Take a look at USA TODAY Sports’ projected top 10 teams ahead of the 2018 college football season.
USA TODAY Sports
When former Wyoming standout Josh Allen is selected in this spring’s NFL draft, he will become the third non-Power Five quarterback in the past three years and the fourth since 2014 to go in the first round. Seven quarterbacks who hailed from outside the Group of Five drew starts in the final weekend of the NFL’s recent regular season.
In other words, most NFL teams see franchise starters among the Group of Five and Football Championship Subdivision ranks, even if those same players often fail to draw major recruiting attention from college football’s top tier.
Let’s get through the upcoming draft before turning to 2019. But this week’s top 10 list asks: Who are the best quarterbacks on the Group of Five level in 2018?
1. McKenzie Milton, Central Florida
Milton finished eighth in the 2017 Heisman Trophy voting, fourth among quarterbacks, and enters his junior campaign as one of the top skill players in college football. Milton’s ability supports the idea that UCF won’t stumble too far in the transition from Scott Frost to Josh Heupel – not right away, at least.
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2. Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
He needs to cut down on his interceptions, as turnovers cost Arkansas State dearly in losses last fall to Nebraska, South Alabama and Troy. Hansen’s 16 interceptions tied for third most in the Football Bowl Subdivision, though they did come across 487 attempts – meaning one interception per every 30 throws. But the Oklahoma transfer also threw for 37 touchdowns and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.
3. Brett Rypien, Boise State
The Broncos went 7-0 a year ago and are 16-2 over the past two seasons when Rypien throws for at least one touchdown. Makes sense. Ahealthy and productive Rypien makes a huge difference for Boise State, which has New Year’s Six aspirations entering the senior’s final season.
4. Malcolm Perry, Navy
Perry is the Midshipmen’s projected starter after a torrid close to last season, including 250 yards on the ground in the narrow loss to rival Army and another 114 yards in the utter destruction of Virginia their bowl game. He’ll eventually have to throw: Perry made just two attempts in 2017, though he spent almost the entire year at running back.
5. Andrew Ford, Massachusetts
Ford could become a trendy name for NFL scouts and talent evaluators after the former Virginia Tech transfer tossed 22 touchdowns against just four interceptions a season ago. That UMass ranked 95th in yards per carry – the offense gained more than four yards per carry just three times last fall – makes Ford’s performance more impressive. But the Minutemen need more balance in 2018.
6. Marcus McMaryion, Fresno State
McMaryion was a bit of a revelation for Fresno State, which was itself quite a revelation, winning nine games as the starter after joining the team as a transfer from Oregon State. How good can he be in 2018? Don’t discount the importance of spending an entire offseason as the Bulldogs’ starter: McMaryion didn’t arrive in time for spring drills last year.
7. Ben Hicks, SMU
Hicks will be the starter for SMU and Sonny Dykes, even if the first-year staff has yet to make that designation official. There should be no doubt that he’s the Mustangs’ best option after taking nearly every important snap since the second game of the 2016 season. His development as a sophomore bodes well for Hicks heading into 2018, as does Dykes’ proven history of quarterback development.
8. Mason Fine, North Texas
Meanwhile, 40 miles and three hours of driving time away from Hicks and SMU, Fine joins Milton as the only returning quarterbacks in the FBS to have thrown for 4,000 yards in 2017. It came with some volume: Hicks unleashed 511 attempts over the course of UNT’s 14 games last fall, making at least 40 attempts in five separate games.
9. Ty Gangi, Nevada
Gangi’s 2017 season had its ups and downs – including an early benching and a pair of three-interception performances. But he closed strong, tossing eight touchdowns against just two picks in Nevada’s last three games. In all, Gangi ended his first full season as the starter with 29 total touchdowns.
10. Gus Ragland, Miami (Ohio)
Since the midway point of 2016, Ragland has thrown 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions. At some point, that stops being a coincidence and starts to represent a theme. While Miami will add Michigan transfer Alex Malzone into the mix this offseason, there should be no unseating Ragland from atop the depth chart.
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