It goes without saying that you need a good quarterback in order to be a successful college football team. While it may not wholly determine a team’s success each season if they have a quality signal-caller behind center, one doesn’t become a consistent winner without a quarterback making all the throws and executing the right decisions on offense.
That’s why the position is so important across college football and a big reason why each quarterback matchup is highlighted on the schedule each week of the season. Heading into 2017, a strong group of returning starters and a handful of big-time transfers across the country make for some extremely enticing meetings that are worth circling on the calendar. We made life a little easy on you and did just that for most major conferences so you know just what to watch for when teams hit the field this year.
Looking out across the vast expansion of Group of Five signal-callers, here are the 10 best matchups this season from quarterbacks outside the Power Five:
1. Josh Allen (Wyoming) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) – Oct. 21 (Boise, Idaho)
Allen is considered by some to be a potential No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft if he puts together a good season for the Cowboys and all eyes will be on him when he takes on Boise State for a game that likely decides the Mountain West Mountain Division. He’ll be taking on a QB with NFL bloodlines himself in Rypien, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns each of the past two seasons.
2. Riley Ferguson (Memphis) vs. Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Sept. 16 (Memphis, Tenn.)
Ferguson reignited his career last season and put up some big numbers (32:10 TD-to-INT ratio) in Mike Norvell’s pass-happy system for the Tigers. He’ll be able to showcase those skills when the Bruins make the trip east in what is an enticing matchup against one of the best the Pac-12 has to offer and a potential top pick in next year’s draft with Rosen.
3. Kyle Allen (Houston) vs. Quinton Flowers (South Florida) – Nov. 4 (Tampa, Fla.)
It doesn’t get better than this in the American Athletic Conference for a quarterback battle that may very well decide the conference title and a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. Flowers is a budding Heisman Trophy candidate after posting eye-popping numbers through the air and on the ground for the Bulls while Allen takes over the Cougars after transferring in from Texas A&M. Don’t miss the subplot of former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite taking on former Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong in this one either.
4. Brett Rypien (Boise State) vs. Luke Falk (Washington State) – Sept. 9 (Pullman, Wash.)
These two nearby rivals staged an entertaining game last season and round two should be just as fun given they’re two of the best in their respective conferences. While the receiving corps will be a bit different in 2017, expect both of these strong-armed, tough quarterbacks to put on a show through the air.
5. Brett Rypien (Boise State) vs. Tanner Mangum (BYU) – Oct. 6 (Provo, Utah)
The Broncos and Cougars have staged some absolute classics in recent memory and the latest edition has the chance to keep that streak going given who’s behind center for each side. Rypien played a big role in helping the team sneak by last season with an impressive 442 yards through the air while Mangum, an Idaho native, has an intimate history with Boise State after throwing a Hail Mary to beat the Broncos two years ago.
6. Josh Allen (Wyoming) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) – Sept. 16 (Laramie, Wyo.)
The Ducks are taking the Oregon Trail back to Laramie and this time around it will be quite the interesting matchup from two of 2016’s most underrated quarterbacks. Allen has all the tools to turn into a player that NFL scouts are drooling over and has to be excited at the prospect of picking apart the Oregon defense. Herbert may have a harder time keeping pace but he was quite the revelation last year for the Ducks and should be one to watch as a sophomore.
7. Kyle Allen (Houston) vs. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech) – Sept. 23 (Houston)
If you like points and yards through the air, look no further than this meeting of high-powered offenses. Allen takes over the Cougars’ offense after transferring two years ago from Texas A&M, a school where Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury just so happened to coach at and relished beating as a former Red Raider player. While all the parties won’t be able to beat up on the Aggies in this one, they can throw the ball a bunch and is a fascinating battle between a former five-star and a walk-on.
8. Hayden Moore (Cincinnati) vs. Wilton Speight (Michigan) – Sept. 9 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
New Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell is no stranger to beating Michigan after spending so many years at Ohio State but will face quite a challenge taking on the Wolverines and their quarterback Wilton Speight. Luckily for the Bearcats, they have a pretty good one behind center in Moore, who has plenty of starting experience and is capable of putting up some big numbers when given time to thrown.
9. Riley Ferguson (Memphis) vs. Kyle Allen (Houston) – Oct. 19 (Houston)
The AAC West is loaded with quality teams and star quarterbacks are a big reason why Memphis and Houston are two of the favorites in the division. The Tigers’ trip to Houston will go a long way in determining who winds up advancing to the title game and last season’s 48-44 thriller was a big statement win by Ferguson following a wild second half.
10. Nick Stevens (Colorado State) vs. Steven Montez (Colorado) – Sept. 1 (Denver)
The Rocky Mountain Showdown might have a more interesting quarterback competition than the one the Broncos have going on later at the same site in Denver next season. Stevens closed the year strongly for the Rams and really turned things on when passing for 445 yards in the team’s bowl game. He’ll take on a talented prospect in Montez, who played a key role filling in at QB during the Buffaloes’ renaissance season.
— 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.