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.
While the most recent class of college signal-callers was among the best to ever spin it between the lines, the group set to take the field in 2018 can more than hold their own and many of them can beat you with their legs just as well as they can with their arms. That makes for an exciting season ahead with numerous star-filled matchups between QBs that everybody from NFL scouts to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to fans at home will be tuning into watch closely.
With that in mind, here are the top 25 matchups between quarterbacks from coast-to-coast:
1. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) vs. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) - Nov. 24 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Might last year's Iron Bowl have been different had Nick Saban opted to insert Tagovailoa in the team's loss to the rival Tigers? Who knows, but the budding Hawaiian star found the right moment to burst onto the scene when he came on at halftime to spark a win in the national championship game. Stidham had a stellar debut campaign at Auburn, likely cementing his spot as the best QB on the Plains since Cam Newton. The annual meeting between these two typically has College Football Playoff implications and SEC West titles on the line and that figures to be the case once again thanks to these two talented quarterbacks.
2. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Khalil Tate (Arizona) - Oct. 27 (Tucson, Ariz.)
Brew an extra pot of coffee to stay up to watch this matchup as it pits two very differently built quarterbacks against each other who can each deliver yards and touchdowns by the bunches. Herbert has been terrific when he's been in the lineup for the Ducks (32:7 TD-to-INT ratio) and ticks off all the boxes you're looking for in a young signal-caller. Tate is one of the game's most electrifying players regardless of position and is coming off a season in which he ran and threw for more than 1,400 yards while accounting for 26 total touchdowns despite not starting until mid-October. What can each do with another offseason of improvement? That's scary to think about and a good reason to watch.
3. Trace McSorley (Penn State) vs. Shea Patterson (Michigan) - Oct. 3 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
McSorley (above, right) enters the season fifth on the active list for total offense across FBS and will be asked to do even more without backfield stalwart Saquon Barkley taking some of the load off. He's already posted back-to-back campaigns of at least 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns and will no doubt be looking to make it three in a row while helping get the Nittany Lions over the hump and into the playoff. Standing in his way will be the talented transfer in Patterson, who showed plenty of flashes during his time at Ole Miss and should be Jim Harbaugh's latest star pupil. This meeting in early October may very well determine the division winner and play a big role in the Heisman pecking order.
4. Will Grier (West Virginia) vs. Ryan Finley (NC State) - Sept. 15 (Raleigh, N.C.)
Grier's (right) numbers from a year ago (3,490 yards, 34 touchdowns) put him near the top nationally in just about every passing category and he should be even more dangerous in his second season working with Dana Holgorsen. He'll be on nearly every Heisman short list as a result and could solidify that status in September by winning a big head-to-head matchup with Finley, also a transfer who has thrived in his new home. He could play his way into the first-round draft pick conversation with yet another good season for the Wolfpack and can get things started off on the right foot by delivering yet another big victory for the team.
5. Jake Browning (Washington) vs. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) - Sept. 1 (Atlanta)
The Huskies and Tigers will meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for one of the marquee non-conference games in all of college football as two playoff contenders clash. A good reason why the game is so big is because of the quarterbacks headlining the matchup who are both coming off appearances in New Year's Six bowls. Stidham served up some clutch throws in big wins over Georgia and Alabama last season and lived up to the hype for the Tigers after starting his career at Baylor. Browning is the active FBS career leader in total touchdowns and is coming off a year where he threw just five picks. Both QBs can share the distinction of having lost the game on their last trip to Atlanta (Browning in a semifinal two years ago, Stidham in the most recent Peach Bowl) and you can bet they will want to leave town with a victory.
6. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) vs. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) - Nov. 10 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Fitzgerald is one of the best at the position in the SEC and may very well be the most accomplished dual-threat quarterbacks in the country based on what he's done so far in Starkville. He'll benefit greatly from new head coach Joe Moorhead's play-calling and tutelage and should become more dangerous a passer in 2018. He nearly toppled the Tide last season and you know the senior will be looking to finish the job off against Tagovailoa in this key SEC West meeting.
7. Jake Browning (Washington) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) - Oct. 13 (Eugene, Ore.)
The Ducks and Huskies have one of the fiercest rivalries in the country and things have become much more competitive in the series since the arrival of Browning in Seattle, who helped put up 70 points in Eugene two years ago when Herbert was making his first start. That game is no doubt remembered by both sides and should fuel both in this meeting that will have huge Pac-12 North implications.
8. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) vs. Trace McSorley (Penn State) - Sept. 29 (University Park, Pa.)
Haskins is replacing a school legend behind center in J.T. Barrett but has a chance to add to his own legacy by coming up big in this crucial division game at Happy Valley. He went on the road and did well against Michigan last season but out-dueling one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten - and the country - is a whole different ball game.
9. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) vs. Jordan Ta'amu (Ole Miss) - Nov. 22 (Oxford, Miss.)
Fitzgerald (right) badly injured his ankle in last year's Egg Bowl so you know the senior is itching to put up some big numbers in Oxford to make up for it. Ta'amu was a surprise revelation at quarterback for the Rebels when he replaced an injured Shea Patterson, throwing for 11 TDs and keeping the team's offense clicking while helping capture three vital wins down the stretch as a starter. Far more than bragging rights will be on the line when these two meet on Thanksgiving.
10. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) vs. Jake Fromm (Georgia) - Nov. 10 (Athens, Ga.)
The duo split the two meetings last season - Stidham winning the first on the Plains, Fromm getting the last laugh by claiming the SEC title in Atlanta - so how about a rubber match in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry? All eyes in the SEC will be on this one as two big-armed quarterbacks face off against each other and a pair of top-notch defenses too.
11. Will Grier (West Virginia) vs. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) - Nov. 23 (Norman, Okla.)
This may very well be an early preview of the Big 12 title game given how the Mountaineers and Sooners are two of the favorites to win the conference this season. Grier's the veteran with all the numbers while Murray is the talented youngster who might have more natural talent than his Heisman-winning predecessor. Pour one out for the two defensive coordinators involved.
12. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) - Nov. 24 (Columbus, Ohio)
The Buckeyes are riding six-game winning streak in the series and will no doubt be looking for more when That Team Up North comes to town. Haskins already knows what tasting victory in the game feels like after his exploits in Ann Arbor last season but things will be much different this time around with Patterson leading the way for the Wolverines - who certainly didn't forget their last trip to the Horseshoe.
13. Khalil Tate (Arizona) vs. Tyler Huntley (Utah) - Oct. 12 (Salt Lake City)
Both of these young quarterbacks had some growing pains in their first year as a starter but also showed they are capable of being some of the most dangerous dual threats at the position at the same time. Tate will benefit from a new coaching staff that should help him as a passer and the hope is another year in the system will do the same for Huntley with the Utes. The Pac-12 South very well could come down to how each of these players fares in this one.
14. Malcolm Perry (Navy) vs. McKenzie Milton (UCF) - Nov. 10 (Orlando, Fla.)
These two come from opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to playing the quarterback position but it's still thrilling to watch them work. Milton (right) was the triggerman for one of the best offenses in the country last season and threw for more than 4,000 yards while finishing second on the team in rushing. Perry is basically his polar opposite: throwing just one pass in his career but running that triple-option attack to perfection with more than 1,000 yards on the ground. Both will need to make the most of every possession in this key AAC game.
15. Jake Fromm (Georgia) vs. Drew Lock (Missouri) - Sept. 22 (Columbia, Mo.)
Lock was the first-team All-SEC quarterback in 2017 and is the trendy pick to be the first quarterback drafted next spring after putting up so many prolific numbers. His biggest knock is not coming up big in the big games but he'll have an early opportunity to prove people wrong when Fromm comes to town looking to keep things rolling after leading the Bulldogs to the national title game as a freshman.
16. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) vs. Shawn Robinson (TCU) - Oct. 20 (Fort Worth, Texas)
The two Big 12 title game teams both have to replace their quarterbacks from a year ago but you won't find either head coach sweating too much because of what these youngsters can do with the football in their hands. Both former Texas high school stars have experience at the college level and are extremely dangerous launching the ball downfield if they're not taking off running around defenders.
17. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) - Oct. 20 (East Lansing, Mich.)
These two will drive defenses nuts with how they can escape pressure and still find guys downfield and their first meeting in a rivalry game will make for must-see TV. Lewerke really turned heads in leading the Spartans' turnaround last year, throwing for 20 scores while also rushing for nearly 600 yards.
18. Trace McSorley (Penn State) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) - Oct. 13 (University Park, Pa.)
McSorley is 1-1 against the Spartans during his time as a starter, being as good as you can possibly be in the first outing but throwing three picks in the second, rain-soaked, loss last year. Lewerke, meanwhile, tossed a pair of touchdowns and threw for 400 yards to pull off the upset. They'll meet again in Happy Valley for a game that could very well determine who the best quarterback is in the Big Ten.
19. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) vs. Shawn Robinson (TCU) - Sept. 15 (Arlington, Texas)
Big arms? Check. Big plays? Definitely. Big game? Absolutely. Both of these young quarterbacks have star potential in their respective offensive systems and will lead two legitimate playoff contenders onto the field at AT&T Stadium for one of the best non-conference games of the season.
20. Jake Fromm (Georgia) vs. Jake Bentley (South Carolina) - Sept. 8 (Columbia, S.C.)
The two best teams on paper in the SEC East will meet Week 2 in a game that may wind up determining which goes to Atlanta and which doesn't. With some re-tooled supporting casts on both sides of the ball, the pressure will be on both of these young QBs to come up with a performance fitting the occasion. Each has all the tools to be the best passer in the league and can showcase them in this huge conference matchup.
21. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) vs. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) - Oct. 6 (Starkville, Miss.)
Fitzgerald would rather forget the last time he faced off against the Tigers and Stidham (a 49-10 loss complete with two interceptions) but he'll have the opportunity to even things up when the Auburn makes it to Starkvegas. Both guys can really burn you by taking off out of the pocket but it's accuracy who will determine who comes out on top of this phenomenal meeting of dual threats.
22. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) - Oct. 6 (East Lansing, Mich.)
The Wildcats are coming off a 10 win season and are aiming for a Big Ten West Division title with the bulk of the team returning. Thorson is coming off a bad knee injury in the bowl game but he should be good to go for this meeting against the Spartans and their own quality QB. Both are being mentioned in early 2019 NFL mock drafts and could convince others they're worth of being in that conversation with a great game in early October.
23. Tanner Mangum (BYU) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) - Nov. 3 (Boise, Idaho)
It seems like these two have been at their schools forever but they'll meet for the final time on the blue turf as each looks to end an up-and-down career with a victory in this budding rivalry. The two have actually only played each other in the same game once (last year) but each has shown they can lead their team to a memorable win in the series. Who's the best in the region? We'll find out in November.
24. Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin) vs. Trace McSorley (Penn State) - Oct. 11 (University Park, Pa.)
Hornibrook was terrific in the Orange Bowl to close out last season and it's that kind of performance that has many thinking the Badgers can finally get over the hump in 2018 and win that elusive Big Ten title. Before the team gets to that point however, they'll have to go through the Nittany Lions and a big test on the road that should be between a pair of playoff contenders and their quality quarterbacks as well.
25. Kelly Bryant (Clemson) vs. Ryan Finley (NC State) - Oct. 20 (Clemson, S.C.)
Bryant is getting pushed by five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence but he's still the undisputed No. 1 QB for a team that returns 17 starters and is looking every bit like they'll be back in the playoff once again. Perhaps the biggest test in the ACC for the Tigers will be when the Wolfpack come to town with their talented signal-caller in Finley looking to finally slay the giant after so many narrow misses during his tenure with the team.
-- 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.
(McKenzie Milton photo courtesy of UCF)