I Hate You, John Crist: 'Top SEC 20 QBs since 2000' inspires lots of debate
With the SEC Championship Game in the rearview mirror but the College Football Playoff still weeks away, there’s a serious content gap for writers like myself.
Therefore, it’s a good time to branch outside typical game-week coverage and do some different things. Everyone loves a list, of course. Not only are they fun to write, but the opportunities for feedback — both positive and negative — are endless.
The topic thrown my way by the men in charge at Saturday Down South was a three-part series that counted down the Top 20 SEC quarterbacks since 2000. (Feel free to review Part 1, Part II and Part III). Because that timeframe excluded some of the all-time greats like Peyton Manning and Danny Wuerffel, it got interesting.
In the end, it seemed like there were six players vying for Top 5 status. Since statistically he’s the most accomplished QB in conference history, where to put Aaron Murray was a difficult decision because he never won anything of consequence.
Here are some of my favorite reader comments from the series. Part II in particular really inspired some back-and-forth.
I don’t see how this is relevant. As Brandon Allen improved as a passer, Arkansas improved as a program under ex-coach Bret Bielema.
Allen struggled a bit as a sophomore, completing only 49.6 percent of his balls with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-10. The Razorbacks also struggled, finishing 3-9 and going winless in league play.
He was solid as a junior, though. Allen upped his completion percentage to an even 56 and had a dynamite TD-to-INT ratio of 20-to-5. The Hogs went 7-6, highlighted by back-to-back shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss plus a blowout of Texas in a bowl game. In his last four starts, he went 3-1 and didn’t get picked off once.
Once he was a senior, Allen had the premier efficiency rating in the SEC (166.5) as a 65.9-percent passer with 30 scores and only 8 picks. After a 2-4 start, he went 6-1 down the stretch to get Arkansas to a respectable 8-5 — Bielema’s high-water mark in Fayetteville.
Sure, Allen might have originally gotten his opportunity because his old man had some influence. Still, he was a tremendous player.
We know the numbers for Murray. No field general in conference history has thrown for more yards or touchdowns than he did at Georgia.
That being said, Murray’s stats are inflated to some degree since he was a four-year starter between the hedges. He has only 7 more TDs than the aforementioned Wuerffel, who essentially split snaps 50-50 with Terry Dean as a freshman and sophomore.
Another thing to consider is Murray never really improved from Year 1 to Year 4. While he was effective right away for the Bulldogs — redshirting for a season helped him master the offense — his rating was 154.5 as a freshman but just 158.8 as a senior. His yards and scores were both way down in 2013 when compared to 2011-12.
Had Murray broken through and captured just one conference title, then he likely cracks the Top 5. It wasn’t necessarily his fault that UGA came up short in 2012 against Alabama, but he was decidedly mediocre in the biggest game of his life.
Make no mistake about it: I think Murray was an excellent signal caller. However, the five guys in front of him had higher highs.
Before Connor Shaw arrived, South Carolina had won double-digit games a grand total of once. And that was back in 1984.
Shaw was a three-year starter from 2011-13, and the Gamecocks went 33-6 during that run — three 11-win seasons in a row. This is perhaps another case of a quarterback getting too much credit for overall team success, to be fair.
Nevertheless, Shaw always did what needed to be done. As a sophomore and junior, he wasn’t exactly a prolific passer. But he was still a model of consistency, connecting on 66.6 percent of his throws with a combined 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. As a senior, Shaw was noticeably more effective and upped his production across the board.
USC remained a run-first offense — the ‘Cocks were No. 2 in the league in scoring D, too — but Shaw managed to throw for 2,447 yards with an almost perfect TD-to-INT ratio of 24-to-1. His rating (162.9) was better than Murray’s, as a matter of fact.
Murray won 36 games in four years as the starter. At Georgia. Shaw won 33 games in three years as the starter. At South Carolina.
It’s impossible to deny that Dak Prescott did things for Mississippi State that had never been done before and may never be done again.
On the contrary, AJ McCarron is just another national title-winning QB at Alabama. The guy he succeeded in Tuscaloosa, Greg McElroy, won a championship himself. While Blake Sims came up a tad short following McCarron, Jake Coker got fitted for a ring only a year later.
To state the obvious, Prescott didn’t have nearly as much help around him as McCarron did. By the time Prescott was a senior, not only was he the entire passing offense for the Bulldogs — Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson were solid receivers yet far from spectacular — but the majority of the rushing offense, too.
But McCarron was underrated when he played, and he continues to be underrated in retrospect. You don’t assemble a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 77-to-15 by simply throwing jump balls to Amari Cooper near the goal line.
Prescott took MSU to No. 1 in the polls, which seemed like an impossible feat. McCarron got ‘Bama to No. 1 when it mattered most: at the end of the season. Twice.