Ali-Frazier. Manning-Brady. Magic-Bird. Mariota-Hundley?
Okay, maybe I’m over doing it a bit. But as far as college football fans are concerned, there will be no bigger quarterback matchup in 2014 than when UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota battle it out on the same field.
College football entered the “super quarterback” era when Michael Vick ran around on the Superdome floor in the 2000 Sugar Bowl nearly bringing Virginia Tech what would have been one of the most improbable national championships in college football history. And it’s never looked back since. Names like Hundley and Mariota now regularly wow fans with precision passing, electric athletic ability and spotlight showcases.
Since Vick took the football world by storm, names like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel have stolen the college football headlines. There is no reason to think this season won’t be any different.
Here are the most anticipated quarterback battles of the 2014 college football season:
1. Marcus Mariota at Brett Hundley
Oregon at UCLA, Oct. 11
It would take UCLA or Oregon reaching the national title game against Florida State for there to be a better QB matchup than when Brett Hundley welcomes Marcus Mariota to town in mid-October. Division, conference and national championship implications are on the line for two players who could be top-10 draft picks next May. Each has unique dual-threat and leadership abilities for two top-10 teams. Every fan of every team should kick back and enjoy this one.
2. Bryce Petty at Trevor Knight
Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8
The Big 12 title could very well hang in the balance when Baylor visits Oklahoma on Nov. 8. Petty, who accounted for 46 touchdowns and just three interceptions last year, put a 41-12 beatdown on the Sooners last year. Knight, fresh off an immaculate Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama, is looking for revenge in what should be a breakout season. Petty is more experienced, more of a passer, runs an offense as good as any in the land and is a defending Big 12 champ. Knight is a superstar in the making who can drop jaws and is leading the team picked to win the Big 12.
3. Braxton Miller at Christian Hackenberg
Ohio State at Penn State, Oct. 25
Penn State could have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft under center and Urban Meyer could have a Heisman Trophy candidate running his offense. The Buckeyes will face two difficult road tests en route to what many believe will be a playoff berth and visiting Happy Valley will be one of them.
4. Brett Hundley at Taylor Kelly
UCLA at Arizona State, Sept. 25
These two quarterbacks will square off for the third time in three years. Hundley and UCLA won 45-43 in Tempe in 2012 while Kelly and Arizona State knocked off the Bruins in the Rose Bowl 38-33 last fall. The fireworks should continue in what could be a de facto Pac-12 South Division championship game.
5. Braxton Miller at Connor Cook
Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 8
The first meeting between these two signal-callers was an epic battle in the Big Ten title game that won’t soon be forgotten by either. Miller rushed for 142 yards, threw for 101 and scored three times in the loss. Cook had his coming out party, throwing for a career-high 304 yards and made clutch plays down the stretch to lead the Spartans to their first Big Ten crown in nearly three decades. And a trip back to the Big Ten title game will likely be on the line in this contest.
6. Everett Golson at Jameis Winston
Notre Dame at Florida State, Oct. 18
Golson returns after sitting out last year with a nearly perfect record as a starter. The Irish could be the best team on the Seminoles' schedule and Golson makes them a playoff contender now that he is back in control. Winston’s resume speaks for itself and his best matchup under center comes against Notre Dame.
7. Connor Cook at Marcus Mariota
Michigan State at Oregon, Sept. 6
It’s the biggest marquee non-conference showdown in college football and it will feature two quarterbacks eyeing a trip to the college football playoff. Cook set career highs with 300 yards passing in both the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl. Mariota, now fully healthy, might be the nation’s best player. The X's and O's on both sides of the ball will be fascinating to watch, as both teams will likely be ranked in the Top 10 when they meet in Week 2.
8. Chuckie Keeton at Taysom Hill
Utah State at BYU, Oct. 3
When it comes to pure athletic ability, few players in the nation can match Hill’s speed and size. He is a must-watch player every time the ball is in his hands. Keeton, arguably Utah State’s greatest football player, returns to the team after missing the entire second half of last season because of injury. Add popcorn and beer, shake well and enjoy.
9. Nick Marshall at Bo Wallace
Auburn at Ole Miss, Nov. 1
Last year, Wallace threw for 336 yards as Ole Miss significantly out-gained Auburn (464 to 375) but lost at home to the Marshall-led Tigers. The Auburn quarterback threw for just 93 yards but ran for 140 on the ground and scored two touchdowns in the thrilling and critical SEC West win. Both teams have eyes on getting to Atlanta in 2014.
10. Connor Cook at Christian Hackenberg
Michigan State at Penn State, Nov. 29
There is a good chance Michigan State is still in playoff contention when the season finale in Happy Valley rolls around. Hackenberg will be finishing his second full season and will have a chance to make an early Heisman statement for 2016, especially if Penn State doesn’t have a bowl game to go to again. Just ask Wisconsin fans what it’s like to face Hackenberg in a season finale.
Best of the rest:
Texas Tech vs. Baylor: Davis Webb vs. Bryce Petty
Notre Dame at Arizona State: Everett Golson vs. Taylor Kelly
Oregon at Oregon State: Marcus Mariota vs. Sean Mannion
Oklahoma at Texas Tech: Trevor Knight vs. Davis Webb
Auburn at Mississippi State: Nick Marshall vs. Dak Prescott
Stanford at Oregon: Kevin Hogan vs. Marcus Mariota
Oregon at Washington State: Marcus Mariota vs. Connor Halliday
Stanford at UCLA: Kevin Hogan vs. Brett Hundley
Auburn at Kansas State: Nick Marshall vs. Jake Waters
Mississippi State at Ole Miss: Dak Prescott vs. Bo Wallace
Football Nerds Unite!
Keenan Reynolds vs. Braxton Miller
Navy vs. Ohio State, Aug. 30
This duo combined for 2,414 yards rushing and a staggering 43 scores on the ground last year.
Cody Fajardo at Taysom Hill
Nevada at BYU, Oct. 18
Two of the most explosive athletes in the nation go at it in mid-October.
Rakeem Cato at Taylor Heinicke
Marshall at Old Dominion, Oct. 4
The top two QBs in C-USA combined for 7,938 yards and 72 passing TDs last year.
Terrance Broadway at Fredi Knighten
UL Lafayette at Arkansas State, Oct. 21
The top two signal callers in the Sun Belt battle for a potential league title.
Nate Sudfeld at Matt Johnson
Indiana at Bowling Green, Sept. 13
This could be a shootout pitting two elite passing attacks early in the year.