Top 10 college football quarterbacks: C.J. Stroud continues climb into top-five

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The 2021 college football season has featured plenty of new faces on big-time programs, but there are some returning starters doing their thing too.

Here are the top 10 college football quarterbacks, which takes into account what transpired during Week 8’s Saturday slate and also factors in what each player projects to do for the rest of the year.

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Best college football quarterbacks: Honorable mentions

  • Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
  • Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
  • Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
  • Max Johnson, LSU
  • Jake Haener, Fresno State

10. Sam Howell, North Carolina (Last week: 9)
Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) throws the football prior facing Texas A&M Aggies at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

2020 stats: 236-of-348, 3,586 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions

Before the CFB season began, some projected Howell as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he lost all of his top targets from 2020. There have been some growing pains, with Howell completing just 61.1% of his passes after connecting on 68.1% as a sophomore. Perhaps missing his targets, Howell has shown his athleticism a bit more in 2021, averaging just over 70 rushing yards per game. He has a big test this week against a ranked Notre Dame team.

9. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (LW: 8)
Sep 18, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) runs the ball past Buffalo Bulls defensive end Taylor Riggins (49) during the second quarter of play at UB Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nicholas LoVerde-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 172-of-250, 2,488 yards, 26 touchdowns, three interceptions; 111 carries, 569 yards, seven TDs

After breaking out last season, leading the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers to an 11-1 record in 2020, Grayson McCall has continued his success in 2021. Losing to Appalachian State is a small setback, but McCall has been wonderful this year, completing 77.3% of his passes with just one interception thrown. McCall ran for 567 yards (5.1 YPC) and seven touchdowns last season, but we haven’t seen the same success this time around, averaging just 1.9 yards per tote. He actually has another tough matchup this week against a Troy defense that is allowing just 19.6 points per game.

8. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (LW: 5)
Jan 1, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) throws a pass against the Georgia Bulldogs in the second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 186-of-281, 2,296 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 592 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns

While some of this list is projection and based on smaller sample sizes, Desmond Ridder has earned his spot with a lengthy tenure, excellent ability as a runner, and steady throwing progress. On his way to an 8-0 start, Ridder has taken down a ranked Notre Dame team and has thrown just four interceptions all season. Struggling against a much lesser opponent in against Navy wasn’t an impressive showing, but Ridder got the win. The Bearcats need to avoid another slow start this week against a weak Tulane D.
Also Read:
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7. Tanner Mordecai, SMU (LW: 6)
Jordan Hofeditz/Reporter-News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Redshirt junior quarterback Tanner Mordecai has been lighting it up this season for the SMU Mustangs. The former Oklahoma commit has led the Mustangs to a 7-0 start, tied for a nation-leading 29 touchdown passes. While we’d like to see fewer interceptions (7), you can’t argue with Mordecai’s success thus far. Mordecai has a tough stretch coming up to close out the year, highlighted by a game against Cincinnati on Nov. 20.

6. Carson Strong, Nevada (LW: 6)
Jan 3, 2020; Boise, Idaho, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong (12) throws a pass during the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Ohio Bobcats at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 249-of-355, 2,858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions

Cannon-armed Carson Strong is one of the most underrated passers in the collegiate game. All season long, Strong has displayed traits that should lead to him playing on Sundays in the pros. Strong has topped 377 yards in each of his past three games, with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in that span. With several NFL scouts in attendance this week against Fresno State, the young quarterback had a great game, with 476 yards, four touchdowns, and a pick, but the Nevada defense let him down, setting them up for the loss. He should have another big game in a Nevada showdown with UNLV. Also Read:
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5. Malik Willis, Liberty (LW: 4)
Dec 26, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) celebrates a win with his family in the stands following an overtime win against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 170-of-265, 2,250 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions; 944 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns

We tried to warn you about the Malik Willis hype train. It’s safe to say, the eagle has officially landed. Willis has been special through eight starts in 2021. Among quarterbacks, he’s first in the nation with 647 rushing yards. He faced a bit of an injury scare against North Texas, having to leave the facility for some further evaluation, but he eventually returned to the game to lead the Flames to a comeback victory, throwing three more touchdowns. Willis will have a huge game against the hapless UMass Minutemen this week.

See how high Carson Strong and Malik Willis are selected in our latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft

4. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (LW: 7)
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Entering the 2021 CFB season, C.J. Stroud was highly touted. Throwing an interception each of his first three games led to many questions surrounding Stroud, with Ohio State fans even calling for the QB to be benched. Performing as a true Heisman candidate, Stroud is showing why he deserves to be leading the Buckeyes. Also Read:
WATCH: No. 5 Ohio State crushes Indiana, which loses starting QB

3. Matt Corral, Ole Miss (LW: 1)
Jan 2, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Matt Corral (2) throws the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 231-of-326, 3,337 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 14 interceptions ; 506 yards rushing, four touchdowns

It’s becoming more and more obvious each week. Matt Corral is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Facing Tennessee, Corral was effective through the air, and deadly on the ground, totaling 195 rushing yards on 30 carries. Playing banged up against LSU, Corral was efficient as he sliced through a competent LSU defense. Corral has an even tougher matchup against Auburn this week. Also Read:
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2. Kenny Pickett, Pitt (LW: 2)
Sep 25, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes the ball against the New Hampshire Wildcats during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020 stats: 203-of-332, 2,408 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, nine interceptions

Few NCAA players have raised their profile more than Pitt’s Kenny Pickett this season. Mostly written off before the year began, Pickett has thrown himself into the Heisman conversation by throwing for 23 touchdowns with just one interception. It also doesn’t hurt that his team is 6-1. Pickett should be able to keep the hot streak going this week against Miami (FL).

1. Bryce Young, Alabama (LW: 3)
Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) leaves the field after defeating the Miami Hurricanes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama won 44-13. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young is a legitimate dual-threat playmaker whose abilities have helped him become a Heisman contender early on. Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M will hurt his chances to win the prestigious award, but Young is still one of the better quarterbacks in college football. Young was Mr. Perfect against Mississippi State, going 20-for-28 with 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. Tennessee can get after the QB a bit, we may get to see more of Young’s athleticism on display this week. Also Read:
Heisman Watch 2021: Week 9 offers Heisman Trophy moment for CJ Stroud, Matt Corral

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