Quarterbacks: There are a lot of them! Each week throughout the season, we’ll help you keep the game’s most important position in perspective by ranking the SEC starters 1-14 according to highly scientific processes and/or pure gut-level instinct. Previously: Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12Week 13.

1. Bryce Young, Alabama

Alabama’s 49-27 win in the Iron Bowl was Young’s last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and depending how interested he is in suiting up for a non-CFP bowl game, possibly his last in an Alabama uniform. He went out on a high note, throwing for 343 yards, accounting for 4 touchdowns, and finishing with a season-high 98.1 Total QBR score. It is officially Legacy Time. Let’s go to our updated ranking-within-a-ranking of the top Crimson Tide quarterbacks of the Saban era:

1. Tua Tagovailoa. Iconic moment as a freshman, game-changing production as a starter, electrifying presence. Mortal in the end, but redefined the idea of what an Alabama quarterback could be.

2. Bryce Young. First Bama QB to claim the Heisman, with a strong chance of becoming the first Saban player at any position to go No. 1 overall. Ice-cold in the clutch, ultimately had to be a few times too many.

3. Mac Jones. Wildly efficient turn as the starter in 2020, he delivered one of the best one-and-done campaigns ever. Barely seemed to break a sweat at the helm of Saban’s best team — but then, playing alongside DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle and 3 current NFL starters on the OL goes a long way.

4. AJ McCarron. 36-4 as a starter, 2-time national champ, runner-up for the Heisman, somehow still broadly underrated. Also the last in a decades-long line of starting Bama QBs actually from Alabama.

5. Jalen Hurts. Let down by the defense at the end of the 2016 CFP Championship loss to Clemson, surpassed by Tua a year later. Possibly as high as No. 2 here if we factor in his prolific senior season at Oklahoma.

6. Greg McElroy. The epitome of the “game manager.” The 2009 title run included a game-winning drive at Auburn and an indelible SEC Championship blowout over Urban/Tebow-era Florida, but what was the excuse for losing 3 games in 2010 with a lineup that stacked?

7. Blake Sims. Often forgotten (no ring as a QB1), but accounted for nearly 4,000 yards and 35 TDs on a team that was the No. 1 Playoff seed in his only turn as a starter in 2014.

8. Jacob Coker. Executed approximately 10,000 handoffs to Derrick Henry, threw 2 TDs in the CFP Championship Game when Clemson forgot to cover OJ Howard, collected his ring. A grad-transfer success story.

9. John Parker Wilson. The answer to a trivia question as Saban’s first starter in 2007-08. Oversaw a 12-0 regular season in ’08 while throwing a grand total of 9 touchdowns.

There you have it. Next up: Our old friend TBD. The heir apparent, redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe, broke a long touchdown run at Arkansas and won his first career start a week later with Young on ice against Texas A&M. Of the names above, though, the closest comparison at this point is probably to Sims rather than the NFL-ready pocket types the Tide have grown accustomed to over the past 5 years. At minimum, the door is open for a spring push from Ty Simpson, a former 5-star who got a few garbage-time snaps as a true freshman, or to a big-ticket transfer in the highly unlikely case one happens to be available. Boosters all over America with NIL cash to burn are sliding into Drake Maye’s mentions as we speak, but if I had to bet, I’d guess the Tide will be passing the torch the old-fashioned way.
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(Last week: 1⬌)

2. Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia

Bennett converted most of his skeptics during last year’s national championship run, yours truly included. Still, if you’re looking for a glitch in Georgia’s résumé heading into the postseason, the downfield passing game remains the most obvious place to start. Bennett is just 1-for-7 on attempts 10+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage the past 2 weeks, per Pro Football Focus, the one coming late in Saturday’s 37-14 win over Georgia Tech on a wheel route to RB Kenny McIntosh:

Not to read too much into a couple of conservative outings in games where the top priority was getting out with everyone’s ACLs intact, but in addition to Bennett’s limitations, the absence of a reliable vertical threat is the Dawgs’ one glaring personnel issue.

That role was supposed to be manned by sophomore Adonai Mitchell, who was on the receiving end of the 40-yard touchdown pass that put Georgia on top for good in the fourth quarter of January’s CFP Championship win over Alabama; instead, Mitchell has been sidelined since the season-opener with a lingering ankle injury.

Bennett’s favorite target, Ladd McConkey, has nearly as many drops on attempts 20+ yards downfield (4) as catches (5), per PFF.

Barring a heroic return by Mitchell, a la George Pickens last year, generating big plays is likely to continue to hinge on Bennett and offensive coordinator Todd Monken manufacturing YAC opportunities for the backs and tight ends.
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(Last week: 2⬌)

3. Jayden Daniels, LSU

Last week, I noted that Daniels had crept into the Heisman betting odds as the face of a team with distant but plausible Playoff aspirations. This week, scratch that. He averaged just 5.4 yards on 35 attempts with no touchdowns in a deflating, 38-23 loss at Texas A&M, and was responsible for arguably the most devastating play of the Tigers’ season when he left the ball on the turf with the score tied midway through the third quarter:

In his defense, Daniels was hardly the goat on a night when the LSU defense allowed 429 yards and 31 points to a moribund A&M offense. The Tigers missed 19 tackles by PFF’s count against Devon Achane alone. But with the season on the line, Daniels wasn’t the guy to save it, either. LSU’s next 2 possessions following the fumble both resulted in punts, while the Aggies’ next 2 possessions both ended in the end zone.
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(Last week: 3⬌)

4. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas

Decision time for Jefferson, who is not regarded as a top pick at the next level but doesn’t have much room left to grow on campus after 25 career starts. On paper, Jefferson looks like a prime prospect: A huge, athletic specimen who has ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency each of the past 2 seasons. On film, scouts see a guy operating a very “college” offense light on NFL reads and concepts. If he comes back for a 5th year in Fayetteville, Jefferson could be a dark-horse Heisman candidate, with all the NIL benefits that come with that. Unless Arkansas overhauls its playbook, his stock may already be as high as it’s going to get.
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(Last week: 4⬌)

5. Will Rogers, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs’ 24-22 win at Ole Miss wrapped up another season in America’s most conservative passing offense. Once again, Rogers led the nation in attempts, with 566, breaking the SEC record for career attempts in the process; on the other end of the spectrum, he ranked last among FBS regulars in average depth of target (5.9 yards) and in the percentage of his attempts that traveled 20+ yards (6.5%) — byproducts of a system that sometimes feels like it replaced “3 yards and a cloud of dust” with “3.5 yards on a quick hitch.”

Rogers runs it efficiently enough that, by this time next year, he’ll own every volume passing record on the books. Will that be enough to finally get Mississippi State above .500 in SEC play, a bar it has cleared just once since the turn of the century?
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(Last week: 5⬌)

6. Anthony Richardson, Florida

Florida’s 45-38 loss at Florida State was a microcosm of the Anthony Richardson Experience: Initial flashes of brilliance, followed by a streak of 11 consecutive incomplete passes spanning most of the second, all of the third, and nearly all of the fourth quarters. All 3 of his touchdown passes against the Noles — as well as his lone interception, naturally — came in the game’s first 21 minutes, after which the Gators’ production was limited strictly to the ground.

As always, when Richardson looks good, he looks very good, which is why he remains a likely candidate to declare for the NFL Draft at such a fledgling stage. Because he’s such a raw project, his calculation is very different from the decision facing players who have maxed out their college potential.

On one hand, clearly he is not ready yet. With just 455 career attempts under his belt, Richardson has nowhere near the on-field experience of a typical Day 1 or Day 2 prospect, which puts him at a significant disadvantage early in his pro career and on the fast track to Bust City if he’s asked to do too much too soon.

However, if he’s confident he’s going to be a first- or second-round pick, there’s also risk in passing up a guaranteed payday in a few months when it’s not a given that the light is going to come on or stay on if he returns to school. Even in the wild west phase of the NIL era, it’s a whole lot better to be a bust in the NFL than in the SEC.

Of course, elite 21-year-old athletes don’t tend to make decisions on the premise that they might fail. Selfishly, I’d love to see Richardson come back in 2023 for the simple reason that I want to see what the finished product looks like on the college level.

Presumably, Florida fans feel the same. Make no mistake: As vexing as he’s been as an underclassman, if Richardson does return, he’ll be a no-brainer Heisman candidate due for a monster year. The talent is that big. If not, well, who can blame him for getting paid while the getting’s good?
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(Last week: 6⬌)

7. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

Initially, it looked like Rattler was going to follow up his prolific, career-reviving performance against Tennessee in Week 13 by turning back into a pumpkin: South Carolina’s first 4 possessions at Clemson resulted in 3 punts, a pick-six, and a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter. From that point on, though, he was mostly on point, finishing 22-for-30 for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns (plus another pick) after the Gamecocks fell behind by 2 scores. He connected on the longest completion of his career, a 65-yard gain to RB Juju McDowell in the second quarter, and promptly topped it in the third, on a 72-yard bomb to Antwane Wells Jr.

If that was Rattler’s last word as a Gamecock, he’s going to be remembered much more fondly in Columbia than anyone could have imagined 2 weeks ago: The upset over Clemson snapped a 7-game losing streak in the rivalry, and combined with the blowout win over Tennessee sent South Carolina into the postseason feeling as good about itself as any team in America not bound for the Playoff. If it wasn’t, who the heck knows what to expect in 2023? Certainly not me. As enigmatic as Rattler has been over the past 2 seasons, where he goes from here is anyone’s guess.
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(Last week: 9⬆)

8. Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss

Dart’s mission in ’23: Improve as a straight dropback passer. He relied more heavily on play-action in his first season in Oxford than any other SEC quarterback, employing it on 56.9% of his total dropbacks, per PFF — a perk of operating in the league’s most run-oriented offense. Without the ground game as a crutch, though, he was significantly less efficient, averaging 3.4 fewer yards per attempt on non-play-action attempts. The Rebels were too one-dimensional against the best teams on the schedule, a trend Dart will have to reverse if they have any chance of competing for the division next year.
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(Last week: 7⬇)

9. Will Levis, Kentucky

Levis has always been a tough nut to crack, rankings-wise, and remains so right up to the end. Scouts see a strapping athlete with the makeup of a future franchise player. On this side of the divide, he looks more like a solid but unspectacular college QB who never quite put it all together. His passing output was remarkably consistent from 2021 to 2022, despite dramatic turnover across the rest of the offense: Last year vs. Power 5 opponents, he averaged 177.2 yards per game with a 133.4 passer rating, which ranked eighth in the conference; this year, he averaged 177.9 yards with a 135.5 rating, which ranks seventh in the conference. His touchdown and interception rates were virtually identical.

The big decline in Levis’ production came as a runner, where he was clearly more reluctant even before lingering foot and shoulder injuries began to take their toll. Excluding sacks, Levis ran 30 times for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, down from 418 yards and 9 touchdowns in ’21.

PFF credits him with forcing just 2 missed tackles, down from 20. Including sacks (which the official NCAA-sanctioned stats still do), he finished with negative yardage in 8 of 11 games, topping out with 26 yards on 5 carries against Georgia. Part of the blame for that falls on a rebuilt o-line that struggled to replace 2 draft picks. But the bigger part boils down to the fact that, with no viable backup and a first-round payday looming, he was simply too valuable an asset where all parties were concerned to expose to any more wear and tear than absolutely necessary.
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(Last week: 8⬇)

10. Brady Cook, Missouri

Other than Spencer Rattler, no one on this list improved more down the stretch than Cook. For most of the season, he looked like a liability Mizzou was stuck with after striking out last offseason in the portal. By the end of Saturday’s 29-27 win over Arkansas, though, it was possible to imagine him as the quarterback of the future. Cook finished with a season-high 380 total yards against the Hogs (242 passing, 138 rushing), his third consecutive 300-yard outing after hitting that mark just once in the first 9 games, against Abilene Christian. Over the last 5 games, he accounted for 11 touchdowns with zero INTs.

Of course, because Missouri can’t be allowed to get too optimistic, the positive vibes that came with securing bowl eligibility were immediately followed by reports that the Tigers’ best receiver, Dominic Lovett, plans to enter the portal on the heels of a breakout sophomore campaign. Although it’s not a done deal, his exit would be a huge blow; a WR corps that returned both Lovett and 5-star Luther Burden III (who has already said via Twitter he’s “not going anywhere”) would be the envy of most of the conference. Even sans Lovett, unlocking Burden’s potential is a top priority in 2023. Whether to trust it to Cook as the incumbent or pursue an upgrade is the big question Eli Drinkwitz must address over the coming weeks.
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(Last week: 11⬆)

11. Joe Milton III, Tennessee

Milton has a well-earned reputation as a mad bomber, which he justified immediately Saturday on a 61-yard haymaker to Jalin Hyatt in his first start of the season:

After that? Milton was 0-for-8 on attempts 20+ yards downfield, fulfilling the other half of his reputation for comic inaccuracy. It didn’t matter on a night when Tennessee ran for 362 yards en route to a 56-0 blowout, but assuming Milton is the likely starter in ’23, straightening out his coordinates might be the Vols’ most pressing offseason issue.
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(Last week: 10⬇)

12. Robby Ashford, Auburn

Assuming Ashford remains at Auburn (he’s already used his free transfer after beginning his career at Oregon), it won’t be as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. He was the only Power 5 starter to complete fewer than half of his passes on the season (49.2%) and finished last in the SEC in both efficiency (107.0) and QBR (49.0).

One way or another, though, the new coaching staff needs to figure out a way to keep putting his athleticism to good use. Ashford contributed 121 yards and 2 touchdowns to Auburn’s historic rushing output in the Iron Bowl, his third 100-yard effort on the ground (excluding sacks) in the past 5 games. Unless he’s satisfied being relegated the Wildcat behind (transfer to be announced), his best chance of staying on the field might be embracing a move to receiver or safety.
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(Last week: 13⬆)

13. Conner Weigman, Texas A&M

Weigman played a supporting role in the Aggies’ out-of-nowhere upset over LSU, but played it well, finishing 12-for-18 for 155 yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. Cue the hype for 2023. A&M is bound to lose some members of the vaunted ’22 class in what’s expected to be a substantial exodus, but as long as Weigman and emerging WRs Moose Muhammad III and Evan Stewart are still in the fold there’s nowhere for one of the league’s most anemic passing attacks to go but up.
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(Last week: 14⬆)

14. Mike Wright and AJ Swann, Vanderbilt

Another year, another giant question mark looming over the Commodores’ QB situation entering the offseason. Wright, who should be well-accustomed to playing musical chairs by now, had the distinction of leading back-to-back upsets over Kentucky and Florida earlier this month, snapping Vandy’s epic 26-game SEC losing streak in the process. Just when it seemed he’d earned a little security, though, a miserable night against Tennessee ended with Swann closing out the season off the bench.

The deadlock seems about right. Swann, a true freshman, was 1-5 as a starter – the lone win coming in his first start, a 38-28 decision over Northern Illinois – while benefiting from an enormous grading curve as a rookie on the conference’s worst team.

Wright, a junior, was a much more respectable 4-2, but a) 2 of those wins came in September romps over Hawai’i and Elon, and b) at this stage in his career, he’s much less likely to give the ‘Dores anything next year they haven’t seen already.

One or the other may emerge from the spring with an edge, and somebody has to start the opener next fall. But as volatile as this position has been the past 4 years, there’s a good chance the pecking order will never be resolved for more than a week or two at a time for as long as they’re both on campus.
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(Last week: 12⬇)