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 4 …. Week 5Week 6.

1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Corral returns to the top spot this week after a wild and wildly productive outing in Ole Miss’ 52-51 win over Arkansas, one that showed off the full range of his skill set: Massive arm, underrated mobility (he added 94 yards and 2 TDs rushing), willingness to take a kick to the face to finish off a 2-point conversion — every bit of it necessary to get the Rebels over the top on a day when the defense slept through the alarm. Still, for a guy with a well-earned reputation for recklessness, arguably his best trait this season has been his ability to keep the ball out of trouble. Corral hasn’t been picked in his last 201 attempts dating to last year, the longest active streak in the country.
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(Last week: 2 ⬆)

2. Bryce Young, Alabama

Scoreboard aside, Young’s part in a shocking, 41-38 loss in College Station was a mixed bag. On one hand, he turned in season lows for completion percentage (58.3%), sacks (4), and overall efficiency (139.4); he threw a killer interception on 3rd-and-goal from the A&M 1-yard line; he oversaw Alabama’s lowest-scoring first half (10 points) since the 2017 national championship game against Georgia; and he ended the night on a 3-and-out with the game on the line on Bama’s final possession. On the plus side, however, playing from behind for the first time in his career, he rallied the Tide to 21 consecutive points in the second half and put them in position to win with a 38-31 lead with 5 minutes to go. He made plays with his arm …

… his legs …

… and, after struggling with A&M’s blitz packages for much of the game, with his recognition:

Other than Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, Young’s receivers weren’t at the top of their game, either, finishing with 6 drops as a group, per Pro Football Focus — 5 of them by vets John Metchie III and Jahleel Billingsley, who didn’t have a catch on 5 targets. (Billingsley’s 3rd and final drop, on a pass that would have moved the sticks on Alabama’s last series, was especially costly; even if the extra set of downs didn’t wind up leading to the winning points, it would have eaten enough clock to force A&M to settle for overtime.) In one way or another, every component of the offense played its part in the defeat.

So just when it was beginning to look like Young would casually jog to the Heisman, a sinkhole opened in the path. The destination is still within reach: In fact, with no other obvious candidates emerging from the pack, he remains the odds-on favorite in Vegas, albeit by slimmer odds than last week. As always, Bama will be heavily favored in its next 6 games ahead of a presumptive SEC Championship showdown against Georgia, which is still where all the big goals will be made or broken. It’s just that with no more margin for error the broken part is suddenly looming slightly larger.
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(Last week: 1 ⬇)

3. JT Daniels or Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia

There prevailing wisdom here hasn’t changed: Eventually, Daniels’ arm will give the Bulldogs their best chance of getting over the top against elite opposition in the postseason, and the starting job will be his whenever he’s ready to return from the muscle strain that’s sidelined him the last two weeks. That could be as soon as this weekend against Kentucky, or not.

In the meantime, what’s the hurry? Bennett has been ruthlessly efficient in relief, averaging 12.0 yards per attempt with 8 touchdowns for the year on just 62 attempts. Beyond improving his record to 6-2 as a starter, Saturday’s 231-yard, 2-TD effort against Auburn was the best of Bennett’s career against an SEC defense, including a handful of revelatory flashes of open-field athleticism and downfield accuracy en route to a lopsided win.

After his struggles last year in losses to Alabama and Florida, it’s not hard to understand the lingering skepticism over Bennett’s ceiling in big games. Those challenges are the reason UGA pursued Daniels in the transfer portal in the first place, and the reason Bennett is seen as merely keeping the seat warm in the kinds of games this team is capable of winning without putting the ball in the air at all. Honestly, the way Georgia’s defense is playing right now, that might turn out to be the case against some of the heavy hitters in December and January, too. But Bennett can at least be counted on to get them to that point unscathed, which is a luxury in a backup QB most teams only wish they had.
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(Last week: 3 ⬌)

4. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas

Jefferson delivered the season’s finest Losing Effort performance to date against Ole Miss, accounting for 411 total yards (326 passing, 85 rushing) and 6 touchdowns in what will probably go down as the season’s most entertaining game. At one point in the second half, he completed 4 consecutive passes of 20+ yards, across a pair of touchdown drives that covered a combined 161 yards on 8 plays.

Jefferson is just the 3rd SEC quarterback since 2000 to account for 6 touchdowns in a regulation loss, joining Arkansas’ Brandon Allen (vs. Mississippi State in 2015) and MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald (vs. Arkansas in 2016). If It seems like every time the Razorbacks get together with one of the Mississippi schools they wind up throwing down in historic fashion: Pretty much, yeah.
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(Last week: 6 ⬆)

5. Emory Jones, Florida

Jones had his best passing day against Vanderbilt, putting up season highs for yards (273), touchdowns (4) and efficiency  (218.8) in a routine blowout. He also threw his 7th interception, leaving him tied with Vandy’s Ken Seals for the SEC “lead” on 50 fewer attempts. Jones’ interception rate for the season (4.4%) is more than double Kyle Trask’s the past 2 years and on pace for the highest INT rate at Florida since 2014 (Jeff Driskel – 4.7%).
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(Last week: 4 ⬇)

6. Will Rogers, Mississippi State

Drawing Alabama the week after a rare loss is an unenviable position, to say the least. Under different circumstances, a midseason trip to Starkville in between a string of higher-profile games might plausibly fall into the category of a “trap game” for the Tide, especially with Mississippi State coming off an open date. But Bama doesn’t really do trap games in any circumstances — at least, it didn’t before last week — and coming off a loss the ambush potential is roughly zero. Alabama hasn’t lost back-to-back games in the regular season since 2007.
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(Last week: 5 ⬇)

7. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Not to get too carried away with a couple of big games vs. Missouri and South Carolina, but given how long it’s been since Tennessee fans had a starting quarterback they actually felt good about, it might be time to acknowledge that Hooker is well on his way to becoming that guy.

Black uniforms: Very bad. Hooker’s performance: Very good for the second week in a row, both as a passer (17/23, 225 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) and a runner (66 yards, 1 TD), which sets up opportunities for shots like the 39-yard touchdown pass above — 1 of 3 against the Gamecocks in a hyper-efficient first quarter. That was his 5th consecutive game with multiple TDs and a passer rating of 165.0 or better, a mark no Tennessee QB has ever come close to hitting over a full season. (The school record there belongs to Daryl Dickey, who posted a 163.0 rating way back in 1986.) For the year, Hooker leads the SEC and ranks 5th nationally in efficiency at 185.6. Why it took an injury to Joe Milton just to get him on the field remains a mystery.

The only area where Hooker has not been especially efficient: Avoiding sacks. Since entering the lineup in Week 2, he’s been dropped 13 times on 143 dropbacks, per PFF — including 6 sacks vs. South Carolina — tying him with Carolina’s Luke Doty for the worst rate in the conference. The offensive line bears some responsibility, but if you accept that sacks are a quarterback stat, it’s mostly a reflection of the fact that Hooker is still getting his feet wet in Josh Heupel’s system after beginning the season as a backup. Or it could be a reflection of a relatively small sample size. Either way, as long as the ground game stays viable enough to set up the play-action attempts that make up the lion’s share of the passing game, the Vols have an opportunity to make the upcoming gauntlet against Ole Miss, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia a lot more interesting than it looked a few weeks ago.
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(Last week: 9 ⬆)

8. Will Levis, Kentucky

Much of the offseason speculation over offensive coordinator Liam Coen’s arrival from the NFL focused on the idea of converting Kentucky into a bona fide spread passing team, but that hasn’t really been the case: In the SEC, only Arkansas is averaging fewer passes per game. Instead, the emphasis has been less on “balance” than on complementing a familiar run-first philosophy with a viable passing threat that’s been sorely missing the past few years. In that context, Saturday’s 42-21 win over LSU was the model for what the offense really wants to be. Although he only attempted 17 passes, Levis was in full command, completing 14 for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. Meanwhile, he was also a reliable factor on the ground, contributing 75 yards and 2 more scores to a dominant, 330-yard rushing performance for the team as a whole.

Altogether, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on 6 of their 9 non-half-ending possessions against LSU, a huge leap forward from their previous 3 games against Chattanooga, South Carolina and Florida — slugfest wins in which they managed just 6 offensive touchdowns combined. Good luck sustaining that on this weekend’s trip to Georgia, but long-term that’s an identity the Cats can ride to 10 wins without asking Levis to be more of a polished pocket type than he actually is.
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(Last week: 11 ⬆)

9. Zach Calzada, Texas A&M

Calzada played the game of his life against Alabama, salvaging a brilliant first half with a come-from-behind effort in the final 5 minutes that will live in infamy among the most unlikely individual performances in college football history. It’s impossible to overstate how far above his head he played compared to his previous 4 games since being thrust into the starting role.

What are we even supposed to do with that? Before Saturday night, Calzada was just a guy — a relatively middling recruit who was slated to be a career back-up before starter Haynes King was sidelined by injury in Week 2, and who looked out of his depth in losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State. Reconciling that with the guy who just balled out against the No. 1 team in the country wrecks the curve. Was it a glimpse of an unsung talent coming into its own? An outlier in a pattern of mediocrity, destined to become more inexplicable with time? Something in between? Beating Bama is a credit he can dine out on for a while without necessarily answering any of those questions.

If nothing else, Calzada will be entrenched through the rest of the season with King likely out for the year. A&M should be favored in most if not all of its last 6 games, the toughest of which is a Nov. 13 trip to Ole Miss. Who knows what the consensus on Calzada will be by then, or if there will even be a consensus. Either way, in at least one respect his place in Aggies lore is already secure.
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(Last week: 12 ⬆)

10. Max Johnson, LSU

A lopsided loss at Kentucky felt like the beginning of the end for the Ed Orgeron era at LSU, and also for the hope that Johnson is on the verge of rounding the corner into a plus starter. His night began with a blindside sack that jarred the ball loose on the first series of the game, setting up a short field for Kentucky’s first touchdown, and didn’t get any better from there.

On top of a dismal outing — most of Johnson’s output for the night came on a couple of meaningless drives after LSU fell behind 35-7 early in the fourth quarter – the Tigers also lost their only reliable playmaker, dynamic WR Kayshon Boutte, to a season-ending injury well into garbage time. The sense of impending doom was palpable. Johnson may be a steady enough hand to take advantage of the talent around him, but in a tailspin he’s going down with the ship.
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(Last week: 7 ⬇)

11. Connor Bazelak, Missouri

My standing verdict on Bazelak’s game is “lukewarm competence,” and his line in Mizzou’s 48-35 win over North Texas was about as lukewarm as it gets: 21/32 for 160 yards, 2 TDs, and no picks with no impact as a runner. (The vast majority of the Tigers’ output vs. UNT came on the ground for a change, specifically via a career-high 217 yards rushing from the highly underrated Tyler Badie.) In 15 career starts, he’s only thrown for fewer yards or yards per attempt once, in a blowout loss to Georgia last December.
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(Last week: 10 ⬇)

12. Bo Nix, Auburn

Nix vented over the refs following Auburn’s loss to Georgia, but he could have just as easily taken aim at his own receivers: The Tigers were charged with 6 drops by PFF, their worst game yet in what was already a discouraging trend. For the season, Nix has had more passes dropped (20) than any other FBS quarterback except Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong (23), who has put the ball in the air considerably more often — 284 times to Nix’s 207. Nix’s overall drop rate (15.7%) is the highest of any Power 5 QB with at least 60 attempts.
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(Last week: 8 ⬇)

13. Luke Doty, South Carolina

Four games into his career as a starter, Doty’s strength has been avoiding negatives: He’s thrown just 1 interception in 116 attempts, one of the best rates in the country. The positives, however, are TBD. He’s accounted for just 3 touchdowns and no plays longer than 30 yards in the past 3 games.
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(Last week: 13 ⬌)

14. Ken Seals, Vanderbilt

Seals was regarded as the one solid piece in Vanderbilt’s rebuilding effort after holding down the starting job last year as a true freshman, but in Year 2 he has regressed across the board. His passer rating (100.8) is on pace to be the worst by a qualified SEC quarterback since 2015, when then-freshman Drew Lock came in a 90.5 in his first year at Missouri. Unlike Lock, Seals is neither a blue-chip recruit nor a future draft pick. Yeah, the situation around him stinks. But if the second half of the season looks like the first, expect the Dores to be hitting up the transfer market in 2022.
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(Last week: 14 ⬌)