SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports college football reporter George Schroeder breaks down the Red River Showdown between the Sooners and Longhorns.
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The best compliment to be paid this year’s crop of college quarterbacks is that they’ve been just as good as expected.
And expectations were high. The class earned advance billing for a reason: Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and others gave the Football Bowl Subdivision depth, ability and next-level potential not seen in years.
Each week, USA TODAY Sports will assess the weekend that was and place the quarterbacking crop into three tiers. As the list of names shows, there is no shortage of elite talent at the position – and not just among those teams littered atop the Amway Coaches Poll but among Power Five and Group of Five programs alike.
Luke Falk, Washington State
Last week (at Oregon): 24 of 42 for 282 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 188 of 262 for 2,000 yards, 19 TD, 2 INT
Falk continued his run of dominance against opponents from Oregon by tossing another three scores in the Cougars’ 33-10 win against the Ducks. With UCLA’s Josh Rosen on a bye, Falk took over the FBS lead for touchdown passes.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Last week (at North Carolina State): 354 yards passing, 73 yards rushing, 3 TD
Season to date: 138 of 222 for 1,990 yards, 560 yards rushing, 21 TD, 4 INT
You’re beginning to see more defenses find some success in slowing down Jackson and the Louisville offense, but that’s only in relative terms. Even as N.C. State pulled out the win, Jackson still accounted for 427 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Last week (vs. Iowa State): 24 of 33 for 306 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 100 of 134 for 1,635 yards, 15 TD, 0 INT
Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy stock took a hit following the Sooners’ shocking loss at home to Iowa State. But don’t forget that he’s still yet to toss an interception against 15 touchdowns, all while leading the country in yards per attempt, completion percentage and efficiency rating.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Last week (BYE): N/A
Season to date: 117 of 173 for 1,909 yards, 16 TD, 4 INT
Look for Rudolph to add to his impressive numbers during Saturday’s game against Baylor. But the true test of whether Rudolph and Oklahoma State stand among the elite of college football will come in late October and early November, when the Cowboys embark on a three-game stretch against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Jake Browning, Washington
Last week (vs. California): 27 of 40 for 215 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 122 of 173 for 1,466 yards, 14 TD, 3 INT
No one is talking about Washington, so it makes sense that no one is talking about the Huskies’ junior quarterback. But Browning is hitting on more than 70% of his attempts and doing an even better job of limiting his interceptions. After throwing one pick for every 44 attempts last fall, Browning is tossing one for every 57 throws in 2017.
Sam Darnold, Southern California
Last week (vs. Oregon State): 23 of 35 for 316 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Season to date: 136 of 210 for 1,705 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT
It’s hard to put too much stock into Darnold’s play against Oregon State. But even as he threw another interception, Darnold tossed three touchdowns for the first time since Sept. 16 and bumped up his completion percentage after struggling in the loss to Washington State.
Ryan Finley, North Carolina State
Last week (vs. Louisville): 20 of 31 for 367 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 158 of 223 for 1,770 yards, 10 TD, 0 INT
Speaking of avoiding interceptions, Finley has yet to turn the ball over through six games and 223 attempts. He’s been taught well. Even if he didn’t necessarily outplay Lamar Jackson, Finley was in absolute control of N.C. State’s offense and was never rattled in a huge win for the program.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Last week (BYE): N/A
Season to date: 159 of 245 for 2,135 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT
Rosen still leads the FBS even after the Bruins’ bye, which speaks to his production through the first month-plus of the regular season. With UCLA out of the mix, the biggest storyline for the second half will be Rosen’s push to become the top quarterback prospect in this class.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ college football reporter Paul Myerberg breaks down the hottest headlines from Week 6.
USA TODAY Sports
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Last week (vs. Maryland): 261 yards passing, 59 yards rushing, 4 TD
Season to date: 111 of 174 for 1,513 yards, 311 yards rushing, 19 TD, 1 INT
He’s back, if largely ignored. Barrett has been at ease in Ohio State’s new offense since September’s loss to Oklahoma, tossing 13 touchdowns without an interception during the Buckeyes’ four-game winning streak.
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Last week (at Northwestern): 25 of 34 for 245 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 130 of 194 for 1,597 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT
You’re beginning to see just what McSorley is capable of as opponents key their defensive strategy on stopping Saquon Barkley. While that’s a futile effort, it has opened things up for McSorley and the Nittany Lions’ passing game.
McKenzie Milton, UCF
Last week (at Cincinnati): 16 of 19 for 374 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 69 of 101 for 1,165 yards, 13 TD, 2 INT
Keep in mind that Milton’s numbers are in just four games. The 5-foot-11 sophomore has been the clearest example of UCF’s growth in Scott Frost’s second season, as he’s already exceeded last year’s touchdown total and is averaging nearly twice as many yards per attempt.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Last week (vs. Mississippi): 14 of 21 for 235 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Season to date: 99 of 139 for 1,345 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT
Stidham was written off after Auburn’s loss to Clemson, though his play in recent weeks have revealed that performance to be a product of the Tigers’ outstanding defense. He’s been on point in the four games since, completing 79% of his throws at 11.9 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.