This weekend proved exactly why it’s worth it for us to write this new series.
Between Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson on one end of the spectrum and Luke Falk and Jarrett Stidham on the other, it was a bit of a week for college quarterback performances. Let’s start, though, with the one they’ll be talking about all week…
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma vs. Ohio State): 27-for-35, 386 yards, 3 TD
Mayfield simply took the Sooners into Columbus and routed the second-ranked team in the nation, getting Oklahoma some revenge for last year’s game that had the opposite result. If Mayfield keeps it up all season and stays in the Heisman conversation, this will be his Heisman moment:
Baker Mayfield just did that. pic.twitter.com/Qo2Aw1pPE8
— ESPN (@espn) September 10, 2017
I know winning a big college game rarely translates to a highly successful NFL career. He’s only 6-foot-1, I get it, I get it. I’ll simply say that if you can lead a college team into Ohio Stadium and beat a stacked non-conference opponent so elegantly, you can probably lead an NFL team to beat the Browns or Texans with ease. More game film will be required for a more nuanced take, but right now this writer believes in Mayfield.
Lamar Jackson (Louisville vs. North Carolina): 25-for-39, 393 yards, 3 TD; 19 carries, 132 yards, 3 TD
People are starting to remember who won the Heisman Trophy last December, and they’re also starting to realize that people view that player as the sixth- or seventh-best quarterback in college football right now. That’s just wrong on so many levels.
It might be overshadowed by Mayfield’s statement game against Ohio State, but Lamar Jackson’s game against the Tar Heels was insane. It’s becoming clear how much of a talent gap there is between Jackson and all his teammates — Louisville was down 28-27 after three quarters — but as long as the team is in these close games, the Heisman winner will have reason to own the field the way he’s been doing. If you’re scoring at home, Jackson has accounted for 1,010 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns in two games.
Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State vs. South Alabama): 25-for-38, 335 yards, 3 TD; 4 carries, 18 yards, 1 TD
Not to be outdone by his conference and in-state rival — well, actually, Mayfield did “outdo” Rudolph this weekend, but the Cowboys’ quarterback had a nice little game for himself too. He’s known for having one of the country’s best wide receivers, James Washington, but Rudolph spread the ball around Friday night. Seven players caught at least two passes from Rudolph, and Washington himself had just two, including a 66-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State creamed a much lesser opponent 44-7 and moved to no. 9 in the AP poll.
Josh Rosen (UCLA vs. Hawaii): 22-for-25, 329 yards, 5 TD
Oh, ho-hum, just five touchdown passes and three incompletions for Rosen on a short week after his thrilling comeback win against Texas A&M. Again, nobody is writing home about the Hawaii defense, so take all of these early-season mismatches for what they are. Still, Rosen has thrown for 820 yards and nine TDs in two games, the most of anyone on this list, and he has thrown for the most yardage without allowing an interception in the country. Now that the Bruins are ranked 25th in the AP poll, seven of the eight field generals on this list lead teams ranked in the top 25; Josh Allen is the lone outlier.
Josh Allen (Wyoming vs. Gardner-Webb): 22-for-32, 328 yards, 2 TD
How do you bounce back from a season-opening loss to a Power Five opponent? You schedule a game with a college with one of most liberal-artsy names out there, that’s what you do. Allen’s confidence must have returned after he helped the Cowboys manage a 27-0 victory against this FCS squad.
Sam Darnold (USC vs. Stanford): 21-for-26, 316 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
Darnold threw a couple of picks against the Cardinal defense, and of the eight contenders on this list he has the highest interception total so far (four, including two last week). That aside, only five of Darnold’s throws weren’t completed, meaning he threw exactly one incompletion to go along with four touchdown strikes. No. 6 USC beat their 14th-ranked rivals 42-24 with 307 yards on the ground, nearly matching Darnold’s passing total.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn vs. Clemson): 13-for-24, 79 yards; 18 carries, -42 yards
Yes, that’s negative 42 rushing yards for the supposedly dual-threat QB. Facing third-ranked Clemson, Stidham was sacked 11 times and couldn’t generate a touchdown as Auburn lost 14-6. He finished the game with a QBR of 9.2. This was a discouraging loss, but it came against one of the nation’s top teams, so we will reserve judgment for now about whether Stidham belongs on the same list as the quarterbacks above him.
Luke Falk (Washington State vs. Boise State): 24-for-34, 193 yards, 1 INT; left game with injury
All in one game, Falk became Washington State’s all-time leading passer, was benched, returned from the bench and left again with an injury. Really. In a back-and-forth affair with the Broncos that the Cougs ended up winning in triple overtime, 47-44. Head coach Mike Leach benched Falk in the third quarter, but when backup Tyler Hilinski threw an interception, Falk returned to the game on WSU’s next possession. He was promptly blasted by defenders and fumbled the ball, which Boise State returned for a score, but Falk left the game limping and looking “woozy” according to the Spokane Spokesman Review. It’s safe to say Falk is trending down on our list, and we’ll keep an eye on his health going forward.