Ranking the SEC bowl games by quarterback matchup
This year’s SEC bowl matchups will feature several of the best quarterbacks that college football has to offer, as seven of the nation’s top-50 signal-callers will line up under center this postseason for and against the conference.
It can be difficult sometimes keeping track of the quarterbacks while trying to separate Brandon Harris from Treon Harris and a Jake Hubenak from a Joe Hubener.
Here is a look at the best SEC bowl games ranked by quarterback matchups.
1. Sugar Bowl: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss vs. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State – This is a heavyweight matchup of two of the country’s best quarterbacks when Chad Kelly’s Ole Miss takes on Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl. Combined, the two signal-callers have thrown for 7,331 yards and 48 touchdowns (3,740 yards, 27 TDs for Kelly). It’s fitting that Kelly and Rudolph square off in the Sugar Bowl, which annually doles out its Manning Award for the nation’s best quarterback. It’s the only QB award that takes into account bowl performances in its selection process. Rudolph threw for 3,591 yards and 21 touchdowns in the Cowboys’ two-quarterback system and is expected to play against the Rebels despite a foot injury that hobbled him down the stretch. Kelly, the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, leads Ole Miss into the Sugar Bowl for the first time in 46 years amid questions on whether or not he’ll return to Oxford for his senior campaign.
2. Cotton Bowl: Jake Coker, Alabama vs. Connor Cook, Michigan State – The Cotton Bowl will place two of the nation’s steadiest quarterbacks in the nation on display when Jake Coker and Connor Cook meet for the College Football Playoff semifinal contest. Both quarterbacks aren’t prone to making too many mistakes, throwing a combined 13 interceptions on the year — 8 by Coker, the country’s No. 50 ranked quarterback in passing yards (2,489). Cook ranks No. 22 in the NCAA with 2,921 yards. Both quarterbacks have been maligned during their career, but have a chance to put a final stamp on their careers with a postseason run.
3. Belk Bowl: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State vs. Jacoby Brissett, N.C. State – This will be our last chance to see Dak Prescott in a Mississippi State uniform as the Bulldogs’ signal-caller closes out a storied collegiate career with a Belk Bowl matchup against Jacoby Brissett and N.C. State. Prescott enters the bowl with 8,996 career yards, 66 touchdowns and just about every passing record on the program’s books. Brissett has kept the Wolfpack afloat with 2,448 yards, 19 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions (the same amount as Prescott). The N.C. State quarterback, a transfer from Florida, has accepted an invitation to compete in this year’s Senior Bowl.
4. Texas Bowl: Brandon Harris, LSU vs. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech – Patrick Mahomes is the centerpiece of the Texas Bowl matchup for Texas Tech against Brandon Harris of LSU. Mahomes has thrown for 4,283 yards and 32 touchdowns this year — fourth-most in the nation and the most by an opposing quarterback in the SEC bowl games. Harris has tossed 20 fewer scoring throws than Mahomes en route to 1,904 total yards. The Tigers’ quarterback has a chance to atone for a middling year against the Red Raiders, who rank toward the bottom of the nation when it comes to total defense.
5. Birmingham Bowl: Jeremy Johnson/Sean White, Auburn vs. Paxton Lynch, Memphis – The Birmingham Bowl could be a sleeper pick when it comes to quarterback play, depending on how Auburn attacks its postseason tilt against Memphis. Gus Malzahn has yet to announce his starter leaving us to wonder if it’ll be Jeremy Johnson or Sean White under center. The two have similar stats, with Johnson accruing 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns in as many games. Memphis knows who it’ll be going with under center. Paxton Lynch will use the Birmingham Bowl as an audition to be considered among the top quarterbacks take in next year’s NFL Draft. Lynch ranks No. 13 in the nation in passing yards with 3,670 and 28 touchdowns against just three picks.
6. Liberty Bowl: Brandon Allen, Arkansas vs. Joe Hubener, Kansas State – Brandon Allen has been playing at a torrid pace down the stretch, finishing third in the SEC with 3,125 yards and 29 touchdowns. Allen is 345 yards shy of tying Ryan Mallett for second overall on the Razorbacks all-time passing list. The Fayetteville native leads Arkansas into its Liberty Bowl battle against Joe Hubener of Kansas State. Hubener’s year has been a wild one, inheriting the Wildcats’ starting role after Jesse Ertz went down with a season-ending injury. Hubener has filled in with 1,837 yards, but has as many touchdowns (9) as interceptions.
7. Outback Bowl: Josh Dobbs, Tennessee vs. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern – Much of Tennessee’s success this season can be attributed to Josh Dobbs, who has thrown for 2,125 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for another 623 yards and nine touchdowns. The junior is likely to be the most dynamic player on the field when the Volunteers take on Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. He certainly should outshine his Wildcat peer in Clayton Thorson. The Northwestern signal-caller has taken his lumps during his freshman year, posting 1,465 yards (No. 103 in the nation) and as many touchdowns (7) as interceptions.
8. Citrus Bowl: Treon Harris, Florida vs. Jake Rudock, Michigan – The ability for either Florida or Michigan to win this year’s Citrus Bowl could very well come down to which quarterback can outplay the other, which isn’t very comforting for some, considering the late-season slump and injuries that have dogged both Treon Harris and Jake Rudock this year. Michigan’s Rudock (2,739 yards, 17 TDs) is expected to play after suffering a shoulder injury against Ohio State and has the edge over Harris, Florida’s maligned quarterback who failed to ignite the Gators’ offense down the stretch. Harris has the potential and the weapons, he just needs to play like the quarterback who threw for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns against LSU, rather than the guy who tossed for 122 yards against Florida Atlantic.
9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Greyson Lambert, Georgia vs. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State – Greyson Lambert never truly wrested control of the Georgia offense for himself with just 1,844 yards and 11 touchdowns in an underwhelming season in Athens. The junior will get the nod in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State, but is expected to yield playing time to Brice Ramsey. Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg enters the bowl contest with his sights on playing on Sundays next fall and will showcase his 2,386 yards and 16 touchdowns against a Bulldog defense that allows the fewest passing yards in the nation per game. If there’s one thing this matchup promises to be, it’s accuracy as Lambert and Hackenberg have combined for just seven interceptions (Lambert, only two) all season.
10. Music City Bowl: Jake Hubenak, Texas A&M vs. Lamar Jackson, Louisville – To say the Texas A&M quarterback situation is in turmoil after the departure of both of the program’s signal-callers this month would be an understatement. Jake Hubenak assumes control of the Aggies offense against Louisville in the Music City Bowl after throwing for just 94 yards and a touchdown as the team’s third quarterback this year. The Cardinals can somewhat empathize, having used three players of their own under center this year. Lamar Jackson is the latest atop the depth chart, courtesy of a team-high 1,613 yards, 10 touchdowns and a comeback win over Kentucky to close the regular season.