It hasn’t been easy to decide this so far. That’s a good sign.

The race for No. 1 in the SEC quarterback rankings is closer and perhaps better than it has been in recent memory. Heading into Week 4, there are 3 quarterbacks who have anchored the top spot. We’ve had some elite quarterbacks gaining key experience in true road games, while others are getting headliner matchups to show their progress.

That benefitted some, and it hurt others.

These Week 4 SEC QB rankings will reflect that.

14. Arkansas quarterbacks

Three quarterbacks throwing a combined 6 interceptions is a tough feat to pull off. Arkansas is a disaster offensively in Year 1 of the Chad Morris era, and it doesn’t feel like there’s a quarterback in town who can change that. Losing to consecutive Group of 5 teams quickly made Arkansas’ grim 2018 outlook that much grimmer, and until the Razorbacks find an offensive identity, the SEC West is going to be extremely unkind.

13. Feleipe Franks, Florida

It’s usually not a good sign when a coach is publicly criticizing his quarterback’s attitude. That’s what Dan Mullen did after a lackluster effort from Franks against Colorado State. Between the overthrows and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Mullen had plenty to be upset about with Franks after that slow start. Mullen did say that Franks doesn’t have a short leash, but clearly, he needs more from the position.

12. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee

The surface numbers are actually really good so far. Completing 72 percent of his passes for 9.2 yards per attempt suggests that Guarantano is ready to make a big step up. But we’re still talking about someone who now has double digit career starts and he only has 6 touchdown passes, only 4 against FBS competition. It would be interesting to see what Guarantano could do with some elite offensive line play.

11. Terry Wilson, Kentucky

Against FCS competition, Wilson had his first turnover-free game. He also showed again why he’s so dangerous with his legs, racking up a team-high 80 rushing yards and a score. Through 3 games, Wilson is averaging 71 rushing yards and 130.7 passing yards per contest. This weekend against that Mississippi State defensive line will be a far greater challenge than Florida was. Let’s see what Wilson can do facing a couple All-Americans up front.

10. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

On one hand, Vandy was a goal line fumble from beating Notre Dame. At least on paper. Credit Shurmur for going into a hostile environment and putting up big numbers. Completing 60 percent of his passes for over 300 yards against a talented defense is no small feat. Neither was rallying Vandy back after the Irish looked to be in control up 16-3. I’m still waiting Shurmur to look like a game-changer against Power 5 competition. Perhaps he’ll do just that against South Carolina this weekend.

9. Jake Bentley, South Carolina

An unscheduled bye week because of Hurricane Florence kept Bentley in the middle of the pack. I did find this, um, noteworthy about Bentley:

While I respect Jordan Rodgers’ opinion, there’s no way that Bentley is a better quarterback than Jake Fromm right now. Anybody who watched that Georgia-South Carolina game could have told you that. Fromm is far more efficient and accurate than Bentley. Obviously Bentley is going to be put in a ton of positions to throw under Bryan McClendon, but until we see him be the difference against a legitimate SEC contender, it’s hard to say he’s one of the conference’s better quarterbacks.

8. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss

A 7-for-22 line was a tough pill for Ta’amu to swallow. Yeah, it was Alabama. That defense is obviously loaded, despite the inexperience in the secondary. But for someone who won’t get a bowl game to showcase his talent, Saturday was a missed opportunity for Ta’amu to take that next step. He couldn’t stretch the field after that first pass to D.K. Metcalf, and he wasn’t able to adjust to the speed of the Alabama defense. Better days are ahead.

7. Joe Burrow, LSU

All aboard the Joe Burrow hype train. The train is leaving the station. I repeat, the train is leaving the station.

Jokes aside, how big time of a fourth quarter was that from Burrow? A pair of huge, huge drives showed exactly why LSU went out and got him to come to Baton Rouge. It was gutsy as it gets to come up with a throw like this in that spot:

I’m becoming more of a believer in Burrow in every game that he plays, which explains why he continues to rise on this list. What’s the thing holding him back from being in the top 3-4? A completion percentage of 46 percent and just 6.92 yards per attempt. The efficiency isn’t quite there yet, but the grit and determination certainly is.

6. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Mond and the Aggies’ offense got off to a predictably slow start in a sleeper matchup against Louisiana-Monroe, but that didn’t last for too long. The sophomore signal-caller recorded the first multi-rushing score game of his career, and he still managed to lead Texas A&M to a 38-point win. On the season, Mond is one of two Power 5 quarterbacks with at least 800 passing yards and 0 interceptions. We’ll see if he can match his Clemson effort in a daunting start at Alabama.

5. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

In a favorable matchup, Fitzgerald reminded everyone that few quarterbacks in recent memory are better running the ball than he is. His 4 rushing touchdowns paced the MSU offense in an easy win against Louisiana. Perhaps an even better sign was that Fitzgerald completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 243 yards on 11.6 yards per attempt. The last time that Fitzgerald had 200 passing yards in a game was Oct. 14, 2017 against BYU. Something tells me he won’t have that kind of drought with Joe Moorhead.

4. Drew Lock, Mizzou

I hear you, Mizzou fans. You believe Lock deserves to be No. 1 on this list. Let me explain. Lock isn’t in the top 3 because against SEC teams with a winning record in conference play dating to the start of 2016, here are his numbers:

  • 0-5
  • Averaged 15.2 points per game
  • 73-for-147 (49.6 percent)
  • 920 yards (6.3 yards per attempt)
  • 7-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio

Is Lock one of the nation’s best quarterbacks? Absolutely. Does he need to show that he’s fluent in the intermediate passing game against a legitimate SEC foe? Absolutely. Lock is off to a fantastic start in Derek Dooley’s system with already over 1,000 passing yards and 11 touchdown passes. And yes, many people will bring up his stellar first half against Georgia last year heading into this week’s showdown against the Dawgs. But let’s see if Lock can put 60 minutes together against a quality defense.

3. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

From No. 1 down to No. 3, Stidham took a hit in the rankings for a couple reasons. I thought his decision-making and accuracy took a step back against an elite defense. Starting a big-time game like that with an interception put his team in a tough early spot, and the third-quarter pick to Greedy Williams was a game-changer for LSU (both looked like a miscommunication).

Stidham struggled to do the things that we’ve come to expect from him. That is, be precise, efficient, smart and ultimately, successful. It’s not all about touchdown passes, but 3 through 3 games won’t cut it, and neither will consecutive games with less than a 60-percent completion rate. He should be in for a nice bounce-back game against Arkansas.

2. Jake Fromm, Georgia

The top 2 quarterbacks on this list are in rare spots because they’ve been so dominant early that they’ve had limited snaps in every game. Efficiency numbers tell the tale for Fromm.

In 3 games, Fromm completed 80 percent of his passes for 10.4 yards per attempt. With a quarter of the regular season in the books, Fromm has a touchdown pass every 7.7 attempts — Baker Mayfield was 9.4 attempts last year — and he’s averaging just 3 incompletions per contest. Yeah, you read that right. It’s no surprise that Fromm ranks fifth in America and third among Power 5 signal-callers in quarterback rating (206.6). He has another favorable matchup this week against a Mizzou defense that he threw for a career-high 326 yards against last year.

1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

The time has come to recognize the truth. I’ve seen Tagovailoa play in person twice now and I’m all in. In his first career SEC start — I get that it was only Ole Miss — he threw for 191 yards and 2 scores in essentially a quarter and a half of work. On third downs, Tagovailoa is now 13-for-13 for 298 passing yards and 6 touchdowns, as well as 3 runs for 34 yards (all of which went for first downs). In the first quarter alone (3 games), Tagovailoa has 429 passing yards, 6 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown to fuel a 59-7 Alabama advantage.

It isn’t just that Tagovailoa is averaging nearly 13 yards per attempt and a touchdown pass every 6.3 throws. It’s that he’s making perfect reads and executing. It doesn’t matter if it’s when his guy has a step on a defender (the Jerry Jeudy bomb) or if he’s covered completely (the Irv Smith Jr. throw), Tagovailoa just finds a way. The dude is unbelievable. Anyone denying his greatness is simply blind.