Each week a number of quarterbacks get far too much praise for their team’s win and/or far too much criticism for their team’s loss. That statement alone could be the topic of a long, interesting article, but we can save that for another time, say when it is not football season and when we are reaching for topics to cover. With that said, after each weekend we are going to dive into each Group of 5 Conference and break down the top QB performances of the week for each conference, as well as briefly touch on the current state of QB play within the conference. For simplicity sake, games against FCS opponents will not be in contention for top QB performances of the week. These breakdowns will be more than just stats, as stats can be misleading one way or another. Let’s dive in.
American Athletic Conference
- McKenzie Milton, UCF – No surprise here. He picked up right where he left off from last year, throwing for 346yds, 5tds, and adding another 50yds rushing in their 56-17 blowout win versus UConn. Milton’s best ball of the day came on his first TD pass of the game which was a 34yd TD to Tre Nixon. He demonstrated his accuracy, arm strength, and athleticism all in that play by eluding a tackler and rolling out of the pocket and throwing a dime to the back of the end zone. I knew Milton was a good athlete who could move a little bit, but watching this game, he looked more athletic than he’s often given credit for. If he can avoid some of the hits he took during this game and stay healthy, expect Milton to be a top performer week in and week out.
- D’Eriq King, UH – UH came out slow and was losing to Rice at half time 24-17. They ended up outscoring Rice in the second half 28-3 led by King’s three touchdowns in the second half. He finished the day with 320yds passing, 3 passing TDS, as well as 33yds rushing and another TD on the ground in UH’s 45-27 win over their cross-town rival. King does not have a super strong arm, but it is strong enough and for the most part he was accurate with the ball on Saturday, especially in the second half. He is a much better passer than given credit for, and Rice’s defense was concerned about King’s mobility, which helped open up some passing lanes. Even when King doesn’t run, just the threat of the possibility of him running will be in the back of defenses’ minds, which will continue to help King in the passing game.
Rest of The Conference – The rest of the conference’s QB play was hard to break down as five of the games were against FCS opponents. If Memphis QB Brady White and USF QB Blake Barnett play the rest of the season like they did against their FCS opponents, this could be a good quarterback conference. I was a little disappointed in Nutile’s performance for Temple and was expecting Hicks from SMU to play a lot better. This is only week one so there is plenty of time for quarterbacks and teams to improve.
- Mason Fine, UNT – Just like Milton, no surprise here. The 2017 C-USA Offensive Player of The Year picked right up where he left off. Even for Mason Fine this was a big night for him throwing for 444yds along with 3tds. The most impressive part of his night was only having 10 incompletions as he completed 40 out of his 50 pass attempts. UNT was up 36-0 going into the 4th quarter, so Fine could have put up even bigger numbers if they did not pull back on the reins a bit. Continue to look for Fine to be one of the top performers each week.
- Isaiah Green, Marshall – In Green’s first career collegiate start he threw for 272yds, 2tds, and completed 24 of his 37 attempted passes. He was a big reason why they beat Miami Ohio, though Miami almost came back. Green is someone I know little about and was expecting to see transfer QB Thomson play. Not sure who will be the guy in the future, but this was a great first career start for Green, and he could be Marshalls next stud QB.
Rest of The Conference – This is a good quarterback conference, even if there were only two top performers this week. Some schools played some FCS teams and others played some big time Power 5 schools that led to lopsided wins and losses that I won’t take too much into consideration. I really wanted to include Middle Tenn QB Stockstill even with so-so stats. His numbers weren’t sexy, but he played tough and hard against Vandy’s defense. He took some shots and kept fighting and the game was closer than the score says it was. Interested to seeing how FAU’s QB situation plays out as well. Several of the teams still have QB questions, but the top 4-5 QB’s in the conference can spin it.
- Gus Ragland, Miami Ohio – Miami was down for most the game, but Ragland kept fighting and slinging it, however they ended up losing by a TD to Marshall 35-28. Ragland ended up with 357yds passing and 3tds, two of those TDS came in the 4th Ragland is a guy to keep an eye on this year.
- Woody Barrett, Kent State – This was the surprise of the day for me as far as quarterback play goes. A transfer from Auburn, he won the starting job and played extremely well for most of the game. In his first collegiate start, he threw for 270yds, 2tds, 2ints, completed 28 passes out of 41 attempts, and also ran for 117yds and a td. If Barrett continues to play like this week in and week out, maybe Kent State can start climbing out of the bottom of the MAC.
Rest of The Conference – Like the other Group of 5 Conferences, several teams played FCS schools while other splayed big Power 5 schools, which made it hard to break down the QB’s. However, like most years, this conference has a chance to produce some good quarterbacks. I was a little disappointed with Rourke’s play for Ohio, he was just 2 out of 8 passing and was losing to Howard until he got benched. I was high on him coming into the season so it will be interesting to see if he gets his job back and how that situation works out.
- Cole McDonald, Hawaii – How do you not put this guy number one? This may be the best QB performance for the whole Group of 5 for Week 1. He picked up where he left off against Colorado State the previous week and shows no signs of slowing down. He finished the game with 428yds passing, 6tds, and was 30 for 41 in completions and attempts. It is too early to claim anything yet, but back-to-back weeks against CSU and Navy does not seem like a fluke to me. I see why Dru Brown transferred. Look for McDonald to keep slinging the rock and lead Hawaii back to a bowl game.
- Brett Rypien, Boise State – Rypien came out slinging and had his way with the Troy defense. He finished the day with 305yds passing, 4tds, and had 20 completions out of 28 attempts. 276yds came in the first half as they were up 42-7 at one point in the 3rd quarter with no reason for Rypien to keep throwing. The final score was 56-20. Rypien was barely under any pressure and displayed a good and accurate arm. A few of his td passes were absolute dimes. Look for him to have his best year yet his senior season.
- Jordan Love, Utah State – This was by far my favorite quarterback performance from any guy from the G5 conferences this week. If someone just glanced at his stats and didn’t watch the game, they would miss the whole picture. He did end up completing 29 out of his 44 pass attempts for 319yds, 2ints, and 1 rushing score. Utah State ended up losing 38-31 in a thriller, but without Love’s performance it would have been more like 38-10 or worse. He went toe to toe with Michigan State the whole time and didn’t back down from the Big 10 atmosphere. He stood tall in the pocket, delivered good balls throughout the night and wasn’t afraid to attack the middle of the field. He is also strong and athletic enough to make accurate throws on the run from awkward positions, which he demonstrated on Friday night.
Rest of The Conference – This conference has a chance to produce some pretty good quarterbacks. I think Rogers from UNLV can have a good year. He had some good moments vs USC, throwing and running. Fresno’s McMaryion and Nevada’s Gangi can both end up having big years after both facing an FCS opponent this past week. There are a few unknowns at QB in this conference, but it could have five or six solid QBs with another one or two showing some life. We will see.
- Zac Thomas, App St – This was Thomas’ first career college start; he is replacing Taylor Lamb at QB who was a four-year starter, oh and not to mention had to open up the season at Penn State. All Thomas did was pass for 270yds, 2 passing tds, and rush for 43 yards with a rushing td. It was a tough and gutsy performance by Thomas, which looked to rub off on his teammates as they believed 100 percent they were going to win that game. They ended up losing 45-38 in overtime, but with a performance like this, the whole SBC is on watch now.
Rest of The Conference – This is probably the conference I have the least grasp on as far as their QB play goes. Hansen will obviously be a stud for Ark State and Evans as well for ULM, but after that there are a lot of questions and unknowns. We should have a better read on the state of QB play from this conference as the season progresses.
- Stephen Calvert, Liberty – Calvert put up huge numbers vs Old Dominion in a game which they won 52-10. He completed 25 of his 36 pass attempts with 345yds through the air and 4tds. Last year when Liberty upset Baylor, he was the main reason why they won. Even though the score was so lopsided verses ODU in Liberty’s favor, again Calvert was the main reason why. He has a gunslinger mentality and knows what to do with the ball each play.
Overall there were several elite quarterback performances in Week 1 from the smaller conferences. However, there are still a lot of unknowns and question marks at the position with a lot of blow outs in each direction vs Power 5 schools and FCS schools. Once we get into conference play we will have a better breakdown of the state of QB play in each conference, but Week 1 has provided us some good glimpses into the G5’s QBs this season.