10. Trace McSorley, Sr. Penn State
He loses Saquon Barkley to hand off to and Joe Moorhead as his offensive coordinator, but he’s still coming into the season as the Big Ten’s best quarterback.
Always a wee bit unsung with Barkley getting most of the limelight, McSorley was just as valuable, if not more so – especially late in the Iowa game – hitting 67% of his passes on the year for 3,570 yards and 28 scores. Dangerous on the ground, he ran for 491 yards and 11 touchdowns. Now the offense is all his.
9. McKenzie Milton, Jr. UCF
Just 5-11 and 185 pounds, he’s not all that big and doesn’t have a huge arm, but get ready for his already Heisman-caliber stats to go through the roof.
He’s not going to be quite as efficient as he was last year, but under new head coach Josh Heupel, expect at least 40 touchdown passes – he threw for 37 – and hit 4,000 yards again with ease.
Taking off for 637 yards and eight touchdowns, he’ll still run, but probably not quite as much. That’s okay – the passing numbers will make up for it.
8. Justin Herbert, Jr. Oregon
Okay, okay, okay … he might be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft and should technically be higher based on talent and upside. 6-6 bombers with his mobility and skills are rare, but first he has to put together a full season after seeing time in just eight games in each of the first two years.
Accurate, efficient, and a next-level decision and difference maker – Oregon all but went in the tank when he was out in the middle of last year – Herbert has to get used to the intense NFL scouting scrutiny that’s already here. If he can stay in one piece for the entire year, Oregon is going to push hard for the Pac-12 title.
7. Tua Tagovailoa, Soph. Alabama
Don’t be 100%, bet-the-kids-bet-the-house certain that it won’t be Jalen Hurts under center for the opener against Louisville. However, Tagovailoa will be a major factor in a rotation if that’s true.
Of course, the more likely scenario is that the national championship hero is the starter from Day One and he doesn’t let go of the gig. Tagovailoa isn’t the runner that Hurts is, but the passing skills are at a whole other level. This is the dynamic all-around quarterback missing from the Nick Saban era, and the fan base is ready for him.
6. Jarrett Stidham, Sr. Auburn
He doesn’t have quite the NFL buzz of Drew Lock or Justin Herbert, but with his size and arm, that could change in a big hurry.
A wee bit underappreciated, he was brilliant in the wins over Alabama and Georgia, but bad games against Clemson – hardly his fault – LSU, and in the second go-round with the Bulldogs took away a bit of the luster.
He hit the 200-yard mark in ten of his last 12 games, and even threw for 331 yards in the loss to UCF. As long as he’s connecting on 67% of his passes again and pushing the ball down the field, the Tiger offense will be devastating.
5. Jake Browning, Sr. Washington
Forget about him coming anywhere near the 43-touchdowns pass total of 2016, but going into his fourth year as the starter, he’s going to hover around the 70% accuracy mark, and on this team, that’s enough. He’ll hit the deep throws, and he’ll be the veteran leader for a team good enough to win a second Pac-12 title in the last three seasons.
Dangerous as a runner around the goal line, he’ll come up with his share of scores. But it’ll be his efficiency and accuracy that make him the right fit for the loaded Huskies.
4. Jake Fromm, Soph. Georgia
One important caveat here – this could change in a huge hurry over the next few weeks.
Justin Fields might just be too good to not be the Georgia starting quarterback.
But Fromm might just be too good to keep that from happening for a few years.
The coolest guy in the room in the dogfight of a CFP National Championship, he only hit half of his passes, but he was the difference maker for a while in key moments against the dominant Bama D.
The overall stats might not be there with the way Georgia did and will run the ball, but give him time, and he’s deadly accurate with a fearless attitude when it comes to making the big throw.
The guy is just a true sophomore. He’s going to get better … if he holds off Fields.
3. Drew Lock, Sr. Missouri
The 6-4, 225-pounder isn’t going to put up 44 touchdown passes and close to 4,000 yards again this year, but that’s okay – the offense is going to be a bit more controlled under new coordinator Derek Dooley.
He has to prove he can be a consistent 65% passer – he’s hitting just 55% for his career – and he has to have a few big wins on the big stages, but when it comes to the NFL skill set, it’s there.
2. Will Grier, Sr. West Virginia
And here’s your next great Big 12 quarterback who’ll be a must-see each and every week.
As long as Grier can stay healthy, the passing game numbers are going to be ridiculous with David Sills, Gary Jennings and the amazing Mountaineer receiving corps returning. Last year, he threw for almost 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns despite missing the last few games.
He’s accurate, experienced, fearless, and talented enough to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 40 scores. More importantly, he’s going to be good enough to potentially take West Virginia to the Big 12 Championship game.
1. Khalil Tate, Jr. Arizona
As long as the interceptions come down – he threw nine – and the rest of the passing game really does take that next step, it’s uh-oh time for the Pac-12.
There was a moment last season when Tate was on such a breathlessly amazing pace as a runner, he seemed ready to steal the Heisman away from Baker Mayfield. But the production stalled over the last few games, the losses started to come, and the string of 100-yard rushing games ended at six. Even so, he finished with 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging over nine yards per carry.
He showed in the bowl loss to Purdue that he could throw, too, with a 302-yard, five touchdown day, and that’s the scary part.
The running is obviously there, and he can push the ball down the field when needed. So if he can just be consistent and hold up despite having all 11 defenders keying on him at all times, he should be Kevin Sumlin’s next superstar college playmaker.
And he should be the signature quarterback star of the 2018 season.