8 quarterbacks who were great until they faced the SEC
To be the king, you have to beat the king … and we all know who wears the crown in college football.
Here are eight quarterbacks who were statistically unstoppable, right up until the moment they stared across the line of scrimmage and saw an SEC defense staring back.
Three of them won the Heisman Trophy before getting stiff-armed.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Who got him: Ole Miss
Skinny: Rudolph rewrote the Cowboys’ record book, breaking more than 50 school records. As a senior, he threw for 4,907 yards in 2017, best in program history — and 632 more than the best in SEC history.
He graduated with 13,618 yards — which also is more than any SEC quarterback.
He threw for 300 yards an astounding 23 times. Only three times was he held under 200.
Care to guess which team held him to a career low? Ole Miss, the only SEC team he ever faced, limited him to 179 yards in the January 2016 Sugar Bowl. Rudolph averaged 293 yards per game against Big 12 opponents that season, but he connected on just 18 of 31 throws and couldn’t find the end zone in a 48-20 loss.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Who got him: LSU
Skinny: Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, breaking ankles and records seemingly every breathtaking step of the way.
He passed for 3,543 yards and ran for 1,571 more that season. He accounted for 51 touchdowns.
And then he ran into LSU … or rather spent the Citrus Bowl trying to run away from the Tigers.
Jackson completed just 10 of 27 passes against LSU for 153 yards. He didn’t throw a TD pass — the only time he failed to do so that season. The 10 completions were a season low, but not a career-low (he went 8-of-21 against Kentucky in 2015).
But that wasn’t even the worst part. Jackson was held to 33 yards on 26 carries.
In games he started, that Citrus Bowl was the only one in which he failed to produce a touchdown throwing or rushing.
Jake Browning, Washington
Who got him: Alabama
Skinny: Browning led the Pac-12 with 43 touchdown passes in 2016. That set a Huskies record and tied the Pac-12 mark.
Forty-two of those TD passes came in the Huskies’ first 13 games, an average of 3 per game.
He had no such success in the Playoff semifinal against Alabama.
The Tide limited Browning to 150 yards on a season-low 3.9 yards per attempt, picked him off twice and gave up a lone TD pass.
Mike White, Western Kentucky
Who got him: Alabama
Skinny: You knew this wasn’t going to start well or end well.
WKU’s offensive line had no chance in 2016 to slow down Alabama’s front four, and White paid the price.
White opened the 2016 season by throwing for a career-best 517 yards and 3 TDs against Rice. He finished the year with 4,363 yards and 37 touchdowns.
In Week 2, Alabama held him to season-lows in completions (10), yards (135) and touchdowns (0) and intercepted him once to match his season-high.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Who got him: Auburn
Skinny: Lynch had a breakout junior season in 2015, throwing for a career-best 3,778 yards and 28 touchdowns. Just four of his passes ended up in enemy hands.
He capped his regular season with arguably the most ridiculous stat line in college history: 9 completions, 7 touchdowns in a 63-0 rout over SMU.
Nothing came that easy in the Birmingham Bowl against Auburn.
The Tigers held Lynch to 108 yards passing — on a career-worst 2.9 yards per attempt. They kept him out of the end zone and intercepted him once.
The next day, Lynch declared for the 2016 NFL Draft, where Denver picked him in the first round.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Who got him: Georgia
Skinny: Mayfield won the 2017 Heisman Trophy and had one of the greatest college careers ever. His 175.4 pass efficiency rating is second all-time in FBS. His 131 career TD passes rank fourth.
And, goodness, did he beat up on the Big 12. In 10 conference games in 2017, including the title game, Mayfield’s average stat line looked like this: 20-for-28, 329.4 yards, 3.1 TDs, 0.5 interceptions.
He was good against Georgia in the Playoff semifinal, but not that good. Georgia held him below his average in passing yards (287) and touchdown passes (2) and also picked him off once.
Jameis Winston, FSU
Who got him: Florida
Skinny: Winston won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to the national title in 2013. He blew past two SEC teams in the process — throwing for 327 yards and 3 TDs against Florida and tossing 2 TDs to outlast Auburn in the 2013 BCS Championship Game.
He and they were just as dangerous in 2014, but the Gators were up to the challenge in the rematch at Tallahassee.
In his final home game, Winston had the worst game of his brief college career — 12-for-24 for a career-worst 125 yards. He threw 2 TD passes but was picked off a career-high 4 times. The Noles escaped 24-19, but not because of anything Winston did.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Who got him: South Carolina
Skinny: Boyd had a love-hate relationship against the SEC. He loved facing anybody except in-state rival South Carolina.
Boyd had huge games against Auburn, Georgia and LSU, going a combined 4-0 with 10 touchdown passes and just 1 interception.
But South Carolina was his career-long Kryptonite.
Boyd, who set most of the records Deshaun Watson broke, went 0-4 against the Gamecocks. He threw 2 TD passes and was intercepted 5 times. He topped 200 yards just once and was held below 100 twice.