NCAA Football

Top 15 College Football Quarterbacks for 2013

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Top 15 College Football Quarterbacks for 2013

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

With almost every bowl game of the 2012 season still to be played, it seems a bit silly to be looking toward the 2013 season. But that's exactly what I'm going to be doing here, not only look at next season, but looking at next season through possibly the most important position in the game of football: the quarterback.

The game of football has changed at both the collegiate and the pro level in recent years. The biggest part of that change was an even greater emphasis on the quarterback and on passing the ball. The twist: the pro level finally has a high demand for running quarterbacks to play quarterback, something the college game has always had a high supply of.

There were plenty of quarterbacks who had their breakout season in 2012, and many of those quarterbacks will be returning next season. Many of these are less experienced quarterbacks who may or may not have had their one good year before descending back into mediocrity. But that's the fun part right now: we don't know. We simply don't know who will pan out next year and who won't. With that in mind, here's my list for the top 15 college football quarterbacks heading into the 2013 season.

A quick note: this list is based on the assumption that juniors will be coming back for their senior season. I make note of this somewhat during the countdown, but felt the need to warn you beforehand. So many of those listed may be shots in the dark since the time for those announcements from players hasn't quite come around yet.

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No. 15: Terrance Broadway/UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns

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Broadway is young and part of a young team. The major benefit with this is that the quarterback gets to grow with the team. Every offensive position on the team is young for the most part and while that also means inexperience, there should be enough players entering their junior seasons (like Broadway) that it shouldn't end up being a disaster.

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No. 14: Kolton Browning/UL-Monroe Warhawks

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Browning is losing some receiving talent, but there is some depth there. A bigger problem may be the fact that both of the Warhawks' top running backs may be leaving. What balances out the losses at receiver and running back is the fact that the offensive line appears very safe as far as people leaving and returning.

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No. 13: Zach Mettenberger/LSU Tigers

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Here's a quarterback that got going too late in the season. Mettenberger's performance was very inconsistent and the Tigers could never fully rely on him in a major game. However, Mettenberger's best game of 2012 was against the Alabama Crimson Tide in November, and he hasn't let up since. This could carry into next season, and a returning Mettenberger would need to carry that momentum into next season considering the losses at running back that could be forthcoming. Mettenberger has always appeared as though he can get the job done, it's just that I'm still not sure he can get it done for a whole season.

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No. 12: Clint Chelf/Oklahoma St. Cowboys

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There's some question marks with what kind of offense Chelf would have to navigate if he came back as a senior. Several of the Cowboys' receivers and offensive lineman are also juniors this year, and losing several receivers and/or lineman will do a lot to impede a quarterback's ability to produce. Not too many of them leaving will give Chelf a solid chance to keep the Cowboys' offense prolific.

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No. 11: Brett Hundley/UCLA Bruins

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Considering how young the Bruins' offensive line is, it was a bit of an accomplishment that running back Johnathan Franklin had the season that he did. However, Franklin and a couple of the Bruins' main receivers are gone after this season. But fear not Bruins fans, because you still have Hundley. And after the freshman season that he had (nearly 3,000 yards and nearly 30 touchdown passes), combined with the fact that the offensive focus may go more towards the passing game adds up to Hundley potentially putting up even bigger numbers next season.

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No. 10: Teddy Bridgewater/Louisville Cardinals

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Bridgewater will have a younger team than he did this year, but with Big East play being what it is today, that probably won't mean much. If you want an indication of what Bridgewater will be like next season, you can't watch the Sugar Bowl thinking you'll get it. You can't because it isn't representative of the competition the Cardinals will have to deal with during the season. However, it could be an indication of the full capacity of Bridgewater's skills if he plays well seeing as this is the first big-time competition he will face. Next year should be another productive year for Bridgewater.

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No. 9: Connor Shaw/South Carolina Gamecocks

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Losing his top two running backs means Shaw would finally have the opportunity to shine by himself on the Gamecocks' offense as a senior. Shaw will have the protection he'd need, but Ace Sanders leaving or staying could be the difference in Shaw having an ace receiver (pun intended) or not. Shaw has always had the talent to be a great quarterback, but he's never been able to get to that next level in terms of accomplishment and mass recognition. Whether it's because Shaw has been an underachiever or that the Gamecocks haven't been able to assemble the kind of complete team needed to take that next step is still up in the air to me.

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No. 8: Chuckie Keeton/Utah St. Aggies

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I don't want to say that 2012 was a breakout season for Keeton because his freshman season wasn't bad at all until the injury that cut it short. Here are the problems Keeton will face next season: his receiving core was old coming into this season and thus will be a more inexperienced one next season after the departures, and Kerwynn Williams, the Aggies best running back, is now longer an Aggie after just completing his senior season. Despite all of that, Keeton remains a very versatile quarterback as was evident during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. That versatility and the talent that Keeton obviously possesses will be needed next year.

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No. 7: Johnny Manziel/Texas A&M Aggies

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I'm going to catch some heat for leaving this year's Heisman Trophy winner out of the top five. However, I have my reasons: the potential for a sophomore slump now that the SEC has film of Manziel to study all off-season, the departure of Aggies' quarterback coach Kliff Kingsbury to Texas Tech, and the departure of nearly all of Manziel's starting receivers after this season. Still, he's still developing as a player (that's scary), he can run very well, and he has his throwing arm. He won't win another Heisman, but the Aggies should remain very competitive in the SEC.

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No. 6: Jordan Lynch/Northern Illinois Huskies

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Considering the coaching change and the upcoming BCS bowl game, there's still a lot on Lynch's plate this season. The Huskies will have plenty of people coming back in the running back and wide receiver positions next season, and they aren't losing more than a few people on the line. Obviously, how whoever ends up being the new Huskies coach runs the ship will play a part. However, Lynch does have a very solid team returning next year. It all provides him with a tremendous opportunity to become even more of a leader on the football field as well as have another high-profile season.

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No. 5: Marcus Mariota/Oregon Ducks

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It's Mariota's success in this season (his freshman season) and how quickly he gelled with the Ducks' offense that will make him a pre-season Heisman candidate in 2013; or if not a pre-season candidate, his name will likely be on the watch by the time conference play begins. On offense, the Ducks also have a very young group of receivers for Mariota to work with along with De'Anthony Thomas being a suitable replacement for Kenjon Barner. Look for big things from this quarterback in 2013.

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No. 4: A.J. McCarron/Alabama Crimson Tide

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I wrote on McCarron's return this past weekend. He will have the tools on offense to succeed with at least part of his running attack guaranteed to be back next year, a young group of receivers will be at McCarron's disposal, and most of the O-line returning as well. McCarron probably won't win the Heisman next year, but he should be in the running for it with the Crimson Tide being in the national title picture the whole time.

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No. 3: Aaron Murray/Georgia Bulldogs

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If Murray returns for a senior season, the Bulldogs should challenge for the national championship and Murray should be on every Heisman watch during the beginning month of the season. And while there are a few receivers that will be leaving, Murray would retain a two-man running attack where both are only sophomores, not to mention Malcolm Mitchell emerging as a new man for Murray to throw to. If Murray comes back, he should be penciled in for New York and the Heisman ceremony the way Matt Barkley was at the beginning of this season.

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No. 2: Tajh Boyd/Clemson Tigers

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If Boyd returns for his senior season, it will be more of a surprise if he doesn't make the list of Heisman Trophy finalists. The Tigers are losing Andre Ellington, but are likely to retain Sammy Watkins. If DeAndre Hopkins returns as well, then Boyd would have both of his favorite targets back for one season, so running attack be damned. Boyd's ability to pass or run the ball has already been on display for multiple seasons, and this would be his chance to put it all together and have a season that tops the three Boyd has already had with the Tigers.

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No. 1: Taylor Martinez/Nebraska Cornhuskers

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It's funny how a part of your running game leaving actually helps the quarterback sometimes. In this case, Martinez still has Ameer Abdullah with Rex Burkhead readying to play his final game as a Cornhusker. Martinez & Abdullah provided the Cornhuskers with a better running attack than when it was a three-pronged attack during this season. If enough of the offensive line returns for their respective senior seasons, Martinez could be on his way to New York and the Heisman ceremony. He has great running ability and has been able to do the things that a college quarterback needs to do to win games. Not all of the Cornhuskers' wins this year were pretty, but they did show that Martinez has the winning attitude and winning motivation that is needed succeed on the football field.