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Who are the greatest college quarterbacks of the BCS era?
Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.
So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest quarterbacks of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 signal callers since the BCS was implemented in 1998:
* - active, ** - not all seasons played in BCS era
1. Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Stats: 6,040 yds, 44 TD, 10 INT, 62.8%, 3,127 yds, 37 TD
The Texas quarterback was the most unstoppable single force of the BCS era. Just ask Kansas. He earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. His offense averaged more than 50 points per game, he was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell awards while finishing second in the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS era, returning the national championship to Austin.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TD, 16 INT, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TD
The top two quarterbacks are a cut above the rest as Tebow is the only player who can challenge Young for top honors. Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Award. He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national title in three years. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore.
3. Matt Leinart, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 10,693 yds, 99 TD, 23 INT, 64.8%, 9 rush TD
Leinart won two national titles in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004, finishing sixth in 2003 and third in 2005. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign of 2004. He capped the season with arguably the second-best performance by a quarterback in a national title game by dissecting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
4. Andrew Luck, Stanford (2009-11)
Stats: 9,430 yds, 82 TD, 22 INT, 67.0%, 957 yds, 7 TD
The best quarterback prospect in over two decades broke all kinds of rookie NFL records in his first trip through the professional ranks. This merely lends credence to his remarkable college career. Few players have meant more to their school in history than Luck meant to Stanford. He led his program to its first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010, '11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12's all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts and has an architecture degree from Stanford.
5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 10,366 yds, 78 TD, 17 INT, 67.1%, 2,254 yds, 33 TD
Right alongside Luck will always be RG3 as the duo will be forever linked in football history. Griffin III beat out the Cardinal signal caller to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy while leading Baylor to back-to-back bowl games. He led the NCAA in passing efficiency (189.5), was a consensus All-American and won the Davey O'Brien and Manning awards to go with his stiff-armed trophy. In fact, Griffin III is just one of the few players to have meant more to their school than Luck. His impact on Baylor Bears football is immeasurable and could continue for decades. Had he been healthy for his entire career — he missed nine games in 2009 — his numbers might have been the best the BCS era has ever seen.
6. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (1999-00)
Stats: 3,299 yds, 21 TD, 11 INT, 1,299 yds, 17 TD
Johnny Manziel might be the only redshirt freshman to ever match Vick's impact on the game in just one season. The Hokies signal caller revolutionized the quarterback position in one year as he led Virginia Tech to its only BCS title game appearance with unprecedented foot speed and arm strength. He dropped jaws and popped eyes every step of the way, including a furious second-half comeback in the Sugar Bowl against eventual champion Florida State. He finished third and sixth in the Heisman voting both years he played, and had he stayed three full seasons under center, he could have pushed Young or Tebow for top billing simply based on never-before-seen athleticism.
7. AJ McCarron, Alabama (2010-12)*
Stats: 5,956 yds, 49 TD, 8 INT, 66.7%, 3 rush TD
McCarron could leave Alabama as the most successful college quarterback in the history of the game. He already has three BCS National Championships — two as a starter — as he enters his final season for the Crimson Tide. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency last fall (175.3) with 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His offensive system will never allow him to post elite numbers and he has been surrounded by first-round draft picks his entire career, so he may never get the recognition he deserves. Also, shouldn't he get some credit for Katherine Webb?
8. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TD, 32 INT, 58.7%, 2 rush TD
There was little left unaccomplished in Weinkie's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost one game over that span — the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9).
9. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)
Stats: 8,403 yds, 88 TD, 16 INT, 67.6%, 5 rush TD
It didn't take long for the three-star recruit to establish himself as one of Oklahoma's best of all-time. He set a school record for yards in a half in the first half of his career and broke another school record for consecutive completions the next game (22). By season's end, Bradford owned the NCAA's all-time freshman passing touchdown record with 36. He also won the Big 12 championship. The following season, Bradford led the Sooners to the BCS title game against Florida and beat out Tebow and Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy. He won Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien honors as well. Bradford owns the NCAA record for career quarterback efficiency at 175.6 making him the most efficient quarterback in the history of the game. He also owns the NCAA mark for yards per play as well (8.7) and 86 of his 88 total touchdown passes came in just two seasons.
10. Kellen Moore, Boise State (2008-11)
Stats: 14,667 yds, 142 TD, 28 INT, 69.8%, 3 rush TD
The underachiever from Boise State has numbers that most quarterbacks dream about. He is the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history with an unreal 50-3 record and left school with more touchdowns passes than anyone in history (since broken). He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, won two WAC Player of the Year awards and three conference championships. He set most school passing records as a sophomore as he led his team to a 14-0 perfect season and a Fiesta Bowl win over TCU. His overall lack of competition and raw talent keeps him from being higher on the list.
11. Russell Wilson, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TD, 30 INT, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TD
Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten. He posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. His NFL rookie season with the Seahawks only solidifies his standing as one of the game's greatest players.
12. Colt McCoy, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 13,253 yds, 112 TD, 45 INT, 70.3%, 1,571 yds, 20 TD
Few players got more out of their abilities than McCoy. He was a consensus All-American and won the Big 12 Player of the Year while finishing second in the Heisman in 2008. He won the Walter Camp, Davey O'Brien and finished third in the Heisman voting in 2009. He left school with more wins than any quarterback in history (since broken), led his team to the national title game and owns the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (76.7)
13. Pat White, West Virginia (2005-08)
Stats: 6,049 yds, 56 TD, 23 INT, 64.8%, 4,480 yds, 47 TD
He left school as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher as a quarterback and was a stalwart in Morgantown for four years. He earned Big East Player of the Year honors twice and is the only player in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games. He finished sixth and seventh in the Heisman voting in 2006 and '07 and has a Big East-record 103 total touchdowns.
14. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (2007-10)
Stats: 10,098 yds, 82 TD, 24 INT, 58.2%, 4,112 yds, 59 TD
No player was more dynamic both passing and rushing than Kaepernick. He is one of four player in the 6,000-4,000 club and accounted for 141 total touchdowns. The two-time WAC Player of the Year is the league's all-time leader in yards per carry (6.9) and touchdowns (60). He finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 2010 and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as just a second-year NFL player. He was simply impossible to stop in Reno.
15. Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-00)
Stats: 11,517 yds, 88 TD, 45 INT, 61.2%, 925 yds, 14 TD
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He owns the NCAA record for passes attempted in a game with 83 tosses against Wisconsin in 1998 and is the Big Ten's all-time leader in completions (1,003), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns.
16. Cam Newton, Florida/Auburn (2008, 2010)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TD, 7 INT, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TD
Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. His one season on The Plains was one of the greatest single seasons in BCS history, but its difficult to make the case that his career belongs in the top 10.
17. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-00)
Stats: 7,242 yds, 53 TD, 30 INT, 63.8%, 43 yds, 12 TD
He isn't the most talented quarterback to play in Norman but he might have the best understanding of the position. He won the AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, was a consensus All-American, earned the Walter Camp Trophy, finished second in the Heisman and led the NCAA in completion percent (64.7) in 2000. And he led Oklahoma to arguably the biggest win in the history of the program over Florida State in the BCS championship game in 2000.
18. Ken Dorsey, Miami (1999-02)
Stats: 9,565 yds, 86 TD, 28 INT, 57.9%, 2 rush TD
Dorsey was a two-time Big East Player of the Year, finishing third and fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led a loaded Miami roster to back-to-back BCS championship games, winning one with ease over Nebraska. He also is the conference's all-time passing touchdowns leader. Many think he was more caretaker than playmaker, but leading his team to two BCS title games takes plenty of talent. And his performance in the first half against the Huskers was legendary.
19. Chris Leak, Florida (2003-06)
Stats: 11,213 yds, 88 TD, 42 INT, 61.4%, 137 yds, 13 TD
Leak is second all-time in SEC history for passing yards and is the all-time leader in completions (895). He earned BCS Championship Game MVP honors after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2006 title game. He gets knocked for lacking elite talent and for padding stats with a stacked roster at a powerful program, but he should get credit for posting most of those numbers under Ron Zook.
20. Philip Rivers, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TD, 34 INT, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TD
The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns. He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. He also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
21. Andy Dalton, TCU (2007-10)
Stats: 10,314 yds, 71 TD, 30 INT, 61.7%, 1,611 yds, 22 TD
The two-time Mountain West Player of the Year is the most successful, most talented and most productive quarterback to play at TCU since Davey O'Brien roamed the Ft. Worth campus in the 1930s. He eventually led the Frogs to an unblemished record and Rose Bowl championship over Wisconsin. He also has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in both of his professional seasons.
22. Eli Manning, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TD, 35 INT, 60.8%, 5 rush TD
The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He is Ole Miss' all-time leading passer and is seventh in SEC history in passing yards. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents.
23. Case Keenum, Houston (2007-11)
Stats: 19,217 yds, 155 TD, 46 INT, 69.4%, 897 yds, 23 TD
It's hard to argue with Keenum's level of production. He is the NCAA's all-time passing leader in completions (1,546), passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards, total touchdowns and is second all-time in attempts (2,229). He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy twice and earned C-USA Player of the Year honors. He never won enough games against big enough competition to get Houston to a BCS bowl or earn himself national notoriety like Moore.
24. Brad Smith, Missouri (2002-05)
Stats: 8,799 yds, 56 TD, 33 INT, 56.3%, 4,289 yds, 45 TD
Smith is one of four players in the 6,000-4,000 club after becoming the first player to accomplish the feat back in 2005. He is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the history of the program and was nearly unstoppable in the backfield. His 799 rushing attempts are fifth all-time in Big 12 history and his 4,289 yards rushing are fourth in league history.
25. Ben Roethlisberger, Miami-OH (2001-03)
Stats: 10,829 yds, 84 TD, 34 INT, 65.5% 246 yds, 7 TD
Big Ben began his legacy as a whirling dervish, play-extending improv artist while in the MAC at Miami, Ohio. He won the Player of the Year award in the league and finished ninth in the 2003 Heisman ballot. Going on to win two Super Bowls indicates his talents were far superior than his statistical resume.
26. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2008-11)
Stats: 9,260 yds, 75 TD, 27 INT, 69.5%, 1 rush TD
The Pokes quarterback set all the important school passing records in 2011 and then returned to Stillwater in 2012 and set them all over again. He led Oklahoma State to its first-ever Big 12 title and first-ever BCS bowl win. His 69.5-percent completion rate is third all-time in Big 12 history.
27. Matt Ryan, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TD, 37 INT, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TD
Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.
28. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1998-01)
Stats: 4,481 yds, 29 TD, 25 INT, 51.5%, 3,434 yds, 59 TD
The Nebraska signal caller continued the long run of elite running quarterbacks in Lincoln with a Heisman Trophy season that ended with a trip to the BCS title game against Miami. The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year also claimed Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp honors and led the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns three consecutive seasons.
29. Troy Smith, Ohio State (2003-06)
Stats: 5,720 yds, 54 TD, 13 INT, 62.7%, 1,168 yds, 14 TD
Smith won the AP Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien, Walter Camp awards and the Heisman Trophy in 2006 en route to a perfect season and BCS championship game berth against Florida. The consensus All-American was the first Buckeyes quarterback to go 3-0 against Michigan since the 1930s.
30. Aaron Murray, Georgia* (2010-present)
Stats: 10,091 yds, 95 TD, 32 INT, 61.5%, 202 yds, 9 TD
The debate between Murray and David Greene is a good one. Murray has already blown past his touchdown totals and will easily pass his win total and passing yards. He could easily rewrite the SEC passing record books and simply needs to finish a season in Atlanta with a win to entrench his legacy in Dawgs lore.
31. David Greene, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TD, 32 INT, 59.0%, 5 rush TD
Left as NCAA's winningest QB (42). Led UGA back to an SEC title and is the SEC's all-time leading passer.
32. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech** (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TD, 39 INT, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TD
O'Brien winner, finished second in Heisman, a consensus All-American and No. 2 all-time in ACC total yards.
33. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-2012)
Stats: 4,724 yds, 30 TD, 15 INT, 61.3%, 2,485 yds, 56 TD
Finished third in Heisman, led Kansas State to a Big 12 title and is 13th all-time in NCAA in rushing TD.
34. Antwaan Randle El, Indiana (1998-01)
Stats: 7,469 yds, 42 TD, 37 INT, 49.8%, 3,895 yds, 44 TD
Fourth all-time in Big Ten in total TD and fifth in total yards. Big Ten P.O.Y finished sixth in 2001 Heisman voting.
35. Aaron Rodgers, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 5,469 yds, 43 TD, 13, 63.8%, INT, 336 yds, 8 TD
Led Cal back to relevance, finished ninth in Heisman and led NCAA in comp. percent and yards-per-attempt in '04 (66.1).
36. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M* (2011-present)
Stats: 3,706 yds, 26 TD, 9 INT, 68.0%, 1,410 yds, 21 TD
Will only work his way up this list after unprecedented redshirt freshman season — and living life like it.
37. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan (2006-09)
Stats: 12,905 yds, 102 TD, 36 INT, 66.4%, 2,948 yds, 47 TD;
MAC record for comp., att., total yards (NCAA No. 4), total TD (NCAA No. 2) and won two MAC P.O.Y. awards.
38. Chase Daniel, Missouri (2005-08)
Stats: 12,515 yds, 101 TD, 41 INT, 68.0%, 971 yds, 10 TD
Heisman finalist is fourth all-time in Big 12 passing and total yards, passing and total TD.
39. Todd Reesing, Kansas (2006-09)
Stats: 11,194 yds, 90 TD, 33 INT, 63.8%, 646 yds, 15 TD
Most important QB in Jayhawks history owns every major school passing record and won a BCS bowl.
40. Chad Pennington, Marshall (1997-99)**
Stats: 11,446 yds, 107 TD, 30 INT, 63.6%, 61 yds, 4 TD
Finished fifth in Heisman, won Sammy Baugh Award and is the MAC's all-time leader in TD passes.
41. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Stats: 11,662 yds, 98 TD, 21 INT, 342 yds, 4 TD
42. Jason White, Oklahoma
Stats: 7,922 yds, 81 TD, 24 INT, 2 rush TD
43. Joey Harrington, Oregon
Stats:6,289 yds, 53 TD, 21 INT, 211 yds, 17 TD
44. Alex Smith, Utah
Stats: 5,203 yds, 47 TD, 8 INT, 1,072 yds, 15 TD
45. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech
Stats: 7,017 yds, 44 TD, 20 INT, 2,196 yds, 23 TD
46. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
Stats: 15,793 yds, 134 TD, 34 INT, 12 rush TD
47. Braxton Miller, Ohio State*
Stats: 3,198 yds, 28 TD, 10 INT, 1,986 yds, 20 TD
48. Matt Barkley, USC
Stats: 12,327 yds, 116 TD, 48 INT, 6 rush TD
49. Tajh Boyd, Clemson*
Stats: 8,053 yds, 73 TD, 28 INT, 765 yds, 16 TD
50. Brian Johnson, Utah
Stats: 7,853 yds, 57 TD, 27 INT, 848 yds, 12 TD
The Next 25:
51. Carson Palmer, USC: 11,668 yds, 72 TD, 49 INT, 9 rush TD
52. Brian Brohm, Louisville: 10,775 yds, 71 TD, 24 INT, 44 yds, 9 TD
53. Paul Smith, Tulsa: 10,924 yds, 83 TD, 35 INT, 666 yds, 28 TD
54. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska: 6,591 yds, 46 TD, 27 INT, 2,858 yds, 31 TD*
55. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State: 8,317 yds, 66 TD, 31 INT, 1,858 yds, 22 TD
56. Rex Grossman, Florida: 9,164 yds, 77 TD, 36 INT, 6 rush TD
57. Colt Brennan, Hawaii: 14,193 yds, 131 TD, 42 INT, 547 yds, 15 TD
58. Greg McElroy, Alabama: 5,691 yds, 39 TD, 10 INT, 71 yds, 2 TD
59. Matthew Stafford, Georgia: 7,731 yds, 51 TD, 33 INT, 213 yds, 6 TD
60. Denard Robinson, Michigan: 6,250 yds, 49 TD, 39 INT, 4,495 yds, 42 TD
61. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 16,646 yds, 123 TD, 52 INT, 3 rush TD
62. Timmy Chang, Hawaii: 17,072 yds, 117 TD, 80 INT, 6 rush TD
63. Tom Brady, Michigan: 4,982 yds, 31 TD, 19 INT, 3 rush TD**
64. Darron Thomas, Oregon: 5,910 yds, 66 TD, 17 INT, 719 yds, 9 TD
65. Michael Bishop, Kansas State: 4,401 yds, 36 TD, 13 INT, 1,314 yds, 23 TD**
66. Kevin Kolb, Houston: 12,964 yds, 85 TD, 31 INT, 751 yds, 21 TD
67. Daunte Culpepper, UCF: 9,341 yds, 72 TD, 32 INT, 1,003 yds, 19 TD**
68. Michael Robinson, Penn State: 3,531 yds, 23 TD, 21 INT, 1,637 yds, 20 TD, 52 rec., 629 yds, 3TD
69. Jason Campbell, Auburn: 7,299 yds, 45 TD, 24 INT, 307 yds, 9 TD
70. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt: 8,697 yds, 59 TD, 36 INT, 1,256 yds, 17 TD
71. Byron Leftwich, Marshall: 11,903 yds, 89 TD, 28 INT, 181 yds, 6 TD
72. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: 6,177 yds, 57 TD, 26 INT, 2,164 yds, 17 TD
73. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: 9,131 yds, 66 TD, 30 INT, 1 rush TD
74. Jake Locker, Washington: 7,639 yds, 53 TD, 35 INT, 1,939 yds, 29 TD
75. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: 12,423 yds, 95 TD, 40 INT, 5 rush TD