Which team has the best QB-RB-WR trio?
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are glamour positions in college football. While offensive linemen and defensive players are just as important to winning a title, it’s no secret the skill players and quarterbacks grab the attention and headlines. With that in mind, Athlon has ranked the top 25 triplets in college football for the 2015 season.
How did we compile the rankings? Ranking the trios by conference is the first step, and we used a formula by assigning points to the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers ranked within each league. It’s important to weigh talent, production against Power 5 opponents, overall balance among the three players and projection for the 2015 season.
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015
1. Ohio State
QB: Cardale Jones
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: Michael Thomas
Regardless of who starts under center for coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best trios. Jones is penciled in as the starter at quarterback after guiding Ohio State to a 3-0 record and a national championship in his short tenure under center. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 696 yards over the final three games of last year, and Thomas led all Ohio State receivers with 54 catches in 2014.
Related: Urban Meyer Ranks No. 1 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015
QB: Jeremy Johnson
RB: Jovon Robinson
WR: Duke Williams
Gus Malzahn’s offense has averaged over 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons in SEC contests. The 2015 version of Auburn’s offense will be just as explosive, as quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a rising star, and there’s no shortage of skill talent, including All-America candidate at receiver Duke Williams.
QB: Seth Russell
RB: Shock Linwood
WR: Corey Coleman
Baylor has averaged over 40 points a game in four consecutive seasons. Good luck stopping the Bears in 2015. Even with quarterback Bryce Petty expiring his eligibility, Baylor is loaded with offensive talent. Russell has played well in limited action, and coach Art Briles has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks. Shock Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, while the receiving corps is the nation’s best, headlined by Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.
Related: Baylor's Art Briles is the No. 1 Coach in the Big 12
QB: Trevone Boykin
RB: Aaron Green
WR: Josh Doctson
TCU’s offense showed major improvement under co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie in 2014. After averaging only 25.1 points per game in 2013, the Horned Frogs increased that total to 46.5 last season. Boykin also emerged as one of the nation’s most improved quarterbacks and opens 2015 as one of the favorites to win the Heisman. TCU has a solid crop of playmakers in place, including Aaron Green (7.2 ypc in 2014) and Doctson (11 TD catches).
Related: TCU's Trevone Boykin is the No. 1 QB in the Big 12
QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: Wayne Gallman
WR: Artavis Scott
Chad Morris will be missed as Clemson’s play-caller, but the Tigers should still have one of the ACC’s top offenses. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the nation’s rising stars and will be at full strength from a torn ACL by this fall. Scott and Gallman showed promise as freshmen last season and depth is plentiful at running back and receiver.
Related: No. 14 Clemson Tigers 2015 Preview and Prediction
QB: Anu Solomon
RB: Nick Wilson
WR: Cayleb Jones
Arizona averaged 33.4 points per game in Pac-12 contests last season, and coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense could be even better in 2015. Quarterback Anu Solomon is returning to full strength after suffering from an ankle injury late in 2014. Wilson and Jones are among the Pac-12’s top playmakers.
QB: Vernon Adams
RB: Royce Freeman
WR: Byron Marshall
Marcus Mariota will be missed, but the Ducks offense should still remain among the Pac-12’s best. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams replaces Mariota at quarterback, and Oregon’s running back and wide receiving corps are among the best in college football.
Related: Oregon Football Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending
QB: Cody Kessler
RB: Justin Davis
WR: JuJu Smith
The only thing holding USC back from ranking No. 1 on among Pac-12 schools on this list is the committee approach at running back. Will someone step up as the go-to back in 2015? Cody Kessler ranks as the Pac-12’s best quarterback, and JuJu Smith should have a huge year as the Trojans’ top receiver.
Related: USC's Cody Kessler is the Pac-12's No. 1 QB for 2015
QB: Brandon Doughty
RB: Leon Allen
WR: Jared Dangerfield
With a loaded group of skill players and prolific senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers are the early favorites to win Conference USA. Doughty threw for 49 touchdowns last season and 4,830 yards, while Allen rushed for 1,542 yards on 272 attempts. Dangerfield led the team with 11 receiving scores and caught 69 passes.
QB: Jared Goff
RB: Daniel Lasco
WR: Kenny Lawler
The Golden Bears ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) by averaging 37.6 points per contest last year. Don’t be surprised if that number climbs even higher in 2015, as coach Sonny Dykes has a loaded receiver corps, one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback in Jared Goff, along with an underrated running back in Daniel Lasco.
QB: Taysom Hill
RB: Jamaal Williams
WR: Mitch Mathews
BYU’s trio of Hill-Williams-Mathews could be ranked higher, but health is a question mark with two players. Hill missed the last eight games of 2014 due to a leg injury, while Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in November. Mathews led the team with 73 catches for 922 yards last season.
QB: Chad Voytik
RB: James Conner
WR: Tyler Boyd
Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive acumen, but the first-year coach inherits some of the ACC’s top offensive talent. James Conner (RB) and Tyler Boyd (WR) are two of the nation’s top playmakers at their respective positions. Quarterback Chad Voytik played better in the second half of 2014 by tossing only one interception in his final six games.
Related: Pittsburgh's James Conner Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 RB
13. Florida State
QB: Everett Golson
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Travis Rudolph
Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches. Sean Maguire started one game last season (Clemson) and finished 2014 with 339 passing yards on 25 completions. However, Everett Golson is transferring to Florida State and is considered by many to be the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. Cook averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the final three games of 2014, while Rudolph caught 38 passes as a true freshman.
Related: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 Coach
QB: Joshua Dobbs
RB: Jalen Hurd
WR: Marquez North
Tennessee is on its way back into SEC East title contention under third-year coach Butch Jones. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the second half of 2014, and the junior will be surrounded by a young and talented group of skill players. Hurd leads the way in the Volunteers’ backfield, but junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara is a player to watch in 2015. Receiver Marquez North was limited by injuries last season.
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ashton Shumpert
WR: De’Runnya Wilson
Mississippi State returns the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback in senior Dak Prescott. While running back Josh Robinson will be missed, there’s talent in place with Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams battling for carries. Wilson averaged 15.3 yards per catch in SEC games last year.
16. Notre Dame
QB: Malik Zaire
RB: Tarean Folston
WR: Will Fuller
With Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, this is clearly Zaire’s team. The promising sophomore is a good fit for coach Brian Kelly’s offense but has only 35 career pass attempts. Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns last year and will be pushed for time by Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise. Will Fuller (1,094 yards) should be in the mix for All-America honors at receiver in 2015. Zaire’s performance will determine how high this trio rises.
17. Penn State
QB: Christian Hackenberg
RB: Akeel Lynch
WR: DaeSean Hamilton
Ranking Penn State at No. 2 among Big Ten triplets largely depends on how far the offensive line develops during the offseason. The Nittany Lions struggled up front in 2014 and prevented the offense from taking off in coach James Franklin’s first year. Improvement is expected up front, which should allow quarterback Christian Hackenberg to rebound after an up and down 2014 campaign. Akeel Lynch rushed for at least 75 yards in three out of his last four outings, while Hamilton – only a sophomore – is among the Big Ten’s top receivers.
Related: QB Christian Hackenberg Ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten QB Ranks for 2015
QB: Baker Mayfield
RB: Samaje Perine
WR: Sterling Shepard
Yes, the Sooners have a new scheme and coordinator (Lincoln Riley), but the offense is still going to rely heavily on one of the nation’s top backfields. Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman in 2014, and he will have plenty of help from Joe Mixon and Alex Ross. Having a healthy Sterling Shepard at receiver should make a difference for new quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Related: Oklahoma Ranks No. 17 in Athlon's 2015 CFB Top 25
QB: Josh Rosen
RB: Paul Perkins
WR: Jordan Payton
Uncertainty remains at quarterback with the departure of Brett Hundley, but true freshman Josh Rosen is one of the top recruits in the 2015 signing class. Running back Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards last season, and receiver Jordan Payton averaged 14.3 yards per reception in conference games.
20. Arizona State
QB: Mike Bercovici
RB: Demario Richard
WR: D.J. Foster
The Sun Devils have a balanced trio and could easily climb this list by the end of 2015. Bercovici has played well in limited action, and Richard is set to have a breakout year as Arizona State’s No. 1 running back. D.J. Foster will slide from running back to receiver to replace the production lost by Jaelen Strong.
Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach for 2015
21. Western Michigan
QB: Zach Terrell
RB: Jarvion Franklin
WR: Corey Davis
This trio anchored one of the nation’s most improved teams in 2014. Franklin rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 scores as a true freshman, and Davis was one of the nation’s top big-play threats at receiver by averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Terrell threw for 26 touchdowns and completed 67.9 percent of his throws in his first full year as Western Michigan’s starter.
22. Texas Tech
QB: Patrick Mahomes
RB: DeAndre Washington
WR: Jakeem Grant
Offense is always a strength for Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders are loaded with talent for 2015. Patrick Mahomes is likely to start over Davis Webb, and the sophomore should improve off a solid stat line as a freshman (1,547 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs). DeAndre Washington was the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lubbock since 1998. Jakeem Grant led the team in receptions and receiving yards last year.
QB: Brandon Allen
RB: Jonathan Williams
WR: Keon Hatcher
The Razorbacks improved their scoring average by 11.2 points per game from 2013 to 2014. Expect this unit to take another step forward under new coordinator Dan Enos, as Arkansas returns an experienced quarterback in Brandon Allen and the nation’s top running back duo in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.
24. Bowling Green
QB: Matt Johnson
RB: Travis Greene
WR: Roger Lewis
Second-year coach Dino Babers wants to install a “Falcon Fast” offense in Bowling Green, and the Falcons averaged 30 points per game in 2014 despite losing quarterback Matt Johnson to an injury in Week 1. Johnson is back in 2015, and the offense is loaded with proven playmakers at running back and receiver. Greene rushed for 949 yards in 2014, while Lewis ranked third among MAC receivers with 1,093 yards.
QB: Gunner Kiel
RB: Mike Boone
WR: Mekale McKay
Kiel battled injuries last season but still threw for 3,254 yards and 31 scores in his first year as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. The Notre Dame transfer will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal at receiver, and the backfield is set with Mike Boone (650 yards as a freshman), along with Hosey Williams returning from injury.
Just Missing the Top 25: Georgia, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, NC State, Boise State, Utah State, Toledo, Arkansas State, Appalachian State