Sure, opposing quarterbacks don’t compete directly against each other. Still, the position is vital and its occupant usually among the most hyped players on a team. So it’s thrilling to anticipate two of the best playing on the same field.
We’re here to do just that, offering up five SEC matchups that should have great quarterback play on both sides.
For those who want to read about the best non-conference quarterbacks SEC teams will face in 2017, click here.
There aren’t many proven passers left in the conference, but there is plenty of potential. If a majority of the young quarterbacks can reach – or even come close to – their potential, the SEC’s signal-caller crisis won’t last long.
Bentley (USC) at Lock (Mizzou) – Week 2
The first SEC matchup of the season could feature plenty of fireworks. Although South Carolina and Missouri were down in the SEC East standings for much of last season, Jake Bentley and Drew Lock proved they were more than capable of making plays.
I hate Mizzou but my lord Drew Lock has an NFL rifle….. pic.twitter.com/lcodrDmESf
— JKuhn (@h8rproof82) November 25, 2016
Lock finished second in the SEC in passing yards (3,399) and passing yards per game (283.3). He has a loaded receiving corps back, and Missouri could have a very dangerous offense this fall. Bentley, meanwhile, looked like a savior for South Carolina after taking over midway through the season. In seven games, the true freshman completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. The Gamecocks should have many more weapons around him this year.
Although this matchup might not seem like much to the casual fan, it could be an exciting, back-and-forth affair.
Fitzgerald (MSU) at Eason (UGA) – Week 4
This cross-division Battle of the Bulldogs may be one of the most underrated games of the season. It’s a matchup that is dripping with juicy storylines, including Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham facing his former team, and features two talented, yet completely different, quarterbacks.
The sum of Jacob Eason’s freshman season wasn’t spectacular, but several of his individual performances breed optimism for his sophomore year. Eason completed just 55.1 percent of his passes for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he’s looked better this spring and his natural ability is undeniable. Speaking of natural ability, few players are as dangerous with the ball in their hands as Nick Fitzgerald. As a sophomore, Fitzgerald accounted for 3,798 total yards and 37 touchdowns; he is the best dual-threat quarterback in the conference.
All that should make for a great Saturday between the hedges.
Patterson (Ole Miss) at Hurts (Alabama) – Week 5
Although Ole Miss is no longer the imposing squad it once was, few coaches have given Alabama the kind of problems that Hugh Freeze has in recent years.
The Rebels might not have the same level of talent on offense in 2017, but Shea Patterson should have fans excited nonetheless. Patterson was the top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2016, and he flashed his play-making ability late last season. His improvisational skills are reminiscent of Johnny Manziel, another player who gave the Tide trouble.
On the other side, Jalen Hurts looks ready to take his place among the best players in college football. After gaining plenty of experience as a true freshman, he should be more polished.
Alabama will likely be favored heavily, but these quarterbacks make it compelling enough to watch.
Stidham (Auburn) at Allen (Arkansas) – Week 8
For all of the talk about the potential of the SEC’s younger quarterbacks, there hasn’t been much focus given to one of the few proven passers in the conference.
Austin Allen dime from the opposite hash pic.twitter.com/Ma2yCg9ehn
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) October 11, 2016
Austin Allen was exceptional for Arkansas as a junior in 2016. He completed over 60 percent of his passes for an SEC-leading 3,430 yards with 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Razorbacks must figure out who Allen will be throwing the ball to, but he’s the type of passer who can make his receivers better. Based on Auburn’s spring game, Jarrett Stidham is also a player who improves those around him. The Tigers have been searching for a player who can threaten defenses on the ground and in the air, and Stidham appears to be the answer to their prayers.
Week 8 is about the time of the season when the true contenders begin to separate themselves, which means this matchup should bring out the best in both of these quarterbacks.
Hurts (Alabama) at Stidham (Auburn) – Week 13
The Iron Bowl has occasionally featured strong quarterback play, but this year’s rivalry should be among the best matchups in recent memory.
By the end of the season, both Hurts and Stidham should be playing at a high level and this game could have a lot on the line.
Alabama and Auburn have had some defensive struggles and some unexpected offensive outbursts over the years, but it’s likely that more than a few points will be scored on both sides in this end-of-season rivalry.