Ranking the SEC’s top 10 quarterbacks of the BCS era


Related BCS Ranking:

What have I gotten myself into? Ranking quarterbacks in the BCS era is no easy task; rather, it’s a monumental one with no solid foundational outcome but plenty of disagreement. But I’m willing to take the heat.

As a reminder: the BCS started in 1998 and will be ending after the 2013 season.

The rankings have to have some type of metrics, but I’m not biased to four-year career players over one-year superstars. Let’s not judge them because they’re one-season wonders.

Let’s get on with it…

Dual-threat beasts

1. Cam Newton, Auburn (2010)
Pass stats: 2,854 yds, 30 TD, 7 INT, 66.1%
Rush stats: 1,473 yds, 20 TDs
Skinny: Cam Newton is hands down the most put together and physically gifted specimen of any quarterback of the BCS era. At 6-5, 245-pounds, there’s not much to dislike. His 2010 season was one of football’s most explosive and best seasons ever. I remember when Tim Tebow took the conference by storm, thinking it may never be accomplished again. But it did, and to a guy who once shared the sidelines with Tebow. Newton led the Tigers to an undefeated season, winning the SEC, BCS and the Heisman. Newton had far less talent around him than Tebow.

Related: Ranking the SEC’s 10 best running backs of BCS era

2. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Pass stats: 9,285 pass yards, 88 TD, 16 INT, 66.4%
Rush stats: 2,947 rush yards, 57 TDs
Skinny: One word that comes to mind is intangibles. Whether or not you blame Urban Meyer for Florida’s letdown, he let Tebow run the team. That’s Meyer’s problem, but Tebow could handle it. In 2007, he did things we hadn’t seen before in a conference where those things are not supposed to happen, when he won the Heisman. Later, he led Florida to a national championship in 2008 and was one loss away from another appearance in 2009. Tebow was a Heisman finalist three years in a row, and he scored a total of 145 (145!) career touchdowns.

Pro-style champion

3. AJ McCarron, Alabama (2011-current)
Pass stats: 5,956 yards, 49 TDs, 8 INTs, 66.7%
Rush stats: 3 TDs
Skinny: McCarron’s been called underrated, and he’s been called overrated. He’s been called a game manager and the anti-Manziel. I’ll call him a winner and a champion, because that’s all he’s ever done. His touchdown to INT ratio is incredible, and he could become the first starting quarterback in the history of college football to win three national championships. We’ll never know truly how good McCarron really is because he has first-round picks all around him, but if he wins another one in 2013, he’ll move up on this list. On the big stage, McCarron plays his best games. That’s what you want out of a quarterback.

Related: AJ McCarron’s top 10 plays

Electrifying star

4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2012-current)
Pass stats: 3,706 yds, 26 TD, 9 INT, 68.0%
Rush stats: 1,410 yds, 21 TD
Skinny: I’m nowhere near afraid to put Johnny Manziel in my top five. The guy is every bit of electric, and with over 5,100 total yards of offense, he turned college football on its head. Winning a Heisman is the best start any freshman could ever have, and assuming he plays long enough, Manziel could go down as college football’s best quarterback ever. Did I just go there?

Related: See where Manziel ranks in the top 25 players in the SEC

The pro-style 6

5. Chris Leak, Florida (2003-06)
Pass stats: 11,213 yds, 88 TD, 42 INT, 61.4%
Rush stats: 137 yds, 13 TD
Skinny: Records are made to be broken, and Leak’s record of 895 career completions will be broken by Aaron Murray in 2013. Leak’s second all-time in career passing yardage to Georgia’s David Greene, with 11,213 yards. He’s an SEC and BCS Champion, and he’s a top five SEC quarterback during the BCS era.

6. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Pass stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TD, 35 INT, 60.8%
Rush stats: 5 TDs
Skinny: As the only Manning to play during the BCS era, Eli had an outstanding career at Ole Miss. The Rebels were good because Manning took them there. You’ll find Eli’s name in the SEC record book as top 10 in passing yards, completions and attempts, as well as top five in touchdown passes. But he rewrote the Rebels’ record book. Clearly, he’s taken his game to the next level in the NFL, but let’s not forget what he did at Ole Miss.

7. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Pass stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TD, 32 INT, 59.0%
Rush stats: 5 TDs
Skinny: Few remember what David Greene accomplished at Georgia. Greene finished his career as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history with 42 wins, surpassing Peyton Manning. He won an SEC Championship in 2002, and he was an SEC first- and second-team performer in 2002-04. Greene still holds the SEC record for career passing yards with 11,528.

8. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-current)
Pass stats: 10,091 yds, 95 TD, 32 INT, 61.5%
Rush stats: 202 yds, 9 TD
Skinny: Murray will own virtually every passing record in 2013 – completions, career touchdown passes and total yards gained, but he’s still in search of an elusive championship – the only reason he returned in 2013. If he wins a championship, the resume will be complete.

9. Rex Grossman, Florida (2000-02)
Pass stats: 9,164 yds, 77 TD, 36 INT, 61%
Rush stats: 6 TD
Skinny: Grossman became the first sophomore QB in Florida history to garner first-team All-American honors in 2001. Grossman almost became the first sophomore to win the Heisman that year, but he finished as the runner up. He is fifth all time in Gator history with 9,164 yards and stands fourth with 77 touchdowns. Grossman exited Florida with a 146.77 passer rating, becoming the third most efficient passer in SEC history.

10. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (2006-08)
Pass stats: 7,731 yds, 51 TD, 33 INT, 57.1%
Rush stats: 6 TD
Skinny: Stafford still stands to this day – on paper – as one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever come through the SEC. He remains third in school history with the most completions with 987 and third in career passing yards with 7,731. His 51 touchdowns also stand third in school history.

Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports



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  • Looks like a good top 10, although I’m partial to Tebow. The was the biggest leader and raised the play of everyone else around him. Wish we could have seen Newton play more than one season. But no doubt athletically, Newton was nasty.

  • As a Dawg, it pains me to say this, but Tebow has to be number 1, hands down. I’d rank the top 3 as 1. Tebow, 2. McCarron, 3. Newton

  • I know he only played one season but why isn’t D.J. Shockley on this list? Cam only played one season. No I’m not comparing the two but D.J. was better than a few on this list

  • I don’t get how Matthew Stafford is ranked last or why Murray is ranked below Manziel. Sure Manziel is a Heisman winner but lets see how he is doing after 3 years. He may not even be playing next year. Murray will have all the records at the end of this season. Sure he hasn’t won a NC game but last I checked he wasn’t the only one playing these games. He played a hell of a game against Bama and had it not been for other things such as the Georgia defense not showing up in the 4th, it would have been Georgia playing ND. Also, had Stafford been with Bama, he would have gotten a chance to play in a NC game without going to an SEC championship game because only Bama is allowed to do that and not Georgia.

    • Manziel is one of the best players to every play even if he had only one player. Murray’s good, but he’s not great. It’s good that he’s even on this list.

      • I’m not saying Manziel isn’t good, I said he’s played 1 year. He also may not even be playing next year and if he doesn’t cut out his current roller coaster ride, he may never play again. I’ll also agree Murray may never make it in the NFL but that’s not what this is about. If it was than only 4 of the QB’s on this list would make it. However, we are talking about college stats and based on stats, Murray is deserving to be on the list.

      • Manziel isn’t a great player, he had a great year, yes. But watch, this year he won’t even be in the top 3 heisman runnings.

    • Your dead on brother. AJ McCarron has those numbers and championships because of the talent around him. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good QB, but better than Aaron Murray or Stafford based on raw talent? I think not.

      • I don’t think it said anywhere here it was a list based on raw talent. If it was, Stafford would be 1 or 2 along with Newton. McCarron is winning championships though, more than anyone else on this list. So you can’t knock him for that.

      • You should work on your reading comprehension. He said we’d never know how good AJ really is because of the talent around him, not that his career depended completely on them.

        Furthermore, if you want to make such an argument someone could easily say the same of Murray, and if I recall correctly McCarron’s rating last year was BETTER than Murray’s.

      • I think so considering the fact that Bama is a running powerhouse.

  • See I’m a little confused here…what is the criteria that makes a “Great” QB? Ya got Cam Newton at the top…who undoubtably is the most physically gifted of the bunch…but then ya got the most gifted passer, Stafford at the bottom. Newton played one controversial year and yes, won the Title but is that the guy you pick over the rest to lead your team? The same can be said for Manziel…one excellent season but no title…no leadership qualities…and you’re ready to call him the possible best EVER? Seriously Jon? Lets all calm down an take a deep breath here and remember that while “JFF” was certainly entertaining and played great, that aTm D over achieved all year including against Bama in the game that made Johnny famous. What I’m saying is don’t ya hafta look at the big picture here? Do heismans matter? Sure they do…do titles matter? Yup. So do the numbers and records…but why not look at what someone has done over the course of a career too. Also…the David Greenes and Eli Mannings didn’t play in today’s SEC. Greene won SEC hardware…so what exactly makes ELI a better college QB than any of the UGA QBS?

    • Eli did it on sorry Ole Miss teams, even leading us to a 10 win season in 2003. The same team, less Eli, won 3 games the next year after he went pro. If Eli played on the Georgia teams of the Richt era (loaded with talent), he’d have won 2 or 3 national championships.

      • OK, That’s a pretty big if dude…but still… I’ll play ball..difference is the competition Eli went up against was nothing like the BAMAs, LSUs and UFs of the last few years. But I hear ya…you’re making the same point I could make about Murray vs McCarron in this era.

        • How exactly could you make that point in Murray vs McCarron? They’ve both played in the same time frame. If anything that comparison would just make Murray look bad. After all, he’s been playing an SEC East schedule his entire career, and what does that do for competition? A shook-up post-Tebow-and-Meyer Florida, a UT that’s dropped like the Hindenberg, an SC who’s lost its star running back year after year (and who still managed to trounce Georgia), and then perpetual bottom-dwellers Kentucky and Vandy.

        • I mean really, the highest competition UGA’s had to face consistently is South Carolina. McCarron, on the other hand, has been running a West schedule with a guaranteed toss-up in LSU and what was, up until last year, an Arkansas team poised for a title run, and now they have A&M on the schedule.

        • LSU won the National Title in 2003. Auburn went 13-0 in 2004. Alabama was good, but not like now. Arkansas was winning 9 games a year. The SEC West was still pretty stacked in ’03. That’s why Eli leading what turned out to be a bad Ole Miss team to 7-1 in the SEC, 10-wins overall, and a Cotton Bowl victory was pretty amazing. Neither Murray nor McCarron could do that. They’re both solid as hell QB’s, but neither of them are in Eli’s class.

        • Oh god, Bob trust me you don’t want to go down that road with JP. He will metaphorically stomp his feet and throw a slew of “what-if’s” at you and ignore every decent point you make. McCarron’s success is purely because of every other player on the Alabama roster. Murray’s success is alllllll him even though they have 2 great backs and have always had a good defense. Just trust me, that’s a road you’d rather not take.

        • I love you guys…I really do …god forbid I reference the obvious ( for most) that AJ McCarron has had the benefit of having a championship caliber from day one. Sheep…i dont recall you ever making any solid points? And Bob you apparently weren’t watching as we have played in the last two sec championship games vs LSU and Bama…not to mention play UF and Scar every season. Last time I checked these are the 4 were the best defenses in the conference. And no, I wouldn’t say that last years UGA defense who was 12th in the sec vs the run was that great would you? Now you too go run along and go Updyke on some other post that has nothing to do with you.

        • *championship quality team

        • Oh and PCB Rebel..now that I’ve addressed my adoring fans…Props dude! You’re right some of those teams were pretty good on D! My real point was though that if ya go by the Sam knucklehead criteria that everyone uses to rank McCarron then ELI and the rest of the our favorite QBs who never won rings are just garbage.

        • ” And Bob you apparently weren’t watching as we have played in the last two sec championship games vs LSU and Bama”

          Yes, they FINALLY had to play a top-tier West opponent by making the title game (and, lest we forget, lost both times).

          How many times has Georgia played LSU in the past four years? Twice, losing both games. How many times has Alabama had to play Florida? Three times, and they won all of them.

        • Umm…Pretty sure AJ McCarron has only played UF once and Richardson had more yards than he did. And he has NEVER had to play Carolina or UGA in the regular season…so sorry Bob but ya S.O.S. argument is kinda lame. I mean let’s face it LSU is really the only Top Defense McCarron has had to play against.

        • Shame on McCarron for not playing teams on his schedule. What a hack!!

        • *beating.
          25-2 ain’t bad for someone who is “fifth round talent.”

        • Hmm here I was thinking the other 21 starters and the coaching staff had something to do with that record too. No you’re right….not just ANYBODY could have played QB on those teams.

  • First…I do not like the ratings I have viewed in different magazines (and I believe ESPN), having Vincent Young #1. He had one good year. I am a die hard dawg and would place tebow #1. I always place player off the field issues into my ratings which would place Newton and Manziel lower in the rankings. Stafford will always be what could have been. Oline was suspect while Stafford was at UGA. We should have played Moreno in 06 and that would have helped eliminated the loss to USC in 07 (along with the over throw of Stafford to a wide open Wilson for a touchdown). I would not place Stafford on the list. Shock one the SEC, Stafford did not.

  • I was sure that Tebow would be #1!! Argument is that Tebow never a season as good as the 1 season that Cam played. I get that. Even the year Tim won the Heisman I believe they lost 4 games or so.

  • There is no doubt that AJ McCarron is the best SEC QB of all time. Only one of these QB’s has a better %-Manziel and none of them have TWO back to back championships under their belts. To me a one year wonder should not be counted, Newton and Manziel. If they perform consistently that makes a winner, Tebow, Green, McCarron. Hell many players have had one good year and nothing else. That makes Newton pretty smart in leaving. There is no way he could have bested 2010. Just as Johnny Football will not repeat. Tebow and McCarron have in fact repeated.

    • Look, I know you love your boy, but McCarron is not the best SEC QB of all time. He’s not even the best QB in the SEC right now. He’s one hell of game manager on a (near-about) NFL team. He’s also cool under pressure, and he’s a good leader. All these are good attributes, but he simply isn’t the best of all-time. Sorry bud……

      • Rebel, I’m an Ole Miss fan, I don’t really agree with you about McCarron. I have watched him play the last few years and he has just gotten better and better. He can throw the ball around with the best of them. Right now if I had to chose a QB that was in the SEC playing now. I would probably chose McCarron to lead my team. He doesn’t make mistakes and he get make just about all the throws.

    • Best of all time. No Man do you not know any history? You have Joe Namth , Ken Stabler, Peyton Manning Tim Tebow the list goes on… now best Qb in the SEC yes that he is but not all time. I’m a Bama fan and 2 championships are great and with the chance to win 3 in a row even better but that does not make him the best all time

  • First off, I think current QBs (McCarron, Manziel, Murray) should be left off this list, especially Manziel. One season doesn’t prove anything, especially when you consider his off-the-field actions (sounds similar to what I think about $cam Newton). Second, these are way too stat-based. I know I’m biased, but look at Jay Cutler. He had decent stats, but when you consider that he was on some of the sorriest teams in VU football history, it’s pretty impressive. And as far as stats go, he still had more yards, passing TDs, rushing TDs, and better completion percentage than Stafford. Imagine what he could’ve done with the talent Stafford or any of these other QBs had around them.

    • Jay Cutler was a player, no doubt. Fair point about Cut, too. I enjoyed watching him play in college.

    • So then Michael Jordan shouldn’t have been in discussions about the greatest NBA player ever while he was still playing ball? Dale Earnhardt shouldn’t have been considered Hall of Fame worthy before being killed in his car? Hank Aaron shouldn’t have gotten credit for breaking the home run record until he retired?

      That logic doesn’t work.

      • 3-4 (or even less for Newton/Manziel) year collegiate career =/= 10+ year professional record. Murray and McCarron aren’t really bad choices since they’ve both been starting for at least 2 years, but Manziel still has a lot to prove. But you really can’t compare these guys and their careers so far to Jordan/Earnhardt/Aaron.

        • Murray is about to start his 4th year, and McCarron his 3rd as a starter. They should be eligible at least for this list. I agree the Manziel & Newton shouldn’t be on this list simply due to each have only started one year. If this list were “Best Single SEC QB Season Ever”, then , yeah, they’d be in the top 3 with Tebow’s 2007 year. No doubt.

  • Tebow was absolutely THE best SEC QB of the BCS era, even the best in the country during that era. One could argue the best EVER, period. And I’m speaking as a die-hard Dawg fan. Even if his stats weren’t phenomenal, (which they obviously are) the intangibles that he possessed were far more impressive than any stat anyone could come up with. He raised the play of everyone on the field. No one was happier than me when he graduated. That being said, I think I would go with McCarron at #2 because he’s as cool headed as they come. Never any panic in that kids demeanor, and he always give you a chance in the biggest of games. Newton and Manziel both had one incredible year (so far) and I don’t think it’s fair for either to be considered with the aforementioned.

  • Notice A.J. has the best completion percentage. But, Huge, is 2 National Championships, and a great chance for a 3 peat!! No matter what you spout about all these other guys, no one has 2, and A.J. does. “ROLL TIDE”

    • Championships are nice, but they don’t make the entire roster the “best of all time” at their individual positions. If championships are what counts, where are Matt Mauck, Matt Flynn and Tee Martin on the list? I’d put Eli Manning ahead of A.J. McCarron. Speaking of Mannings, how can you not include Peyton on the list?

  • How is Andre Woodson not on here?? im a Tennessee fan but i mean, the guy took horse crap and rose almost to the top of the SEC while he was there, and UK has BLOWN since then, what does that tell ya?

  • Cam Newton number one over Tim Tebow? BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA. Tebow is the best national QB of the BCS era, not only in the SEC.

  • It seems like you might be going on a players potential , that if he played 4 season he could be better than this guy.might be wrong. But I don’t see how you could not give it to Tebow.yeah he might not have had as great single season as Newton(close though). But as far as career he had posed everybody and this doesn’t even take in consideration of his leadership

  • I’m going to admit that I’m a total Arkansas homer, but Ryan Mallett played for two seasons at Arkansas. In each of those seasons, he threw for over 3500 yards and 30 touchdowns. I’m not saying he’s even in the top 5 SEC QB’s, but he was certainly better than Matthew Stafford.

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