NCAA Blog: Tough Weekend For Top Prospects


All 3 Top QB’s Go Down

Quarterback wins might be the most misleading stat when it comes to quarterback play and more importantly, evaluation.

Aaron Rodgers never sniffed a title at Cal (or even a No. 1 ranking), Tom Brady didn’t start for his entire tenure at Michigan and Andrew Luck never lifted the crystal football at Stanford.

The creme of the 2016 quarterback class had a tough Saturday, as the top three quarterback prospects in the draft each lost.

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch had been ascending up draft boards quick enough to make his ears pop, but the dream season for the Tigers and their Heisman contender came crashing down as the United States Naval Academy football team took them down, 45-20.

Lynch completed just 26 of 42 throws, for 305 yards and matched his season total of interceptions with one, as the Tigers turned the ball over three times as a team.

“You can’t play a team like this and turn the ball over like we did,” Lynch said following the loss.

Meanwhile in Lincoln, Nebraska, Michigan State prospect Connor Cook played well, but couldn’t overcome referees incompetence as the Spartans lost to the Cornhuskers, 39-38.

Cook was very good for most of the day, completing 23 of 37 throws, for 335 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception.  The four touchdowns set a new Michigan State record (68), passing Kirk Cousins.  The Spartans quarterback made a key mistake as he let the clock run out on the final drive, as the team was driving for a potential game-winning field goal.

The quest for a national championship likely ended for Michigan State in controversial manner, as Nebraska’s game-winning touchdown catch by Brandon Reilly came after he ran out of bounds for five yards.  The officials ruled that he was forced out of bounds, where replay showed nothing of the sort.

“We’re going to collect ourselves and understand that our destiny is in our hands,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “We control our own fate in terms of winning the (Big Ten) East and that’s the thing we’ve got to focus on.

“Disappointing the way it worked out at the end, of course, and it shouldn’t have, I guess.”

Finally, Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who many believe could be the first quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, dropped his fourth-straight game.  The Bears lost at Oregon, 44-28, and Goff continued his inconsistent play.  He completed just 18 of 41, for 329 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

“It’s a three-week season and we got Oregon State next week and that’s all we can focus on,” Goff said. “If we want to go to a bowl game we’ve got to start winning.”

Goff has the requisite arm strength to be an NFL starter, but the inconsistency and the tendency to turn the ball over will make some teams worry.  Goff has 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season, playing in the Pac-12 with some of the worst defenses of any Power 5 conference.

It’s rare that all three top quarterbacks would lose on a given Saturday, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be looked at as top, potential franchise quarterbacks.

Our Rankings

Our rankings are based upon what actually happened on the field and much less about perception of how good teams should be or past history of the conferences they play in.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide- Alabama’s best is better than everyone else’s best, and they were at their best on Saturday against LSU.  They’re not a dynasty, but they’re getting better each week.
  2. Clemson Tigers- The Tigers had a gutsy win against a very good Florida State team and they will be heavy favorites the rest of the way.
  3. Oklahoma State Cowboys- This OSU has a really good win against TCU and we’ll find out how good they are in two weeks when they take on Baylor.
  4. Baylor Bears- Baylor hasn’t come close to losing, but they haven’t played anyone.  They have a three game stretch of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State then TCU.  We’ll find out everything we need to know about them.
  5. Ohio State Buckeyes- Ohio State has no legitimate win, but they have no losses either and championship pedigree.  They get the benefit of the doubt from the committee for what they did last year, but they could run the table without playing a particularly good team.
  6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- Notre Dame has some pretty good wins and one really good loss at Clemson.  Their season will come down to their finale at Stanford.
  7. Stanford Cardinal- The Pac-12 has no other dominant team this season and Stanford is struggling because of that and an early season loss at Northwestern.  They’re getting better as the season goes on.
  8. Utah Utes- Utah had a great resume going, and then they lost a tough game at USC.  If they run the table and beat Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, they should have a legitimate shot to make the playoff.
  9. Florida Gators- Florida was more impressive in their loss at LSU than they were in their win against Vandy.  The Gators won the SEC East, but without their starting quarterback they can’t beat Alabama.
  10. Michigan Wolverines- Imagine if Michigan hadn’t completely gone brain dead at the end of the Michigan State game?  They’re a really good team, even if they have two losses.

Heisman Rankings

  1. Leonard Fournette, LSU- Fournette showed he was human against Alabama, as they dedicated all of their resources to stop him.  He still scored the only LSU touchdown and is still the most explosive player in college football.
  2. Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State- Elliot continues to be the Buckeyes most explosive weapon on offense.  He’s a threat to take it to the house on every play and will be the first running back taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.
  3. Dalvin Cook, FSU- Cook has been an absolute monster as he’s averaged an amazing 8.3 yards per carry this season.  His 148 carries are the second-fewest of any of the leading rushers (Top-13) in the NCAA.
  4. Paxton Lynch, Memphis- The Tigers quarterback’s Heisman hopes took a bit of a hit with the loss to Navy, but his numbers are excellent (3,014 yards, 69.1 %, 21 TD’s, 2 INT’s) and he’s going to be a first-round pick.
  5. Christian McCaffery, Stanford- McCaffery doesn’t look the part of an explosive weapon, but he plays one on TV.  He leads the NCAA in total yards from scrimmage and he’s the heart and soul of an excellent Stanford team.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.