#SEC

Ranking the collective quarterbacks, league by league, for the 2017 season

national quarterbacks rankings
PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS

Last week, we talked about how – for the first time in a while – the SEC didn’t have to be embarrassed by its quarterbacks. Man, we struck a nerve.

Maybe it’s because SEC quarterback play – top to bottom, league-wide, on an annual basis – has been borderline rancid for much of this decade and folks can’t believe that can change.

Well, it has. Does the SEC have the best quarterbacks, as a collective group, nationally? It does not. But it does rank high.

How high? Read on.

We broke down the quarterbacks in each of the 10 FBS leagues in four ways. First, we picked the top quarterback in each league. We listed quarterbacks who already are in the top tier nationally (for this exercise, “top tier” means one of the top 10 or 12 nationally). We listed quarterbacks who could move into the top tier. We also listed quarterbacks who already are or could move into the second tier (a top-25 or -30 quarterback nationally).

10. Sun Belt

Marquee attraction: Idaho’s Matt Linehan.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Linehan, Troy’s Brandon Silvers.
The skinny: Linehan is the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who formerly was coach of the St. Louis Rams. Linehan will be a four-year starter for the Vandals and threw for 3,184 yards and 19 TDs last season. Silvers threw for 3,180 yards and 23 TDs, but he also tossed 12 picks. Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen has 3,000-yard potential, too.

RELATED: The 100 best games of the 2017 college football season

9. Conference USA

Marquee attraction: Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Stockstill, Western Kentucky’s Mike White.
The skinny: Stockstill missed three games last season (games in which MTSU scored 132 points, by the way) and still threw for 3,233 yards; he threw for 4,005 in 2015, and he has a multitude of weapons. White is No. 2 nationally among returning passers after throwing for 4,363 yards last season. But he has a new coach and will be working with a new receiving corps. Stockstill and White are a high-level 1-2 punch. The rest of the league’s quarterbacks? Ehhh.

8. Mid-American

Marquee attraction: Toledo’s Logan Woodside.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Woodside, Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback.
The skinny: Woodside threw for 4,129 yards and a nation’s-leading 45 TDs last season; he threw at least three TD passes in all 12 regular-season games. Roback was 22nd in the nation last season in total offense, at 291.7 yards per game. He’s a physical runner and a good passer, with six 300-yard outings last season. Akron’s Thomas Woodson, Miami’s Sam Ragland and Bowling Green’s James Morgan also are worth watching.

RELATED: A league-by-league look at non-conference schedules

7. AAC

Marquee attraction: USF’s Quinton “Winky” Flowers.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: Flowers.
2nd tier, now or potential: Flowers, Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.
The skinny: Flowers is a playmaking machine, though he can become a more refined passer. Ferguson, who began his career at Tennessee, is a nice fit for coach Mike Norvell at Memphis; he threw for 3,698 yards and 32 TDs last season. Others to watch are Hayden Moore at Cincinnati, Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen at Houston and (presumably) Ben Hicks at SMU, who plays in a quarterback-friendly offense for coach Chad Morris.

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