading the Bulldogs to the second-best scoring offense in the country (52.4 points per game). La Tech has racked up more than 570 yards of total offense per game this season, and Cameron has been a big reason why, leading the seventh best passing attack in football and elevating the Bulldogs into the national rankings (No. 20 in BCS).

On the season, Cameron is completing 71.23-percent of his passes, the second-highest completion percentage in college football. He's averaging 327.33 yards per game while throwing for 24 touchdown passes and has zero interceptions on the season. His clean stat sheet has helped him to the 13th best efficiency rating in the country (162.48).

If any mid-major busts the BCS this year, Louisiana Tech is the most likely candidate thanks to Colby Cameron's transcendent play. He has shown he can go toe-to-toe with the big boys, but he wants another opportunity to show he can beat them too.

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2. EJ Manuel, Florida State Seminoles

EJ Manuel
Steve Mitchell

The Florida State Seminoles have enjoyed a national renaissance this season, coming one upset-loss short of being right in the thick of the national title discussion. Jimbo Fisher can thank his quarterback E.J. Manuel for that.

Coming into the season, the offense looked to have playmakers at almost every position. But the offense has gotten thinned out by injuries with star running back Chris Thompson being lost for the season in the team's win over the Miami Hurricanes. Manuel has responded by picking up the slack of the offense and leading the Seminoles to an 8-1 record.

On the year, Manuel has completed 70-percent of his passes for 2,315 yards with 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. The senior has thrown a touchdown in eight of nine games this season and leads the nation with a 10.07 yards per attempt average. He is the second-highest rated passer in college football with an efficiency rating of 174.0.

The Seminoles are in line to win the Atlantic Division and play for the ACC Championship thanks to Manuel’s fantastic senior season.

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1. AJ McCarron, Alabama Crimson Tide

AJ McCarron
Derick Hingle - US PRESSWIRE

A.J. McCarron takes the top spot in these rankings simply because he’s the perfect quarterback…for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

It is no secret how Nick Saban plans to win football games: Strong defense, productive running game, minimal mistakes. Saban doesn’t ask for a lot out of his quarterbacks, other than to avoid screwing up, which gets them labeled as “game managers” more often than not.

While “game manager” is normally a terrible insult for quarterbacks, McCarron has thrived in the role. He has led the Tide offense without ego, following the game plan to victory, no matter how limited his opportunities to throw the ball are. And they are quite limited.

On the season, McCarron has thrown for just 1,894 yards, good for 205 yards per game. That number is a bit more impressive when you look closer and see that McCarron averages just 22 pass attempts per game (good for a 9.06 yards per attempt average). What he’s been able to do with those opportunities, however, has been the most impressive.

McCarron is completing two out of every three pass attempts (66.67%) and boasts the third-best efficiency rating in all of college football (173.54). He’s thrown for 19 touchdowns on the season, with at least one touchdown pass in eight of their nine games and two or more in six of nine. Most importantly, he’s thrown zero interceptions.

He has stepped up as a leader for the Crimson Tide as they roll towards another BCS Championship game appearance, coming up big on drives when they’ve needed him most. He isn’t going to set a box score on fire with his stats, but he doesn’t need to. He’s playing his role absolutely perfectly for Saban’s unanimous No. 1 team, which makes him the No. 1 quarterback in 2012.