6. Mountain West
Marquee attraction: Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: Allen.
2nd tier, now or potential: Allen, Boise State’s Brett Rypien.
The skinny: Allen is seen as a likely first-round pick in 2018; he has some rough edges, for sure, but look for them to be smoothed even more this season. Rypien’s uncle, Mark, is a former NFL quarterback, and Brett threw for 3,646 yards last season. New Mexico’s Lamar Jordan can’t throw, but he does a great job in the Lobos’ triple-option offense and has 1,000-yard potential. Colorado State’s Nick Stevens, San Diego State’s Christian Chapman and Fresno State’s Chason Virgil are others to watch; Virgil will benefit big time from new coach Jeff Tedford.
5. Big Ten
Marquee attraction: Penn State’s Trace McSorley.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: McSorley, Ohio State’s J.T Barrett.
2nd tier, now or potential: McSorley, Barrett, Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, Purdue’s David Blough, Nebraska’s Tanner Lee.
The skinny: McSorley led the Big Ten in total offense last season and should do so again. He is a good passer and can be a dangerous runner. Barrett still needs to become more consistent as a passer; while he completed 61.5 percent of his passes, he had three games where he completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts. Thorson is going to be a third-year starter and made big strides as a passer last season. Blough threw 3,352 yards and 25 TDs last season – but he also threw 21 picks; he should benefit greatly from the arrival of new coach Jeff Brohm. Lee began his career at Tulane, and his skill set meshes well with what Huskers coach Mike Riley wants to do offensively; he could be in line for a surprisingly big season.
Marquee attraction: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
Top tier nationally: Jackson.
Potential top tier: Florida State’s Deondre Francois.
2nd tier, now or potential: Francois, Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, NC State’s Ryan Finley, Duke’s Daniel Jones.
The skinny: Jackson is the reigning Heisman winner and put up 5,114 yards of total offense last season. Francois had some ups-and-downs as a redshirt freshman starter, but he has a nice upside, assuming FSU’s line can protect him better than it did last season. Dungey’s health remains a concern, but his dual-threat abilities make him dangerous in coach Dino Babers’ up-tempo spread. Finley began his career at Boise State and quietly threw for 3,059 yards last season; he has the potential for more in this offense. Jones threw for almost 3,000 yards as a redshirt freshman last season, and given coach David Cutcliffe’s track record with quarterbacks, more should be expected this season.
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