Week 8 SEC Quarterback Rankings: Young signal-callers swap spots in top four
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I try not to be tied to numbers.
It’s easy to just base quarterback rankings on whoever has the most touchdown passes or whoever throws for the most yards. I can easily sit here and use that as the only measuring stick. It’s important, but it isn’t everything.
While it’s cliché, how a quarterback performs in winning time matters, too. Are they the guy you want to lead your 2-minute drill? Or do they just rack up a bunch of numbers in lopsided games against prevent defenses?
It isn’t just numbers. It isn’t just a win-loss record. It isn’t just NFL-readiness.
Keep all of that in mind when evaluating the SEC quarterback rankings this week and every week:
14. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
With two weeks to prepare for his first start, Guarantano didn’t look like he was much of an upgrade over Quinten Dormady. Guarantano had a prime opportunity to exceed an extremely low bar and he couldn’t do it. Tennessee failed to score a touchdown for the second consecutive SEC game. What’s next for the redshirt freshman? A trip to Alabama. Good luck with that.
13. Cole Kelley, Arkansas
I mean, what did you expect? Filling in for the injured Austin Allen, Kelley at least didn’t get completely humiliated by that Alabama defense. He still managed to throw for 200 yards and completed more than half of his passes, which is something Allen hasn’t accomplished against a Power 5 team this year. Kelley will be tasked with jump-starting the Hogs offense as long as Allen is out. The huge freshman might have a better chance than some think.
12. Feleipe Franks, Florida
Before Week 7, the one thing that you could credit Franks for was his ball security. On Saturday, he threw two interceptions, including one in Florida’s last-minute drive. We’re now moving on to Week 8 and Franks is still struggling to do much of anything with this offense.
Not having the injured Kadarius Toney hurt, but Franks still just didn’t look very comfortable in a home game against a decent Texas A&M defense. On the season, Franks has just three touchdown passes. The Gators could use more plays like his 79-yard run, though.
11. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Against an Ole Miss defense that’s been nothing short of awful in 2017, Shurmur couldn’t keep pace with Shea Patterson. The Commodores wanted to have a balanced attack and get Ralph Webb going, which they did. The problem was that once again, Shurmur wasn’t the guy who was going to lead them back from a multi-score deficit. That’s the reason he’s not higher on this list.
10. Danny Etling, LSU
Raise your hand if you thought that LSU — yes, LSU — had the type of offense that could rally back from down 20-0 against an elite Auburn defense. Nobody? That’s what I thought. Because LSU’s deficit happened so early, Etling wasn’t forced to be in pass-only situations. He attempted 24 passes, including a huge touchdown pass to Russell Gage at the end of the first half.
As previously stated, Etling wasn’t the reason for LSU’s problems. He played better the past two weeks, but it certainly wasn’t a night and day performance that made the difference.
9. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
I completely wrote Mond off after the opener against UCLA. I shouldn’t have. Once again, he came up clutch and make some key plays down the stretch to pull out a hard-fought win. His passing numbers were lackluster at best (8-for-24, 180 yards, 1 INT), but he also led the team with 52 rushing yards and he had a game-tying touchdown run in the third quarter.
After seeing the way he responded against Alabama and watching him lead the Aggies late at Florida, I’m buying stock in the freshman.
8. Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Johnson had a bye week, but look at where the Wildcats are at the midway point. Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky are the only SEC teams who have one or fewer losses. A lot of that credit goes to Johnson, who has exceeded expectations in the first half. On the season, he’s on pace for just shy of 2,500 passing yards, 18 touchdown passes, four interceptions with 64-percent accuracy. The Wildcats will take that all day.
7. Drew Lock, Missouri
I’ll be honest. I got a little sick of the “Drew Lock has an NFL arm” talk. Through the first six weeks, he hadn’t looked like an NFL-caliber quarterback against a Power 5 team. Well, he did Saturday night in Athens. Lock delivered some dimes in the first half against one of the top defenses in America. Nobody had reached 20 points all year on Georgia and Lock did it in the first half. In flashes, we saw why many believed he was one of the top three SEC quarterbacks in the preseason.
6. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Regardless of the freedom (or lack thereof) that Stidham has in Gus Malzahn’s offense, he struggled Saturday. Simple as that. Perhaps the game plan got too conservative. Maybe it was just LSU’s defense playing at a different speed after that first quarter. Whatever it was, Stidham once again looked overwhelmed in a tough road environment.
His 9-for-26 clip made it easy to forget that he entered the game as a 71-percent passer. Better days are ahead for Stidham, but one can’t help but wonder how he’ll fare against Georgia when the time comes.
5. Jake Fromm, Georgia
I’ve done a lot of praising of Fromm this year. The freshman has poise and leadership qualities that we’re seeing week in, week out. I thought against a weak Missouri defense, he looked good, but not great. I know. Statistically speaking, it was a monster game (326 passing yards, 3 total TDs) for a guy who hasn’t been asked to do a ton.
Still, I thought that was an awful interception he threw in the first half, which gave an upset-hungry Missouri team life. Those are the mistakes he cannot make against better teams. Undoubtedly, Kirby Smart had that conversation with Fromm. Heading into the bye, Fromm is on pace for 21 touchdown passes, 2,000 passing yards and 62 percent passing in the regular season. That’s not gaudy, but that’s certainly nothing that’ll hold Georgia back.
4. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
I’ve been giving Bentley the benefit of the doubt the past few weeks for adjusting to life without Deebo Samuel. With him, Bentley is probably No. 2 on this list. I dropped him to No. 4 because once again, it was a grind for South Carolina just to produce scoring drives for most of the afternoon.
Bentley ultimately led the Gamecocks on another game-winning drive to beat a disastrous Tennessee team, but 129 passing yards and no touchdowns against the Vols isn’t exactly elite. For now, I’m cooling a bit on Bentley.
3. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Yes, BYU is bad. Yes, Fitzgerald should not have thrown two interceptions against a bad team at home. But he also racked up 344 total yards and four touchdowns. That was Fitzgerald’s first time since the LSU game that he completed at least 50 percent of his passes and produced a rushing touchdown.
I don’t think Fitzgerald ever becomes a 65-percent passer, but I still think few quarterbacks in America can do what he can as a true dual-threat. With matchups against the likes of Kentucky, UMass, Arkansas and Ole Miss remaining, expect Fitzgerald’s second-half numbers to see a nice spike.
2. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
I evaluate Patterson on a different scale because he plays in a different offense than anyone in the SEC. Ole Miss can’t run, it can’t defend and it has no problem throwing the ball 50 times per game. Patterson is going to put up SEC-leading numbers in that system. It’s just inevitable. With guys making plays like this, it’s even more inevitable.
Is this one of the craziest catches of the year?!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 14, 2017
So why is he up to No. 2? Well, he finally went off against a real defense. I know Vanderbilt has had its issues the last month, but throwing for 351 yards and four touchdowns is impressive for anyone in any system. Patterson is on pace to break Tim Couch’s SEC single-season passing record, which isn’t a coincidence. Is it the perfect storm? Absolutely, and Patterson’s big-play ability is a major reason for that.
1. Jalen Hurts, Alabama
He threw a pick! He threw a pick! History was made in Tuscaloosa when Hurts threw his first interception of the year. Shocking, it was. Less shocking was the fact that for the fifth time in its past six games, Alabama scored 40 points. Hurts didn’t have his best statistical effort (196 total yards, 2 combined TDs, 1 INT), but he’s still playing at an unmatched level of any SEC quarterback.
Despite having just 79 rushing attempts (not to mention sacks that work against his totals), Hurts is fourth in the SEC in rushing. He did that while completing 63 percent of his passes and committing one aforementioned turnover. That’s through seven games. Sooner or later, this guy’s efficiency is going to be recognized and he’s going to be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.