McKenzie Milton will be the focal point of UCF's offense this fall
If you want to win big in college football, it's no secret that you're going to need some quality play out of the most important position on the field - quarterback. If there's any doubt about it, just look up recent Heisman Trophy winners and note how tilted the list is toward the position.
Even more so than their Power 5 peers, quarterback can make or break a season for just about everybody at the Group of 5 level. Whether they're trying to pull off the upset of a big-time opponent on the road or just trying to secure a conference title, putting up points and keeping turnovers to a minimum is imperative for every player who takes a snap behind center from the AAC to the Sun Belt.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 matchups involving the top Group of 5 quarterbacks:
1. Malcolm Perry (Navy) vs. McKenzie Milton (UCF) - Nov. 10 (Orlando, Fla.)
Milton's emergence for the Knights was a big reason why the team was able to pull off an undefeated run in 2017 and he should still be able to pile up big numbers even with a new coaching staff in place. One of his biggest tests will be when fellow AAC title contender Navy comes to town with their own electric dual threat at quarterback. Perry had just five passing yards last season but was a revelation as the trigger-man of the triple option with more than 1,000 yards on the ground and 11 scores.
2. Tanner Mangum (BYU) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) - Nov. 3 (Boise, Idaho)
Mangum is returning from an Achilles tear but should benefit from being both healthy and having a new offensive approach when he does battle with Rypien (above, right) one last time. The two have each led a thrilling victory over the other school but have only faced each other once in three chances - a game that resulted in a comfortable Broncos win in Provo last year. Two of the most prolific passers in the region who both know the ups and downs of the position will need to be at their best if they want to grab a victory in this key early November game.
3. Malcolm Perry (Navy) vs. Arion Worthman (Air Force) - Oct. 6 (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
There might not be 20 passes combined between these two in the game but that doesn't make it any less interesting. The annual meeting between rival service academies will be a terrific showcase for the triple option and just how good these two QBs are with the ball in their hands reading the defense. Perry was a running back (127 yards, TD) when the two met for a wild 48-45 affair last season that saw Worthman come up just short despite leading the team in rushing and passing in a near-comeback. Similar fireworks could be in store again.
4. Justice Hansen (Arkansas State) vs. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) - Sept. 8 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Hansen threw for 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns last season on his way to being named the Sun Belt's Offensive Player of the Year. He can become a national name in the team's big non-conference outing at Alabama, where he'll face the hero of the national title game in the talented Tagovailoa. Both can really attack you down the field and are not easy to bring down inside the pocket either.
5. Ben Hicks (SMU) vs. Mason Fine (North Texas) - Sept. 1 (Denton, Texas)
It's fitting that a shootout between some potent Air Raid offenses will take place between two regional rivals from the state of Texas. Both Hicks and Fine threw for at least 3,400 yards last year and combined for a whopping 60 touchdown passes as sophomores - including 11 total games of at least three TDs between them. The Mustangs are 2-0 against UNT with Hicks in the lineup however, something you can bet that Fine and the rest of the program want to change in the opener.
6. Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee) vs. Jake Fromm (Georgia) - Sept. 15 (Athens, Ga.)
Injuries have hampered Stockstill during his time at MTSU but he's come up huge in big games when the team has needed him to and turned into one of the better Group of 5 QBs with the numbers to prove it. He'll have a big test between the hedges against the SEC champs and their much younger signal-caller who had a terrific debut campaign for the Bulldogs with 2,615 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. This pair both have a solid run game and some weapons on the outside but the difference between an upset and a romp could come down to how well each takes care of the football.
7. Frank Nutile (Temple) vs. McKenzie Milton (UCF) - Nov. 1 (Orlando, Fla.)
Nutile was a surprise revelation for the Owls in 2017 and played a big role in a turnaround campaign that was capped off with a big victory in the team's bowl game. In just six games, the senior won four key games down the stretch and managed 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,600 yards passing. This game against UCF will not only be a key one in the divisional race but also match Nutile up with the AAC's Offensive Player of the Year who can make you pay on the ground just as much as he can through the air.
8. Marcus McMaryion (Fresno State) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) - Nov. 9 (Boise, Idaho)
McMaryion didn't do much during his time as the starter at Oregon State but made the leap into a quality quarterback in leading Fresno State's incredible turnaround under Jeff Tedford. He threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season meeting against Rypien last year but the Broncos star got the last laugh with a fourth-quarter comeback in the conference title game. This game could once again be a preview of the championship game as well as determine which QB earns first-team All-Mountain West honors at the end of the season.
9. Brent Stockstill (MTSU) vs. Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) - Sept. 1 (Nashville, Tenn.)
Stockstill is third on the FBS active list with nearly 9,000 passing yards and will be trying to get that elusive win over in-state rival Vanderbilt after going 0-3 against them so far. Shurmur has gotten better each passing season for the Commodores and finished second in the SEC with 26 touchdown passes, closing the season strongly. This season opener will be key for both signal-callers and their teams' hopes for a bowl game.
10. Christian Chapman (San Diego State) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) - Oct. 6 (Boise, Idaho)
The Aztecs' strong run game has meant that Chapman doesn't have to use his arm all that much in order for the team to get a win but the departure of Rashaad Penny to the NFL will put a bit more pressure on the veteran who has started 29 games in a row. His biggest test should come on the road on the blue turf against the talented Rypien in a game many expect could determine home-field advantage for a potential MWC title game clash.
-- Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.
(Top photo courtesy of UCF; Brett Rypien photo courtesy of Allison Corona/Boise State University); Brent Stockstill photo courtesy of Brent Beerends/MT Athletic Communications)