This 2020 college football season will forever be known as the strangest in the history of the sport. Entering Week 12, only two FBS teams have dropped back to pass more than 400 times. At this point last season, 28 teams had already passed this threshold. Still, we have now seen almost every FBS team take the field for this season, so it is officially time to update our quarterback rankings.
Below, you will find every single FBS starting quarterback situation ranked from 1 to 127 (three FBS schools are not playing this fall due to Covid-19 concerns). Please note that these rankings have nothing to do with the NFL potential of these quarterbacks and that these are not solely based on 2020 PFF grade — several factors went into these rankings along with their grading profiles that can be found in PFF’s CFB Premium Stats+.
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Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
After earning PFF grades above 90.0 as a true freshman and sophomore — something only he has done in the PFF College era — Lawrence is on pace to post another elite grade for his third and likely final season at Clemson. In six starts, Lawrence has a 91.3 PFF grade and has been one of college football’s best downfield passers week in and week out. He has thrown over 66% of his passes more than 10 yards downfield accurately — the second-best mark in the country behind only Justin Fields and over 11 percentage points higher than third.
We haven’t seen Lawrence get nearly as many designed rushes this year as we saw in 2019, but he has still managed to bust off seven explosive runs of 10 or more yards on 22 carries — whether it be designed or a scramble.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
If any other quarterback in college football not named Trevor Lawrence were performing at the level Fields is right now, the world would be melting. For Fields, it’s the norm. The Buckeye has put up a 93.9 passing grade through his first three starts. There have been just two quarterbacks in the PFF College era to earn higher passing grades through their first three starts of a season: Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, both in 2020. It’s the year of the quarterback.
Fields has thrown just five uncatchable passes in those three games, which gives him the lowest uncatchable pass rate in the country. For perspective, Fields has thrown as many deep (20-plus air yards) passing touchdowns. In his first full season as a starting quarterback at the collegiate level in 2019, Fields put up one of the 10 best seasons we have ever recorded in the PFF College era. This season may be a shortened one, but he is on track to do that again.
Zach Wilson, BYU
It seemed highly unlikely that there would ever be a quarterback to have as meteoric a rise from one season to the next like Joe Burrow did in 2019. Yet, we have one of those insane breakout years just a season later with BYU’s Wilson.
Wilson dazzled as a true freshman back in 2018. He received a 78.8 passing grade and looked like he could develop into one of the top non-Power 5 quarterbacks in the country. But in 2019, injuries derailed his season a bit and hindered his downfield accuracy — causing his passing grade to dip to 72.5. Even with him healthy this year, not a soul expected Wilson to challenge Burrow’s 2019 as the best quarterback season we have had since PFF College’s inception in 2014. Wilson has a 94.4 passing grade through eight starts, leading all FBS quarterbacks. Whether he is inside or outside of structure, Wilson is making plays.
Not only is he one of the handful of elite quarterbacks in college football, but according to PFF Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner, he has taken that QB3 spot in next April’s draft previously held by Trey Lance.
Mac Jones, Alabama
Right after Wilson, perhaps the most surprising breakout belongs to Jones. He performed fairly well when replacing Tua Tagovailoa in 2019 following his gruesome hip injury, but he was far from the level we routinely would see from the now Miami Dolphin. Jones had a 79.5 passing grade, which is good, but the fact that he had a higher grade when pressured as opposed to when working from a clean pocket was a bit of a concern. He, however, has shown that shouldn’t have been a concern, as he has an incredible 93.8 PFF grade through six starts. Dare I say Jones has been better than the 2020 fifth overall pick?
In each of those six starts, Jones has earned a grade above 82.0 — something Tagovailoa only did three times in nine starts in 2019. Rarely does Jones make a mistake with the ball or toss up an errant throw. Only Fields has a better negatively graded throw rate this year than him.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Trask has looked like a completely different player in the last couple of weeks that skyrocketed his ranking.
Florida fielded a juggernaut of an offense in their first four games of 2020, but a lot of Trask’s production was schemed and came courtesy of the supporting cast, playcalling and structure of the offense overall. Trask still didn’t have to make difficult reads and throws over the middle of the field against Georgia in Week 10, but the difficulty level within his throws was far higher. He had hands down the most impressive performance of his career, featuring five big-time throws, one turnover-worthy play and a career-high 91.3 passing grade.
Trask then managed to have an even better game against Arkansas on Saturday. He earned a new career-high passing grade at 92.8, with six big-time throws and only a couple of turnover-worthy throws on the night. His ball placement really could not have been better against the Razorbacks. He routinely took advantage of his receiver’s leverage and put the ball right where it needed to be.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Rattler came into the season with a lot of hype and he has certainly lived up to those lofty expectations. Lincoln Riley has had a top-five graded quarterback since his arrival in Norman back in 2015 as originally the Sooners’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and that streak isn’t likely to change this year. Rattler has earned a 92.2 PFF grade in seven starts in 2020, ranking fourth in the FBS.
Sure he has had a couple of costly throws this season, such as the end of the Kansas State and Iowa State games when he threw game-ending interceptions that sealed the L for Oklahoma, but he has been lights out outside of those low moments. Rattler ranks in the top 10 in both negatively and positively graded throw rate, and he has made some unbelievable throws on the run. When outside of the pocket, he has recorded a 94.0 passing grade — the best in college football by over five grading points. Rattler’s arm talent is truly special and screams Heisman front-runner in 2021.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
The Tar Heels are coming off a comeback 59-53 win against Wake Forest, and Howell was the reason why they emerged as the victors in this shootout. Solely from a downfield passing perspective, Howell had one of the best games I have seen this year. On passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield, the sophomore completed 14-of-20 attempts for 419 yards and six touchdowns. Since that second half of the Florida State game, when UNC was forced to take deep shots down multiple scores, Howell has racked up 1,355 passing yards on throws of 10 or more yards downfield — 500 more yards than anyone else in the Power 5. His 13.1-yard average depth of target since then leads that same group, and to no surprise, that has led the Tar Heels to the fourth-most efficient offense in the Power 5 in that span.
Howell is in the midst of taking that next step to elite status after his stellar true freshman season and could challenge Rattler for top college quarterback in 2021.
D’Eriq King, Miami (FL)
King has been as dangerous as expected this year and has led The U to its best offensive production in years. Miami has generated 0.235 EPA per pass this year, more than twice its best season during the PFF College era. King has been on point through the air, as he ranks ninth in the FBS in passing grade at 90.0, and his mobility has been put on full display whether on a designed run or a scramble. He ranks third among FBS quarterbacks in explosive runs of 10 or more yards at 22 and broken tackles at 24.
Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
Penix's accuracy was oddly spotty to start — even though he thrived in that area in his six starts in 2019 — but he has since established himself as one of the premier downfield passers in the country. On passes thrown over 10 yards downfield over the last three games, Penix ranks ninth in the FBS in passing grade and fourth in adjusted completion rate at 68%.
Despite the bouts of inaccuracy to start, Penix still leads the Power 5 in big-time throws (15) since the Big Ten began in Week 8. He can sling it to all levels of the field. If he can clean his accuracy up, Penix can climb even higher on this list.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF
Gabriel has been the perfect guy for this UCF offense and developed into one of the best vertical passers in the country. He had over 100 more yards this season on vertical throws than any other quarterback in the country, and his 17 big-time throws on these are the fourth-most behind only Howell, Rattler and Wilson. Gabriel has great touch and that has helped him put up the 11th-best deep passing grade and most deep passing touchdowns (11) in the FBS.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
If we were to pick the worst and best quarterback single-game performance so far in the 2020 season, Corral would very much be in the conversation for both. Back in Week 7 against Arkansas, Corral threw six interceptions en route to a 30.8 passing grade, but in the last two weeks, he has recorded passing grades of 94.0 and 93.0. In Corral’s two most recent games, he has completed 25-of-28 passes thrown over 10 yards downfield (one was dropped) for 635 yards, eight touchdowns, seven big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.
If you take out that horrifying outing against the Razorbacks, when he repeatedly forced throws to his first read, Corral would be the fourth-highest-graded quarterback in college football. Lane Kiffin’s offense buoys his production — there’s no doubt about that — but he has executed exceptionally well outside of that Arkansas game. Ole Miss now owns three of the 10 best games this year by a Power 5 offense in terms of EPA per pass generated, and Corral has played a big role in that.
Kedon Slovis, USC
It’s only been two games, but Slovis has been one of the more disappointing performers on this list. He has been pinpoint accurate, just as he was last year, but he is still forcing too many throws. In his two starts, Slovis has managed to record more turnover-worthy plays (four) than big-time throws (three). He’s shown flashes of that elite quarterback we were expecting. He uncorked a game-winning throw against Arizona State, and in the second half of their Week 11 matchup against Arizona, he was the second-highest-graded passer in the Power 5 for those two quarters, at 89.0. Unfortunately for Slovis, the consistency just has not been there.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond’s last couple of weeks of play has bolstered his ranking significantly. He was on the path to drop after his first four games — Mond had a 65.5 passing grade in that span and could not get anything cooking downfield. On throws of 10 or more yards, Mond ranked dead last in passing grade in the SEC those first four games. The last two games he has played in, however, Mond has improved his passing grade to 93.2 — the best in the SEC — and has five times the amount of big-time throws as he did in those first four games. Though it is worth mentioning that some of that production came when under duress — an unstable area of quarterback play.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
After dazzling in his debut against Illinois in Week 8, Mertz’s second career start was fine but not spectacular. The freshman earned PFF Offensive Player of the Week honors for his game against the Illini, earning a 93.9 passing grade throwing a catchable ball on every single one of his 21 attempts. He had to wait a few weeks before making his second start, but when that time finally came in Week 11 against Michigan, Mertz couldn’t get much cooking. He completed only five throws over five yards downfield. Granted, his receiving unit didn’t help him out, as they were responsible for three drops. There’s still a lot of unknown with Mertz, but all signs still point to him being a quality starter for the Badgers, despite the pretty lethargic Week 11.
Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman has grown significantly since his 2018 true freshman campaign and losing his job to Jamie Newman in 2019. Right now, he is in the midst of one of, if not the most, underappreciated seasons by a quarterback. Hartman has earned a passing grade above 70.0 in each of his seven starts and is tied for 10th in the FBS in clean-pocket passing grade at 92.2. The big issue with his game back in 2018 was lack of touch and overall inaccuracy when throwing deep — leading to a 1.4% big-time throw rate, which ranked 128th in the FBS. This year, Hartman has been a completely different passer and is actually hitting those vertical shots downfield. Hartman has 17 big-time throws on vertical throws this year, tied for the third-most in the FBS.
Dustin Crum, Kent State
Crum entered the year with high hopes after putting up the third-best PFF grade in college football a season ago at 91.7, but he got off to a bit of a rocky start this year.
Crum had one of the worst games of his career against Bowling Green, and through two games had a passing grade of just 64.3. However, against Akron this past week, Crum once again looked like the elite Group of 5 quarterback we saw last season. He posted a career-high PFF grade and was nearly perfect throwing downfield, completing 12-of-14 throws over 10 yards downfield for 274 yards, two touchdowns and three big-time throws.
Shane Buechele, SMU
To no surprise, Buechele has been one of the top deep-ball throwers on this list in 2020. The former Texas quarterback has produced the 13th-best deep passing grade for SMU this season and ranks third in deep big-time throws. That deep passing success is a big reason why Buechele's 86.3 PFF grade is tied for 14th among all FBS quarterbacks in 2020.
Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern
We were big fans of Ramsey in 2019, and we thought that the Wildcats landed a gem in the transfer portal, but no one quite expected him to lead Northwestern to the second-most efficient passing attack in the Big Ten. Ramsey never really hit many big throws downfield last year for Indiana, but he rarely made a mistake when on the field in 2020.
He has let go of a few turnover-worthy plays under duress for Northwestern this year, but he looks like his same mistake-free QB from a clean pocket. After Fields, Jones, Wilson and Lawrence comes Ramsey in negatively graded throw rate when free from pressure.
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
McCall and Coastal Carolina have been one of the best stories of the 2020 season. Through Week 11, they find themselves with a spotless 7-0 record and at No. 6 in expected points added per pass play among all FBS teams this season. McCall has executed this offense to near perfection as a passer this year, sporting a 92.0 passing grade — the fifth-best in the FBS.
Hank Bachmeier/Jack Sears, Boise State
Boise State has a very interesting situation at quarterback that I imagine many teams wish they had. Bachmeier, who started in 2019 as a true freshman, opened up the season as the starter and looked a lot better from a decision-making standpoint. He had a 76.5 PFF grade for the game but missed the next two weeks for unknown reasons. Sears, a grad transfer from USC, was forced to take over and looked like he could be something special for the Broncos in his second career start.
Sears completed four deep passes over 20-plus yards downfield for 169 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 91.8 passing grade for the game. He opened up his second start with a big-time throw — his fourth of the season — that resulted in a 28-yard gain, but he would only take a few more snaps before getting knocked out of the game with an injury. Bachmeier then reclaimed his starting spot in Week 11 and had the second-best game of his career as he received an 85.2 passing grade.
Now, it’s quite apparent that Boise State has two quality starting quarterbacks at their disposal to choose from. Sears looks like he might be the better option of the two, but either way, the Broncos look to be in a good situation.
Hendon Hooker, Virginia Tech
Hooker has proven to be one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the country this year. He ranks first among Power 5 quarterbacks in: rushing grade at 83.2, 15-plus yard rushes with 12, total broken tackles with 26 and yards per attempt on designed runs at 7.3. As a passer, Hooker has been reliant on play-action to help get that facet cooking. When Hooker uses play-action, Virginia Tech has generated 0.51 EPA per pass (ninth in the FBS) and the quarterback has averaged 11.1 yards per attempt en route to an 87.0 passing grade. Without play-action, Virginia Tech has generated -0.22 EPA per pass (98th in the FBS) and Hooker has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt for a 60.1 passing grade.
Grant Wells, Marshall
Wells owns the arm talent to be a special quarterback for the Thundering Herd and has thrashed weaker competition this season. Competing against porous defenses such as Eastern Kentucky, UMass, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee, Wells has strung together an 87.6 season passing grade this year. He has faced only one talented defense this season, Appalachian State — a game in which he didn’t look nearly as sharp, producing a lousy 59.6 passing grade. Wells’ grade may be inflated a tad by the weaker competition, but make no mistake — he has a bright future ahead of him and could end up as the best quarterback in the Group of Five come 2021.
Malik Willis, Liberty
The former Auburn Tiger is thriving in his first year starting at the collegiate level. Willis ultimately lost the battle for Auburn's starting gig prior to the 2019 season to then true freshman Bo Nix. But at this point, it looks like that shouldn’t have been the case. Outside of the FBS-high 14 fumbles that have come on both designed runs and when under pressure in the pocket, Willis has impressed by posting an 89.6 PFF grade through Week 11.
The dual-threat quarterback has come away with at least three explosive runs of 10 or more yards in every single start and leads the FBS in both that metric (31) and broken tackles (33). As of late, he has also been red-hot throwing the football. In his past three games since Week 8, Willis ranks fourth in the FBS in passing grade on throws over 10 yards downfield, completing 20-of-30 such throws for 552 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jayden de Laura, Washington State
Among the many surprises in the Pac-12 this year is Washington State’s Jayden de Laura, who has an 83.2 passing grade through two games. The true freshman quarterback made five big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play in those two games. That lone turnover-worthy ball was a classic freshman type of throw as he heaved one into double coverage, but de Laura made up for it with a couple of deep passing touchdowns in which he displayed tremendous timing. The fact that he was still able to perform at a reasonable level through the air against a great Oregon defense this past week is a promising sign.
Sam Noyer, Colorado
Noyer is one of the surprise performers of the 2020 college football season. The fifth-year senior entered the year without a single start to his name, and he didn't look great on the limited reps he had here and there. In 2017 and 2018, Noyer took 498 dropbacks and put together a 33.4 PFF grade. He then moved to safety in 2019, where he played 24 snaps. Now, he is back at quarterback and has impressed through two starts. Noyer has earned a 92.3 passing grade from a clean pocket — the fifth-best in the FBS since the Pac-12 commenced its season a couple of weeks ago.
Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Outside of a Week 6 game against NC State that started off subpar and was ultimately cut short due to a concussion, Armstrong has been the dual-threat quarterback that the Cavaliers were hoping for. In his five other starts, Armstrong has put together an 80.4 grade as a passer and 73.6 grade as a runner. He has forced some throws to his first read from time to time that were a bit too dangerous, but Armstrong has been better than expected with his downfield passing, ranking fifth in passing grade on throws over 10 yards downfield among ACC starters. Excluding the game he was unable to finish, Armstrong has recorded at least two explosive runs of 10 or more yards in each of his starts.
Grant Gunnell, Arizona
We had high expectations for Gunnell entering this year after looking sharp every single time he took the field as a true freshman in 2019. He appeared in eight games that year and earned a passing grade above 70.0 in every game, which led to an 85.4 passing grade for the season. But in his 2020 debut against USC last week, Gunnell fell flat with the lowest-graded game of his career as a passer at 56.0.
Gunnell had a turnover-worthy throw on the opening possession — and while that was just one of few bad throws he had that game, Gunnell didn’t have too many positives to speak of, either. He did have a big-time throw that resulted in a 75-yard touchdown, but overall had more negatively graded throws than positively graded ones. The elite accuracy that we saw last season was there, and I wouldn’t give up on Gunnell based on just one game to start out the season, but it wasn’t the breakout kind of game we were expecting.
Kyle Vantrease, Buffalo
Vantrease, a punter-turned-starting-quarterback, has had a meteoric rise up this list. Our very own Seth Galina named Vantrease as one of college football’s hidden gems this offseason, and through three starts this year, the Buffalo quarterback has proven that to be true. He has thrown together an elite passing grade of 90.3 so far, 10th among the nation's quarterbacks who have dropped back at least 50 times.
Ian Book, Notre Dame
There were some massive concerns with Notre Dame's quarterback situation leading up to the program's game against Clemson, as Ian Book wasn’t performing at a level that could get the Irish to CFP-contention status.
He put together just a 60.3 passing grade in his first six starts against middling defenses but balled out against the Tigers in Week 10 — his 90.7 passing grade that game was the highest of his career against a Power 5 school. He continued that caliber of play this week against Boston College, as Book came away with his second-best passing grade of the season and led the Irish to the third-most efficient passing offense in the Power 5.
His reluctance to throw the ball downfield has disappeared, and he has gotten his accuracy back to the level it was back in 2019. Book’s negatively graded throw rate ranks first among the 39 qualifying Power 5 quarterbacks over the last two weeks.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
There were a couple of instances of Franks making the wrong read and missing a big play against Florida in Week 11, but overall, he continued to shine from the safe confines of a clean pocket. Franks now ranks 12th in the FBS in clean-pocket passing grade, but as soon as you get him out of that structure, he falls apart.
He ranks near the bottom of the barrel in pressured passing grade at no. 72 among 89 qualifying FBS quarterbacks. The pocket presence just isn’t there for the grad transfer, either — he has converted pressure into a sack on 26% of his pressured dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the SEC. He has also invited the most pressures of any quarterback in the conference with 15 and leads the FBS in sacks taken with nine.
Connor Bazelak, Missouri
It was expected that Mizzou would have one of the worst quarterback situations in the Power 5 this season, but that clearly has not been the case. Since taking over in their second game of the season against Tennessee, the redshirt freshman Bazelak has been automatic from a clean pocket. On such plays in that span, he has put together the second-best passing grade in the SEC at 91.2.
Carson Strong, Nevada
Strong has looked vastly better than the quarterback we saw a year ago — he has taken his 65.4 passing grade from 2019 as a redshirt freshman up to 86.2 through four games this year. The big difference is that the guy is uncorking bombs on the regular. On throws of 30 or more yards downfield, Strong already has 11 completions and seven touchdowns. That’s four more completions and three more touchdowns than any other FBS quarterback since they kicked off their season in Week 8. In 10 starts last year, Strong had only three completions on such throws.
Jarrett Doege, West Virginia
Doege is on point when in rhythm. He is a top-20 graded quarterback in the FBS on such dropbacks and has separated himself as the No. 2 passer in the Big 12. He didn’t quite take that next step to elite status in the Big 12 after flashing a great deal of potential at the tail end of 2019 and to start the 2020 campaign, but it has been a decent season nonetheless.
Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
After his first collegiate start in Week 8 against Northwestern that was quite frankly abysmal, it didn’t seem like Tagovailoa was ready to be the Terps starter or was going to have that immediate impact like his older brother at Alabama. Maryland got smoked that game 43-3, and a big reason why was Tagovailoa’s 40.8 PFF grade and three interceptions.
Then in the next two games against Minnesota and Penn State, he looked like a vastly different player. Tagovailoa was supremely accurate, made plays with his legs and actually hit throws downfield. He took Maryland from the fourth-least efficient passing offense in the Big Ten in Week 8 to the fourth-most efficient in the subsequent two weeks while putting up the third-best passing grade in the conference in that span at 86.3.
Austin Aune/Jason Bean, North Texas
North Texas hasn’t played football in over a month, but when the team returns to the field this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see who starts at quarterback because both Aune and Bean have shown tremendous play this season. Aune has been more of a roller coaster, as he has two bad games against bad defenses (42.6 passing grade against Houston Baptist and Middle Tennessee) but was lights out in his other three games.
In that three-game stretch against SMU, Southern Miss and Charlotte, Aune raised his passing grade to an elite 91.8 — though a lot of that success came on schemed play-action shots downfield. Bean came in for Aune in their most recent game after a few early turnovers and proceeded to dominate, putting together a 95.5 PFF grade that featured three big-time throws and four 25-plus yard runs on nine carries.
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Morgan has quite easily been the most disappointing Big Ten quarterback to start this year. There’s no question that he was aided by the Minnesota scheme and supporting cast in 2019, but he routinely made great anticipatory throws over the middle of the field and was a top-10-graded passer over the season. This year, Morgan has taken a nosedive in just about every category. He has made very few impactful throws downfield, recording just one big-time throw in four games. Morgan has also seen an uptick in poor decisions, with eight turnover-worthy plays so far.
Other than his second game of the season against Maryland, when he earned a 90.2 passing grade, Morgan has looked nothing like the quarterback we saw a year ago. He lowered his season passing grade from 89.1 to 63.7.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Pickett has thankfully returned from injury, as Pitt's next option, Joey Yellen, put together the worst PFF grade in the FBS during his absence. Pickett hasn’t been an elite presence when on the field by any means, but he isn’t a liability out there like Yellen was. He at least provides reliable play at the position, ranking 32nd in the FBS in passing grade at 77.3. We wanted to see Pickett make far more big-time throws downfield in rhythm this year, but that hasn’t quite happened. His big-time throw rate has actually declined from last season and ranks just 95th in the FBS.
Collin Hill, South Carolina
Isolating Hill to just those true-dropback situations — plays with no play action, RPO, quick throw, screen, etc. — his numbers take a pretty hard hit. His passing grade drops to 64.4, the fifth-worst in the SEC. He has effectively hit his downfield throws with play action, but the Gamecocks have hardly used it this year, as their usage rate of 22% ranks 82nd in the FBS. Consequently, Hill has been more mediocre than good, and it shows in their success rate — the Gamecocks rank 10th in the SEC in that metric at 43%. It also shows in Hill’s low big-time throw rate of 2.9%, ranking second-to-last in the SEC.
Terry Wilson, Kentucky
Wilson has been one of the more conservative passers in the country this season. In six starts, he has completed only 11 passes over 10 yards downfield and just four over 20. Wilson’s 6.8-yard average depth of target is tied for the fifth-lowest in the FBS, and it is well over two yards shy of what it was back in 2018. This is a big reason why the Wildcats rank only ahead of Syracuse in successful play percentage at 35%. Wilson isn’t putting the ball in harm’s way through the air, but there’s just no explosive pass offense to speak of with him under center.
Joe Milton, Michigan
Volatile is the best word to describe Milton’s first four games as the Wolverines’ starter. He has made some incredible throws with his cannon of an arm, but he has also made several flat-out bad ones. Among the 87 qualifying FBS quarterbacks in the last three weeks, in particular, Milton ranks 12th in big-time throw rate and 78th in turnover-worthy play rate.
The tools are there, but Milton still has a lot of refining to do before entering the top tier of college quarterbacks.
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Among the many Big 12 quarterbacks to take a big step back is Sam Ehlinger, whose passing grade has gone from 81.2 in 2018 to 86.9 in 2019 to 73.5 in 2020. There are way too many instances where he scrambles when he shouldn’t, forcing a bad throw off structure. On those plays this season, Ehlinger ranks fourth-to-last in passing grade among FBS qualifiers.
Ehlinger's accuracy this year has been spotty, too. He has the 11th-worst rate of uncatchable balls thrown over 10 yards downfield (46%). And he hasn't fared any better when throwing into a tight window, completing just eight of 54 such throws this season.
Tyler Shough, Oregon
Shough has the fixings to be a future college star. He’s had a few bad decisions that make him look like the first-year starter he is, but he has shown off tremendous accuracy and arm talent. Shough completed 8-of-12 passes over 10 yards downfield for 216 yards and a couple of touchdowns in the Ducks' Week 11 win over Washington State, leading Oregon to the second-most efficient passing offense in the Power Five. Overall in his first two career starts, Shough has thrown a quarterback-fault incompletion at the third-lowest rate in the Power Five.
Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
Bo Nix, Auburn
Inconsistency was the theme of Nix’s 2019 true freshman campaign, and that has held true in 2020. He has three starts with sub-65.0 passing grades and three that were above 75.0. One of the big issues with his game is how much he abandons the pocket. Sometimes it’s the offensive line, but often he is bailing on the pocket and making things more difficult than it needs to be by forcing himself into a throw off structure. Over 21% of Nix’s dropbacks this season have ended with him outside of the pocket when the play wasn’t designed for it to be that way. On those plays, Nix has a lowly 53.6 passing grade, and those instances are where a bulk of his turnover-worthy plays stem from.
Clayton Tune, Houston
Tune has taken a big leap from his first two seasons at the collegiate level. He has raised his 63.7 PFF grade as an underclassman to 81.6 in 2020. Sometimes he holds onto the ball a bit too long, but he has been great on those longer-developing plays when his first read isn’t there. Tune’s passing grade on plays where his time to throw eclipses 3.1 seconds is the sixth-best in the FBS.
Tristan Gebbia, Oregon State
Gebbia looked decent in his 2020 opener against Washington State. It was also just the second start of his collegiate career, and he earned an 84.6 passing grade for the game. The redshirt junior, however, couldn’t follow that up with a second decent performance. His passing grade dipped to 56.0 against a talented Washington defense, and he finished the night with a higher rate of uncatchable passes (38%) than accurate ones (33%), according to PFF’s ball-charting process. Gebbia missed a lot of open receivers in his first career start in 2019 against Oregon, and that showed up again here in Week 11.
Layne Hatcher/Logan Bonner, Arkansas State
Arkansas State has gone with a two-quarterback approach this season, but one is clearly better than the other. Bonner began last year as the starter and suffered a season-ending injury a few games into the campaign. Hatcher, who transferred from Alabama, came in for Bonner and exceeded expectations by putting up a 90.0 passing grade.
Bonner has started each game in 2020, but he splits reps with Hatcher. And to no one's surprise, Hatcher has been the better quarterback, earning an 81.2 passing grade this year compared to Bonner’s 67.5 mark. No coach likes seeing a player lose their job due to an injury, but Hatcher is undoubtedly the better signal-caller.
Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Jurkovec has been a true roller coaster in his first season starting at the collegiate level. He is tied with Rattler for the most big-time throws in the FBS this year at 24, but he also ranks second-to-last in turnover-worthy plays with 18. Jurkovec has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks of the season when he is forced to throw out of structure — his passing grade on such plays is the third-best in the FBS, while his 21 completions and 10.1 yards per attempt lead that same group. He also has some of the best anticipatory throws you’ll see in the FBS. None of this will matter, however, if he can’t stop throwing the ball directly to the other team.
Michael Pratt, Tulane
The start to Pratt’s true freshman season wasn’t the best, but he has been heating up in recent weeks. In his first three games, Pratt generated just a 63.1 passing grade and led the Green Wave to -0.11 EPA per pass. He was taking shots downfield right away with a 14.1 average depth of target in that span. In his four games since then, Pratt has been a bit more tame by lowering his average depth of target by nearly four yards and has been remarkably better overall by raising his passing grade to 84.6 and leading Tulane to 0.23 EPA per pass.
Nick Starkel, San Jose State
Starkel has been great in San Jose State’s quick game offense — he has the third-most quick-game attempts since they began their season back in Week 8 and ranks second in passing grade on those throws. Overall, he performed exceptionally well in his first two games with the Spartans against Air Force and New Mexico by recording passing grades of 82.8 and 83.5, but his return this past week against UNLV after getting hurt in Week 10 wasn’t so great. He was great in quick game when called, but on throws over 10 yards downfield, Starkel had a 38.5 passing grade.
Drew Plitt, Ball State
Fumbles were an issue for Plitt last year, and that has continued into 2020. Fumbles aside, though, Plitt has looked better as a passer, especially on short and intermediate throws. His deep ball still isn’t as lethal as it turned out to be last season, but he has raised his passing grade on throws up to 19 yards downfield from 71.1 to 82.1.
Jake Bentley, Utah
Bentley has yet to make his debut for Utah due to the team being forced to cancel their first two games because of COVID-19. He was a distinctly average quarterback during his time at South Carolina, posting passing grades of 67.1, 67.2 and 73.7 from 2016 to 2018, respectively. Utah is certainly going to miss the play of Tyler Huntley, who was one of the 10 highest-graded quarterbacks of the 2019 season. Bentley ranked 102nd of 118 qualifying quarterbacks in accurate passes thrown 10-yards downfield. Things could be better at quarterback for Utah than they are now, but they could also be a lot worse.
Levi Lewis, Louisiana
Lewis has consistently been a mid-tier passer this season — unlike last year, when he was constantly up-and-down.
Lewis’ passing grade is a respectable 72.7 through eight starts in 2020. He and the Ragin’ Cajuns have been a lot more aggressive this season than in 2019. His average depth of target has increased over 2 yards, from 9.4 to 11.6, and his deep pass rate has ballooned to 23% in 2020 — up from 14% last season.
Jake Haener, Fresno State
Inconsistent is the perfect word to describe Haener’s first four starts of his collegiate career. The former Washington transfer has put up passing grades of 61.8, 87.7, 48.3 and 78.2 so far for Fresno State. In those first and third games against Hawaii and UNLV, Haener was supremely inaccurate, but in the other two games against Colorado State and Utah State, he was one of the most accurate passers in the country. The only common theme in those four games has been his bad performance under pressure and poor pocket presence. Haener has converted pressure into sacks at a concerning rate of 29% and has the 15th-worst grade under pressure since their season began in Week 8.
Zach Smith, Tulsa
Vertical passing isn’t Smith’s game, but he can hit those horizontal and stick concepts downfield. Taking out vertical throws, Smith is tied for fourth in passing grade in the FBS when throwing 10 or more yards downfield. On vertical throws over 10 yards downfield, Smith’s grade rank drops to 85th.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville
The difference in play from Cunningham in his first four games this season compared to his last four is quite staggering. In his first four games, Cunningham’s PFF grade was a lowly 56.3, but he has had his four best games of the season since, paving way to an 87.8 PFF grade in that span. As a passer, Cunningham has nearly cut his turnover-worthy play rate in half during the second stretch and isn’t giving the defense an opportunity to make plays on the ball nearly as often. We have also started to see Cunningham's athleticism shine on the ground. Just this past week, Cunningham had 11 explosive runs of 10 or more yards on 16 carries (eight designed, eight scrambles), the most we have recorded in a single game by a quarterback in the PFF College era.
Eli Peters, Toledo
Despite the four passing touchdowns, Peters didn’t play at his best in his season debut in Week 10 against Bowling Green. He recorded a 53.3 PFF grade for the game and had one of the highest negatively graded play rates of the week.
Over the last two games, though, Peters has looked more like the quarterback we saw in 2018 when he earned an 80.8 PFF grade. Over Weeks 11 and 12, he has raised his PFF grade to 84.9 and has thrown some dimes deep downfield. Peters has completed 6-of-10 deep shots over 20 yards downfield in those two games, racking up 239 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Whether we see him in the coming weeks is unknown, however, as he did leave Week 12 in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Chris Reynolds, Charlotte
Reynolds struggled against good defenses but lit up the bad ones in 2019 — and that has been no different this year. His two worst games of the season have come at the hands of the two best defenses on his schedule, Appalachian State and Duke, as he earned a paltry 47.7 passing grade across both contests. In his other three games against weak Group of Five defenses, Reynolds improved his passing grade to 90.2. That being said, a lot of that success came on pressured dropbacks — a volatile facet of quarterback play.
Stetson Bennett, Georgia
D’Wan Mathis began the year as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, but that only lasted about a quarter into their season opener. Bennett then came in for Mathis, brought back Georgia from a deficit and led them to the W with an all-around decent game as he recorded an 82.3 PFF grade for the game. Georgia needed stability at the position and it looked like Bennett was going to give them just that following that performance, but alas, that has been far from the case. Since then, Bennett has put up a 63.4 PFF grade that ranks 11th in the SEC.
Gavin Hardison, UTEP
Hardison is a “no risk it, no biscuit” kind of quarterback — his 12.2-yard average depth of target and 23% deep pass rate are among the 10 highest in the FBS. However, Hardison has been fairly inaccurate on those deep shots. He ranks 55th among 69 qualifying quarterbacks in uncatchable pass rate on throws of 20-plus yards downfield, causing his deep passing grade to rank in the bottom third of the FBS.
Gunnar Watson/Jacob Free, Troy
Prior to suffering an injury in Week 8, Watson was heating up for Troy. In the game before got hurt and the two weeks leading up to that, Watson earned an 85.1 passing grade. Granted, one of those outings was against Eastern Kentucky — and he still had three turnover-worthy plays — but it was a sign of progress for the redshirt sophomore in his first year as a starter.
Free has filled in for Watson while hurt and is fresh off a poor outing against Georgia Southern in Week 10. He squeaked out a 40.6 PFF grade with six turnover-worthy plays.
Brady White, Memphis
After impressing in his first year at Memphis following his transfer from Arizona State back in 2018, White hasn’t been able to take that next step forward. In fact, he has continuously taken steps back — his 80.3 passing grade in 2018 dropped to 75.6 in 2019 and 72.1 in 2020. And it gets even worse when you take out the RPOs that he and the Memphis offense have been great at. White ranks second-to-last in the conference in passing grade on true dropbacks against AAC competition.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
There hasn’t been a bigger disappointment in college football this year than Purdy. He shined as an underclassman in 2018 and 2019 with passing grades of 88.0 and 82.2, respectively, and proved to be one of the best passers in the country when in rhythm. He had a lot of moments where he tried doing too much off structure, but his impressive timing and anticipation were routinely on full display in those two years.
This year, all that good has vanished. Purdy has taken a significant step back, lowering his passing grade to 60.7 while sitting outside the top 100 in both big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate.
Ross Bowers, Northern Illinois
Between Cal and Northern Illinois, Bowers has appeared in 25 games in his college career. However, two of his four best games have come in 2020 — the first being in Week 10 against Buffalo and the other being yesterday against Ball State. Bowers produced a whopping seven big-time throws across those two contests, which is nothing to sniff at.
That said, we have our reservations about this new Bowers. After all, he provided suboptimal play for Cal back in 2018 (69.7 passing grade) then did the same for Northern Illinois in 2019 (59.4), and roughly half of those seven big-time throws came under pressure, which is usually an indication that regression is coming.
Bailey Hockman, NC State
Hockman began the season as the Wolfpack starter because Devin Leary — who closed out 2019 as the team’s starter — was out for the first game, reportedly due to COVID-19 protocol. He looked pretty sharp in that outing by posting a 78.9 passing grade and leading NC State in a win over Wake Forest. Hockman ended up winning the job outright but looked disastrous in his second career start against Virginia Tech, lowering his passing grade to 36.8 — he was then benched for Leary.
Fast forward a few games, and Leary suffered a season-ending injury, thrusting Hockman back into the starting job. In the three starts we have seen from Hockman since, we’ve seen the quarterback who led NC State to victory in the season opener and not the one who struggled against the Hokies. Hockman’s passing grade in those three games has been a solid 79.0, and while he still has made a few ugly throws downfield in that span, he is at least leading the Wolfpack to a successful passing attack.
With Hockman on the field the last three games, NC State ranks second to only UNC in the ACC in percentage of pass plays to generate positive EPA at 53%.
Asher O’Hara, Middle Tennessee
O’Hara entered the year as one of the higher-ranked Group of Five quarterbacks in our preseason rankings but fell well short of expectations to start. Through his first five games, O’Hara recorded a 62.1 PFF grade — a far cry from his 80.4 grade in 2019. Over the course of his past three games, though, O’Hara has been more of the player we were expecting this year, with his grade jumping to 90.3.
His passing, in particular, has improved most in that stretch — he hasn’t had many true dropbacks, but he has still thrown seven big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play en route to an 88.5 passing grade. O’Hara’s mobility is up there with the best in the country, and his rushing success last year was a big reason why we had high hopes for him in 2020. He did get off to a slow start in that area, but he really hasn’t been as dangerous as he was in 2019. O’Hara is averaging over 2 yards less per attempt while breaking tackles at over half the rate he did last year and seeing his explosive run rate fall from 25% to 15%.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Whether it be a designed run or scramble, Ridder can no doubt get the job done on the ground. He has picked up an explosive run of 10 or more yards on 17 of his 50 carries this season. Through the air, there are some question marks — specifically when throwing downfield. In six starts prior to Week 11, Ridder completed only six 20-plus-yard throws. Then against ECU, Ridder connected on three of six such throws for 114 yards and a couple of scores. Those three incompletions, however, were wildly inaccurate throws by the quarterback. If Cincy wants to blowout UCF to help bolster their CFP chances, they need Ridder’s deep ball on point.
Zac Thomas, Appalachian State
Thomas had a scary injury this past week against Georgia State but is reportedly day-to-day. If he is unable to go, Jacob Huesman, a fifth-year senior with just 51 pass attempts in his career, will fill in.
Thomas has been pretty inconsistent this season as a passer — he has three single-game passing grades above 79.0 and three under 56.0 in seven starts. He is a threat with his legs, producing 13 explosive runs of 10 or more yards on 42 carries this year, but we would like to see some consistency as a passer.
Desmond Trotter, South Alabama
Trotter has made a handful of ugly turnover-worthy plays over the past couple of weeks that you’d like to see cleaned up, but over the course of the season, he has been surprisingly accurate.
Entering Week 11, Trotter ranked fourth in the FBS in percentage of accurate passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage. That’s helped give South Alabama the third-most efficient passing attack in the Sun Belt, behind only Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State. He has routinely hit the short and intermediate throws en route to the 10th-best passing grade in the FBS on throws fewer than 19 yards downfield.
But when it comes to Trotter's deep ball, which has accounted for 19% of his attempts, things have been ugly. His passing grade rank drops to 10th-worst on throws of 20-plus yards downfield.
Preston Hutchinson, Eastern Michigan
Hutchinson’s first start of 2020 was an up-and-down affair. He recorded three big-time throws but also three turnover-worthy plays in Week 10, all of which came from a clean pocket. In Week 11, his second start, things went better — he didn’t make any of those bad decisions and recorded a 77.6 passing grade for the game.
Unfortunately, we saw the bad decision-making arise again in Week 12 against Toledo, as he tried to pitch one to a receiver when under pressure to avoid the sack and ended up throwing it right to a defensive lineman for a pick-six.
Henry Colombi/Alan Bowman, Texas Tech
It was Bowman’s job to start before it became Colombi’s. Now, it might be a two-quarterback approach. Either way, the Red Raiders are not in a good situation at quarterback — neither of the two has been able to lead Texas Tech to an efficient passing attack when on the field.
They do rank fifth and sixth in the Big 12 in PFF grade, but that’s more about the conference being bad than them being good. Colombi offers more upside because he offers more upside when throwing downfield than Bowman, who ranks 78th of 98 qualifying quarterbacks in passing grade over 10 yards downfield.
Frank Harris, UTSA
It looked like UTSA might have had a late-career breakout on its hands at quarterback with once-LSU Tiger Lowell Narcisse coming in and lighting up BYU in Week 6 for a 91.2 passing grade. But he suffered a season-ending injury the very next game. This gave the job back to Harris, who began the year as the starter, and it wasn't until this past week against UTEP that he had a somewhat decent game.
In Harris' seven appearances prior to Week 11, his passing grade was a subpar 62.4. He went off against UTEP, though, recording a 91.2 passing grade and nearly as many big-time throws (three) as he had in the prior seven games (four). But at this point, we have seen enough from Harris to know that we shouldn’t expect that kind of performance again.
Patrick O’Brien, Colorado State
O’Brien originally had lost his starting job to Todd Centeio to begin the season, but that didn’t last too long as the Temple transfer struggled in his first career game with ample reps against Fresno State in Week 9. O’Brien looked like his 2019 self when he took over in that one, as well as that next week against Wyoming — his passing grade was at 75.2 and he connected on three big-time throws downfield. But then against Boise State this past week, O’Brien had his second-worst passing performance from a grading standpoint at 50.4.
Chase Garbers, Cal
Up until Week 4 of the 2019 season, Garbers was nothing but subpar in his collegiate career. The Cal signal-caller earned just a 60.7 passing grade from Week 1 of 2018 to Week 4 of 2019, but in his six starts after that — he missed time due to injury — he improved that mark to 88.6. Garbers was fifth in big-time throw rate and 17th in turnover-worthy play rate in that span and simply looked far more comfortable on the field.
He has played just one game in 2020 due to COVID-19 canceling Cal's season opener, but it was disastrous. Garbers had the second-worst game of his career, earning a 46.8 passing grade for the game and completing just two of 11 passes over 10 yards downfield. Considering the lack of practice leading up to that point, finding out their opponent just a couple of days before the game and traveling on short notice, we should perhaps take this performance a little more lightly than others, but either way it was a horrid opener.
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
If it were up to us, true freshman Shane Illingworth would be starting over Sanders. Illingworth posted passing grades of 73.9 and 84.5 in his two starts in relief of the injured Sanders to start the year. For perspective, Sanders has earned just two single-game passing grades of 72.0 over his career, and he's never earned a mark above 81.9.
Illingworth completed 13-of-20 10-plus-yard throws, racking up 338 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 93.0 passing grade and a 127.1 passer rating. Sanders' career grade on these same throws is 69.5, and his passer rating is 73.2.
This season, Sanders has managed to post the worst turnover-worthy play rate among the current Power 5 starting quarterbacks at 7.3%. This has led to a mediocre 66.8 passing grade for the year.
Max Duggan, TCU
In Duggan's first two games of the season, it looked like he was in for a Year 2 breakout after fixing his major accuracy issues from his 2019 true freshman season. He had an 82.1 passing grade in those first couple of weeks, well above his 2019 mark of 57.0.
But in his past five games, Duggan has looked like the same inaccurate signal-caller from a season ago. He has posted the same exact passing grade from that year in his five most recent games (57.0) and also has the ninth-worst adjusted completion percentage on throws over 10 yards (38%).
Holton Ahlers, East Carolina
Ahlers was on the right side a pretty nice hot streak of play until he faced the daunting Cincinnati defense in Week 11.
He faltered slightly against two semi-decent Group of 5 defenses (UCF and Georgia State) early in the season, but in the three games leading up to the Cincy game, Ahlers’ passing grade jumped to 84.2. Performance under pressure was the backbone of that success. Then, the Bearcats terrorized him for the worst passing grade of his career — 35.2.
Ahlers produced an incredible turnaround down the stretch last year, taking his 53.0 passing grade through Week 9 to 90.3 from Week 10 on. There was some hope he would continue that into 2020 and sustain that, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
Anthony Russo/Trad Beatty/Re-al Mitchell, Temple
Temple’s quarterback situation has been a nightmare this year. First, Russo was nothing but average in his first three games as the starter by posting passing grades between 67.0 and 71.0 in all three while coughing up eight turnover-worthy plays. They then lost him for a couple of games due to injury before seeing him sidelined again in Week 11 due to Cocid-19 protocols.
They were forced to field Beatty and Mitchell in relief of their starter. Beatty wasn’t terribly bad — he put together a 75.1 passing grade — though he did lead an inefficient passing offense and got hurt in his second game.
That left Temple with Mitchell, a transfer from Iowa State, to start against UCF in Week 11, and he looked … well … bad. He posted a 41.5 passing grade against UCF, bringing his season mark to 39.3. Russo clearly offers the most upside, but either way, the situation isn’t anything to get excited about.
Davis Mills, Stanford
Mills made his 2020 debut this past week against Colorado and was a mixed bag. He did connect on four big-time throws, three of which being a seam and the other a go ball, but he struggled to hit throws at the intermediate level and when under pressure. A lot of his success last year when he posted a 72.4 passing grade stemmed from plays under pressure — an area that is extremely volatile. Mills in the season opener had a 29.7 passing grade under duress, bringing his passing grade for the game to 66.2.
Kurtis Rourke, Ohio
Rourke took over the Ohio offense following the graduation of his brother, who started for the Bobcats from 2017 to 2019 and made his name known as one of the best quarterbacks in the Group of 5. Through two games, there has been no indication that Rourke will eventually be a top-tier non-Power 5 quarterback like his older brother. He does have seven big-time throws in those two games, but he also has four really bad turnover-worthy plays under pressure.
Tevaka Tuioti, New Mexico
Tuioti has one of the biggest discrepancies in clean-pocket and pressured passing grade. Since his season began back in Week 8, Tuioti’s 89.7 passing grade when clean ranks 20th in the FBS. When pressured though, his passing grade has dipped all the way to 27.7 — the fourth-worst in the FBS. Considering the former is more stable than the latter, I would expect Tuioti’s output to be better than it has been once he returns from injury.
Nick Tronti, FAU
The good thing about Tronti is that he takes exceptional care of the ball, both as a passer and runner. He possesses an exceptional 1.9% turnover-worthy play rate this season, ranking 15th in the FBS. He’s carried the ball 34 times this season and is one of the few quarterbacks to not record a fumble. However, he has struggled to generate many big plays through the air or on the ground. His big-time throw rate also stands at 1.9% and is the 12th-worst rate in the FBS. And he has just three runs of 10 or more yards on his 34 carries.
Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
O’Connell showed some promise in his limited reps in 2019 by posting a 77.3 PFF grade on 175 dropbacks, but so far in 2020, he hasn’t been able to build off that. He’s coming off by far the worst performance of his collegiate career against Northwestern. O’Connell’s PFF grade was an abysmal 38.2 and featured just three completions over 10 yards downfield on 15 attempts against the Wildcats. That was quite a stark difference from his last game when he completed 9-of-12 such attempts for 211 yards and a couple of scores.
O’Connell has proven to be a mid-tier, reliable quarterback for the Boilermakers, but if he keeps tossing out games like that, he’s going to continue to slide.
Dylan Morris, Washington
Morris, a 2019 four-star recruit, won the starting job this season and had a pretty lethargic debut this past week against Oregon State. He didn’t put the ball in harm’s way, which is pretty uncommon for a quarterback making their first career start, but he also didn’t have any big-time throws downfield to speak of. Morris attempted eight passes over 10 yards downfield, and not a single one was deemed accurate. Three were catchable but inaccurate, and the remaining five were flat-out uncatchable.
Cornelious Brown IV, Georgia State
Brown hasn’t been able to lead this Georgia State passing offense to much success in his first full year in the starting job. From a clean pocket, he ranks 100th among FBS quarterbacks in passing grade and has provided the Panthers with a bottom-10 passing attack in college football by expected points added per pass on those plays.
He possesses dual-threat ability and sees ample opportunities in the designed run game, but Brown has struggled with protecting the ball with the third-most fumbles on designed runs this year.
Luke McCaffrey, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers entered the season with the lowest-ranked quarterback situation in the Power 5, with Adrian Martinez as their starter. Then, just two games into 2020, Nebraska decided to make a switch at the position after Martinez stumbled to a 52.9 passing grade. The dual-threat Luke McCaffrey, whose older brother is Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, was the man to take over Martinez’s job.
The younger McCaffrey made his first career start against Penn State in Week 11. He certainly looked like his big brother on the ground, as he generated three explosive runs of 10 or more yards and broke five tackles on 13 designed carries, but he didn't provide too much of an upgrade in the passing department. McCaffrey completed just one ball over 10 yards downfield; he recorded a turnover-worthy play and no big-time throws. Obviously, we still need to see a lot more from McCaffrey, but it wasn’t a great debut for the new starter.
Will Howard, Kansas State
Howard had to step in for an injured Skylar Thompson this season, but the true freshman has failed to execute the offense at the same level. Play action passes were the backbone of the Wildcats’ success with Thompson, but not for Howard — his passing grade is nearly 20 points lower than Thompson’s was with play action, at 73.4. And if you take out those plays and look at his true dropbacks, things get even worse. On those plays, Howard’s passing grade falls to a dismal 56.8.
Mike Collins, Rice
Rice has played just two games this season, with each being wildly different outings for the TCU transfer. Against an awful Middle Tennessee defense in Week 8, Collins played poorly. He posted a 43.0 passing grade and four turnover-worthy plays and was one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks of the week, with just 24% of his passes traveling beyond the line of scrimmage deemed as accurate.
Then, in Week 9 against a decent Southern Miss defense, Collins threw up a 92.6 passing grade, made no turnover-worthy plays and was one of the most accurate passers of the week — 77% of his passes beyond the line of scrimmage were recorded as accurate. Simply put, we still need to see a lot more from Collins.
Bryson Lucero, UAB
Lucero started out the year playing second fiddle to Tyler Johnston but did come in for a few drives in the team's first and second games of the season. Lucero became the starter after Johnston was injured in both weeks. And in his first start back in Week 4, he looked like he might be the better of the two signal-callers. Against South Alabama that week, he put up a 90.3 passing grade. Since then, however, he has been far from that same passer — his passing grade in the four games following that stellar debut has dipped to an unremarkable 51.8.
Brett Gabbert/AJ Mayer, Miami (OH)
Shortly into the first game of their 2020 season, Miami’s starting quarterback, Brett Gabbert, went down with an injury. AJ Mayer stepped up in his absence and led the RedHawks to a win over Ball State. Mayer finished that game at PFF grade of 75.6 and completed eight-of-1313 passes over 10 yards downfield for 163 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He remained the starter for Miami’s next game against Buffalo and was disastrous — when clean, Mayer posted a 43.8 passing grade while completing just six-of-19 for 83 yards and an interception.
Max Gilliam/Justin Rogers, UNLV
Gilliam's pocket presence is a work in progress and sometimes scrambles when he shouldn’t, but that scrambling paid off for him a couple of weeks ago against Fresno State. In that game, Gilliam had nine undesigned rush attempts and picked up six explosive runs of 10 or more yards on those while breaking 10 tackles. As a passer though, Gilliam has been pretty underwhelming with a poor 59.5 passing grade this year. Rogers, a 2018 top-100 recruit that transferred in from TCU, split reps with Gilliam this past week against San Jose State and was a whole lot better as he put up a 77.4 passing grade on 24 dropbacks. Keep in mind though, that is an incredibly small sample.
Luke Anthony/Aaron Allen, Louisiana Tech
Allen started the season opener but lost that job that same week to Anthony. After weeks of coming in for a few passes a game, Allen was called back into the fold in Week 9 against UAB to try and lead Louisiana Tech to a comeback. And he did just that in double overtime, earning an 80.1 passing grade in the process — a mark Anthony failed to reach this year.
In all of his five starts against FBS competition, Anthony performed abysmally, posting a 57.2 passing grade and completing just eight passes over 10 yards downfield. After Allen’s comeback win, the Bulldogs have a quarterback battle brewing, but it’s not quite a competition as that of North Texas.
Spencer Petras, Iowa
It has been a pretty brutal 2020 for the first-year Iowa starter. Through four games, Petras’ passing grade is an abysmal 55.3, and the inaccuracy downfield is a big reason why. No Power 5 quarterback has thrown a higher rate of quarterback-fault incompletions when throwing over 10 yards downfield than Petras since the Big Ten began their year in Week 8. Former starter Nate Stanley struggled with accuracy, but Petras is on a whole other level.
Levi Williams, Wyoming
Wyoming opened up the season with Sean Chambers as their starter, but sadly, he broke his leg just a few plays into the game. This left Williams as the next man up, and he did impress when he had to come in on a whim following Chambers’ injury by tossing up five big-time throws. There were some accuracy issues, though, and over the last two weeks that has remained course while those big-time throws have dried up — against Hawaii and Colorado State, Williams has put up passing grades in the 50s.
Noah Vedral, Rutgers
The good news is that Rutgers no longer has the clear-cut worst quarterback situation in the FBS, as they did in 2018 and 2019. The bad news is that their quarterback situation is still not good. Vedral came over from Nebraska and won the starting job, but he has produced nearly twice the amount of turnover-worthy plays (seven) as big-time throws (four) from a clean pocket in his four starts. That’s helped give him a 54.3 passing grade when free from pressure this year, the fourth-worst among Power 5 starters.
Rocky Lombardi/Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Sparty’s quarterback situation is currently in flux. Lombardi began the year as the starter, but after a horrendous start against Indiana this past week that saw him put up a 26.7 PFF grade, he was quickly replaced by Thorne. While the redshirt freshman was better, he still provided low-level play for Michigan State. Thorne’s passing grade failed to break 60.0, and he totaled more negatively graded throws than positively graded ones.
Charlie Brewer, Baylor
After being carried by Baylor’s offensive system that was littered with play-action shots downfield in 2019, Brewer has taken a pretty big step back under the new regime in 2020. He has lowered his passing grade from 75.7 to 57.1 and has more than triple the number of turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws. On play-action passes, specifically, Brewer lowered his passing grade from 89.1 to 45.3.
Ken Seals, Vanderbilt
Seals had a pretty good game a few weeks ago against Ole Miss, who arguably has the worst defense in the Power 5, posting a season-high 81.1 passing grade. Outside of that, it’s been poor play every week, as he hasn’t touched a passing grade above 65.0 in any of his five other starts, with two failing to reach 50.0. He is giving the defense far too many opportunities to make a play on the ball — Seals’ 6.5% turnover-worthy play rate is the worst in the SEC. The true freshman’s accuracy is just not quite there, and his decision-making has a long way to go before he digs Vandy out of their current hole.
Tyrrell Pigrome, Western Kentucky
Pigrome, a graduate transfer from Maryland, struggled in his season debut against Louisville but showed some promise in his second start with the Hilltoppers against Liberty. He earned an 83.2 PFF grade, but we now know that was likely an outlier because he hasn’t done much since.
In Pigrome's six other full games played, he has posted a PFF grade above 60.0 just once, earning a middling 66.7 mark. He has been one of the most inaccurate passers in the country and hasn’t done much on designed runs, either. Pigrome is averaging just 3.5 yards per designed run, the ninth-worst at the position.
Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
Guarantano has been the same in 2020 as he has always been throughout his collegiate career: Inaccurate. On throws beyond the line of scrimmage, Guarantano has thrown an uncatchable ball 37% of the time, the fifth-worst rate in the entire FBS. Last year, Guarantano’s accuracy issues hindered the Tennessee offense, but he at least didn’t put the ball in harm’s way. That has changed this season, as his turnover-worthy play rate has nearly doubled and ranks third-to-last in the SEC.
Brandon Peters, Illinois
Due to COVID-19, injury and poor play, the Illini have had to start a different quarterback in each of their four games this season. That's a big reason why they rank dead last in the conference in successful pass play percentage (percentage of plays that generated positive EPA) by over four percentage points, at 36%. Peters, the original starter for Illinois, unfortunately contracted COVID-19 following their first game of the season in Week 8 against Wisconsin. In that lone start, Peters didn’t look much better than he did in 2019 when he posted a 67.6 passing grade. He picked up a few big gains on the ground, but he was non-effective through the air as he put together a lackluster 54.3 passing grade for the game. Over 46% of his passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage were uncatchable, the sixth-worst rate among 80 qualifying FBS quarterbacks of the week. As bad as the quarterback play has been the last few weeks with Peters sidelined, it’s not going to be much better when he makes his return.
Shai Werts, Georgia Southern
Werts is a big-play threat in the designed run game — he has 10 carries this season resulting in 20-plus yard gains, four more than any other quarterback in the FBS. As a passer, however, he is far from a big-play threat. On throws of 10 or more yards this season, Werts ranks fourth-to-last in passing grade among quarterbacks on this list.
T.J. Finley/Max Johnson, LSU
If Myles Brennan hadn’t unfortunately been knocked out for the season due to injury, LSU would have been significantly higher on this list. In his three starts in Weeks 4 through 6, Brennan was the sixth-highest-graded passer in the FBS at 88.0. With him gone, the Tigers are now left with true freshmen Finley and Johnson, neither of whom have impressed in their limited action so far.Finley put together an impressive box score in his first start against South Carolina in Week 8, completing 17 of 21 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but the passing grade did not match the hype. It was a lowly 59.9, featuring no big-time throws, a turnover-worthy play and a handful of errant, inaccurate throws. Almost all of that production stemmed from wide-open receivers, and it showed the next week against Auburn when his passing grade took a big hit to 47.3, causing him to get replaced by Johnson. And he was marginally better than Finley as his passing grade for the game ended up at 62.8.
Daniel Richardson, Central Michigan
The first start of Richardson’s collegiate career was loaded with inaccurate throws. He threw just 32% of his passes beyond the line of scrimmage accurately, the sixth-worst rate of Week 10 among FBS qualifiers. Because of this, we saw Richardson throw downfield far less in Week 11 and Week 12 — his average depth of target dipped over two yards from 10.3 to 8.2.
In those two starts, Richardson put together a poor passing grade that failed to reach 60.0, completing only four passes over 10 yards downfield in the process. It’s clearly way too early to know whether or not he’s the long-term solution, but it hasn’t been the best start.
Carson Baker, San Diego State
The first four weeks of the Baker era of San Diego State football has not gone as hoped. Baker has led the Aztecs' passing offense to ranking 104th in per-play pass efficiency while tossing up a 58.5 passing grade for the season. This past week against Hawaii, he led them to one of the worst games we have seen this season from a passing standpoint. Baker completed only four of his 13 passes for 30 yards with a turnover-worthy play, causing the Aztecs to generate -0.8 EPA per pass — the 11th-worst game by an FBS program this year.
Tate Whatley/Trey Lowe III, Southern Miss
Southern Miss’ original starter, Jack Abraham, opted out of the season this past week, leaving the team with Whatley and Lowe to finish the year. Whatley has started just one game this season — against Liberty in Week 8 — and performed reasonably well as a passer and a runner, leading to a 77.8 PFF grade.
However, he has been out the last few weeks, with Lowe taking over as the Golden Eagles' starter in Weeks 11 and 12. Lowe couldn’t have played much worse against North Alabama and Western Kentucky, generating a mere 31.0 passing grade.
Jordan McCloud/Noah Johnson, USF
McCloud began the season as the starter but lost his job to Johnson after a poor outing in Week 8 against Tulsa. Johnson went on to start for the Bulls in their next contest against Memphis. He put together a 67.1 passing grade and led USF's passing offense to rank 52nd of 97 qualifying teams that week in EPA per pass play.
He was then out with COVID-19 for Week 11, thrusting McCloud back in the starting role. While McCloud performed better than he had been with a passing grade of 74.0 in that game compared to a 50.5 grade in the weeks prior, he still couldn’t lead an efficient offense. The Bulls now rank 110th for the season in EPA per pass play, and it doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Daniels may be a supreme athlete who can make plays with his legs, but the passing ability is just not there. As a true freshman in 2019, Daniels scrambled way more than he should have, and he was consistently inaccurate. Even with the 14th-best turnover-worthy play rate in the country, Daniels still ranked 93rd among quarterbacks in PFF grade because of his multitude of quarterback-fault incompletions. In his 2020 debut back in Week 10, it really wasn’t much different. Daniels scrambled a lot and did manage to pick up five explosive runs of 10 or more yards on nine attempts but posted a 40.1 passing grade and put together the sixth-worst uncatchable pass rate of the week beyond the line of scrimmage at 50%.
Sean Clifford/WIll Levis, Penn State
We now have ourselves a quarterback controversy at State College after Clifford's poor start to the year. The Penn State starter was in the midst of his worst day yet against Nebraska in Week 11 when he was benched, and he currently sits in dead last in the Big Ten in passing grade with a 49.8.
Levis came in and performed better than Clifford had all year long. Granted, it still wasn’t great, as Levis’ passing grade was a mediocre 67.6 for the game. However, he at least helped make some big plays through the air to give the Nittany Lions a chance at a comeback. Levis avoided costly mistakes and hit some open receivers downfield to help Penn State erase a 21-point halftime deficit and brought them within seven with a chance to tie it at the end of the game.
Matt McDonald, Bowling Green
McDonald might be in the running for the most inaccurate passer in college football. In his first two starts of 2020, McDonald threw an uncatchable ball on a whopping 49% of his pass attempts — the worst rate in the FBS by five percentage points. And while things were a little better in his third game against Buffalo in Week 12, he also recorded four turnover-worthy plays.
He has connected on a handful of deep shots in those three games, which have ultimately prevented him from coming in at the bottom of this list. Still, things aren't great at Bowling Green.
Jeremy Hunt, UL-Monroe
Colby Suits was the Warhawks' starter, but he announced this week his intent to transfer from the program. Suits protected the ball poorly in his time with UL-Monroe, making an FBS-leading 19 turnover-worthy plays.
Jeremy Hunt replaced Suits in their last game after the former starter began the game with four incomplete passes, one of which was a pick. Hunt performed much better, recording a 77.0 PFF grade in relief and leading UL-Monroe to its most efficient passing offense of the season.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
Thompson-Robinson hasn’t changed much from his first two seasons at UCLA in 2018 and 2019 — you can count on him on designed runs, but you cannot count on him as a passer. Through two games this year, Thompson-Robinson has recorded a 47.4 passing grade and five turnover-worthy plays, with a bulk of his production coming after the catch (67% of total passing yards, second-highest in FBS in that span).
Chase Brice, Duke
There were some high hopes for Brice to come in and take Duke’s offense to the next level in 2020, but the Clemson transfer quarterback has fallen short of expectations… by a lot. The accuracy has been about as bad it gets at the position, as Brice has thrown just 39.5% of his passes beyond the line of scrimmage accurately, the sixth-wort rate in the FBS. That has also played a role in Brice ranking third-to-last in turnover-worthy plays with 17.
Chevan Cordeiro, Hawaii
Cordeiro hasn’t been all that great for the Rainbow Warriors as a passer. He has a 46.6 passing grade in four starts and ranks 63rd of 78 qualifying quarterbacks in negatively graded throw rate since Hawaii began its season in Week 8. As a runner, however, Cordeiro has been as good as expected. Over a quarter of his attempts have resulted in an explosive run of 10 or more yards (10 of 38).
JaCobian Morgan/Rex Culpepper, Syracuse
With Tommy DeVito out for the year due to injury, Culpepper, a fifth-year senior, was called on to lead the Syracuse offense. But he only lasted three starts before suffering an injury of his own, and those three games were quite ugly. Culpepper has earned a 32.5 PFF grade this year, the second-worst in the FBS. Morgan, a true freshman, has come in as his replacement and has performed significantly better, albeit still not great overall. Morgan’s PFF grade on 43 dropbacks sits at 68.9. He has drastically cut down on the wildly inaccurate throws downfield that defenses were easily intercepting off Culpepper. With each now healthy, we'll have to see who gets the starting nod, but it seems likely it’ll be the freshman.
Brady McBride/Tyler Vitt, Texas State
Whether McBride or Vitt is under center for the Bobcats, the program’s passing attack has been messy. Both quarterbacks have given defenses way too many opportunities to make plays on the ball.
Texas State has seen its quarterback room rack up 29 turnover-worthy plays this season, seven more than any other FBS team.
Zach Gibson, Akron
Gibson made a couple of starts last year, and each of those outings gave us reason to worry about him. He has earned a 42.5 PFF grade through three starts this season, validating our initial concerns.
Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech
Sims has struggled mightily with protecting the ball this season, whether he is dropping back to pass or carrying the ball on a designed carry. The true freshman has produced the fourth-worst turnover-worthy play rate in the FBS at 7.2%. On top of that, he owns the fourth-worst uncatchable pass rate on throws beyond the line of scrimmage at 37%. This all has led to a 37.8 passing grade this season.
K.J. Costello/Will Rogers, Mississippi State
Costello was flying high after his first career game as he put up an SEC record 623 passing yards and upset the LSU Tigers. There was, however, reason to believe there was a bit too much hype surrounding that performance considering the way LSU defended State, and ever since then has been proven to be true. Defenses have done the opposite of LSU by playing zone and dropping eight men into coverage, exposing Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. Costello has since seen his passing grade dip to 44.5 with just one big-time throw and 11 turnover-worthy plays. This poor play has caused Leach to throw in freshman Will Rogers, and he hasn’t been any better. Rogers has earned a 45.6 passing grade with just one big-time throw and six turnover-worthy plays. His adjusted completion percentage may look great, but it virtually all consists of underneath throws. Rogers’ 3.6 average depth of target is over two yards lower than any other FBS quarterback.
Jordan Travis/Chubba Purdy/Tate Rodemaker, Florida State
Florida State has thrown out four different quarterbacks to start a game this year, and not one was able to find any success. James Blackman, who began the season as the team’s starter, has left the team, leaving Florida State with Travis, Purdy and Rodemaker, who have posted passing grades of 51.3, 48.6 and 27.1, respectively, this season. Yikes. Travis gives the team the best chance for any type of success with his rushing ability (77.8 rushing grade this season), but with him out recently with an injury, Florida State had to use the true freshmen, Purdy and Rodemaker. And when either of the two have been on the field, Florida State has had the least efficient passing offense in the Power 5 — and it’s not particularly close.
Dalen Morris/Tyger Goslin, Navy
The 2020 Navy offense is on pace to be the program's worst attack in the PFF College era (since 2014). The unit has generated positive EPA on just 38% of its plays this year, a bottom-15 mark in the FBS and 5 percentage points lower than in any other year since 2014.
The Midshipmen have passed more than ever before in that same time frame. Against SMU, their most recent game, they passed the ball 49% of the time — their highest rate in a game in the PFF College era. And in that contest, both Morris and Goslin performed poorly, each recording sub-50.0 passing grades.
Haaziq Daniels/Warren Bryan, Air Force
The quarterback position at Air Force has taken a big hit with the loss of Donald Hammond III. He did damage on the ground and also hit those surprise deep shots.
Meanwhile, Daniels has thrown 26 passes this season with nowhere near the same success as Hammond, producing a 30.0 passing grade. Daniels is a mixed bag as a runner, too. He had four explosive runs of 10 or more yards on 10 carries in his first game, but since then, he has fumbled once and none of his 16 carries have reached double-digit yardage.
Bryan has fared better in the triple-option attack on the limited reps we have seen from him, posting a 75.7 rushing grade on 21 carries.
Jalon Daniels, Kansas
True freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels, who made his first collegiate start at 17 years old, has appeared in six games this year for the Jayhawks. Yet, at no moment has he flashed the potential to turn around this program — at least not in the immediate future.
Daniels has strung together a 39.3 passing grade this season and ranks 117th in turnover-worthy play rate, at 6.7% — nearly three times higher than his big-time throw rate. He can make some plays on the ground with his athleticism, but with a few fumbles to his name, he struggles to even properly take care of the ball in that facet.
Christian Anderson, Army
A few different quarterbacks have led the Army offense due to an injury to Anderson that sidelined him for a few weeks, but none have made this offense successful. The quarterback room has failed to generate positive expected points added on their carries this year — significantly lower than last year, when they ranked eighth in expected points added per quarterback run.
Anderson returned this past week against Tulane and proved once again that passing the ball is not his strong suit, posting a 30.8 season passing grade on 40 attempts. His 50.9 rushing grade isn't up to the Black Knights' standards, either.
Stone Norton/Max Bortenschlager/Kaylan Wiggins, Florida International
All three of these quarterbacks have seen the field for FIU, and all three struggled. None has a PFF grade higher than 55.0 for the season, and the Panthers rank second-to-last in expected points added per pass this season. Wiggins offers some value on the ground, picking up three gains of 10-plus yards on eight attempts this year, but you can’t trust his arm at all — he is 0-for-7 on throws over 10 yards this year, including an interception.
Cooper Legas/Andrew Peasley, Utah State
With Jason Shelley being dismissed from the team, the Aggies are left with Legas and Peasley. However, Peasley is out due to COVID-19, so Legas is at the helm. Legas was a three-star recruit from the 2019 class and has yet to take a dropback in college. Peasley has taken 18 dropbacks this season for Utah State and produced a 26.8 passing grade with more quarterback-fault incompletions (eight) than completions beyond the line of scrimmage (three).
Will Koch, UMass
We have seen multiple quarterbacks take the field for the Minutemen to try and reverse the program's fortunes, but none succeeded. The most recent was Koch, a true freshman who started against Marshall. He put up a lowly 29.2 passing grade with three turnover-worthy plays, though.