College Football QB Power Rankings: Ranking all 130 starting quarterbacks for 2021

PFN’s inaugural College Football QB Power Rankings analyzes every team’s starting quarterback situation. Who is the best for the 2021 season?

College Football QB Power Rankings for 2021 | 85-99

Passing the century mark, we find some physically gifted young signal-callers who could rise by the time the season ends. Let’s get to it.

99) Brandon Peters | Illinois

Week 5 ranking: 107 (+8)

Brandon Peters has battled through injury and adversity in 2021, as he has during his entire career. He’s now two wins away from clinching bowl eligibility for the Fighting Illini. The veteran signal-caller gives Illinois a boost with his ability to buy time in the pocket, but to be fair, Artur Sitkowski did a valiant job in spot relief duty all season long.

Peters has thrown 4 touchdowns this year against 1 interception. He’s not getting it done through chunk plays. Instead, he takes the checkdown or short underneath route more often than most. Still, that approach chews clock and wins games at times. With bowl eligibility on the line down the stretch, a healthy Peters is absolutely must-watch television.

98) Brendon Lewis | Colorado

Week 5 ranking: 110 (+12)

The Buffs have been a strange team in 2021, but one thing is for certain: they’ve caught fire as of late, at least on the offensive side of the ball. That fire is largely thanks to Brendon Lewis, who has started to grasp the college game down the stretch. He’s thrown 6 touchdowns over his past three games and 10 TDs on the year.

He may not have the best or strongest arm in the conference, but he can get the ball where he wants it more often than not. Lewis has had some solid touch and layering on some of his intermediate passes this season. But perhaps the best part of the youngster’s game is the fact that he’s done a great job of taking care of the football. He’s thrown just 3 interceptions and has tightened up on the ground as well. The big kid from Texas may have a bright future after all.

97) Austin Aune | North Texas

Week 5 ranking: 109 (+12)

Don’t look now, but the Mean Green have won three in a row, and Austin Aune is dotting throws left and right. It’s a little too much to make up for a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season, but their three most recent outings have been more of what you’d expect from a Seth Littrell-coached squad. For the year, Aune has completed just 51.3% of his throws and is averaging only 6.1 yards per attempt.

But during North Texas’ three-game winning streak, Aune has played some of his best football. He’s thrown for 777 yards while running for another 113 yards and a score on the ground. Some of Aune’s greatest throws of the season have come as of late, including some miraculous deep shots. The Mean Green could very well be 5-6 with an 11-0 UTSA team as their opponent in their season finale.

96) Zach Calzada | Texas A&M

Week 5 ranking: 114 (+18)

Zach Calzada is a tough quarterback to read. He rises in our College QB Rankings after rallying to victories over Alabama and Auburn. Yet, he hasn’t played his best football recently. Sure, he’s had some dropped passes, but he’s been late to the sidelines and missed underneath coverage defenders all too many times to breed much confidence moving forward.

On the season, Calzada has thrown 9 interceptions compared to 12 touchdowns, and he hasn’t thrown a TD since Week 8 against South Carolina. He’s 11th in the SEC in passing yards (1,793) and ranks last among full-time starters in completion percentage (55.2%). He’s won more games than he hasn’t, but Calzada will have to work on consistency if he wants to keep the job in 2022.

95) Chandler Rogers | UL-Monroe

Week 5 ranking: 124 (+29)

Chandler Rogers has two marquee victories to his credit this season, knocking off Malik Willis and Jake Bentley in wins over Liberty and South Alabama, respectively. He also has subpar performances against Texas State, Coastal Carolina, and Arkansas State as he’s battled injuries with his reckless game. Nonetheless, he gives the Warhawks a chance to win games more so than the rest of their quarterbacks have this season — and that includes his two-QB system-mate Rhett Rodriguez.

Rogers has thrown for 1,259 passing yards and 8 touchdowns in just five complete games that he’s started and finished. He’s run the ball 128 times for 327 yards, adding a dynamic ability with his legs that is necessary for success given ULM’s lack of pass protection this season.

94) Dylan Morris | Washington

Week 5 ranking: 96 (+2)

Without a head coach and without a guaranteed postseason, the end of the line is near for Dylan Morris and the Huskies in a rough 2021 campaign. Morris currently ranks third in the conference with 2,071 passing yards, but he leads the Pac-12 with 10 interceptions. He’s combated those 10 picks with just 12 scores, and he hasn’t done enough to elevate the players around him to win more than four games this season.

Concerning for Morris is the fact that he lacks accuracy on everyday throws. We’re talking about those throws short of the sticks or even behind the line of scrimmage, throws that even armchair quarterbacks can make. Morris struggles to get the ball to his playmakers in space or on the perimeter. A change of scenery or change in head coach may do wonders for Morris.

93) Jeff Sims, Jordan Yates | Georgia Tech

Week 5 ranking: 102 (+9)

There’s no denying the talent in Jeff Sims’ arm or his athletic ability. His decision-making improvements will come in time, as he’s already taken strides in that direction in 2021. Yet, he’s missed time due to injury and lost his starting job to Jordan Yates in the team’s most recent outing against Boston College.

Sims has thrown for 1,468 passing yards compared to Yates’ 739, but Yates is completing passes at a higher rate. Two-quarterback systems rarely work out in the long run, and Georgia Tech is proof of that, as they’ve lost four straight and seven of 10. Sims appears to be the better of the duo, as well as the younger athlete with more upside. It would make sense for the program to see more of him, as the year ends with Notre Dame and Georgia on the schedule.

92) Michael Pratt | Tulane

Week 5 ranking: 35 (-57)

Michael Pratt plays a great brand of football. Unfortunately for the Green Wave, his brand of football hasn’t quite led to victories this season. He’s also missed time this year, but he’s clearly the answer for Tulane in the long run. Pratt has completed 57.4% of his passes for 1,923 yards and is averaging the same 7.1 yards per attempt he did during his true freshman campaign in 2020.

Best in the quick game, Pratt is a great thrower of the football when in rhythm but tries to do too much when the play breaks down. He has some good mobility but does tuck his eyes too quickly at times. Maturity will come in time, and Year 3 will be a make-or-break year for him and the Green Wave.

91) Gunnar Watson, Taylor Powell | Troy

Week 5 ranking: 47 (-44)

Both Gunnar Watson and Taylor Powell have eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing plateau this year, but they’ve done it in different ways. Powell thrives in the short-area game but struggles on passes downfield or outside of structure. Watson is great at pushing the ball downfield and has success outside of the structure of the offense.

With Watson back in for the long haul, it appears the Trojans have their best chance of upsetting App State in Week 12. If not, they’ll have to hope Watson is the man to rise in these QB rankings.

90) Graham Mertz | Wisconsin

Week 5 ranking: 115 (+25)

What is there to say about Graham Mertz? The Wisconsin QB has defined the task of evaluating players on what they can and cannot do, and most importantly, what can be coached. Mertz is a highly inaccurate passer, and he must find success with a simplified passing attack. When he does have a simplified passing attack and a great rushing game, he finds some consistency through the air.

Those two offensive features have started rolling in during Wisconsin’s last two games, where Mertz has combined to throw 5 touchdowns while posting more than 200 yards in each outing. It still doesn’t erase the 9 interceptions he’s thrown this season, but it’s a start.

He has immense talent but has yet to fully harness it at the collegiate level. Weeks 10 and 11 have been a different story, though, and Mertz can expect to see another similar rise in our College QB Rankings if he keeps up that level of play.

89) Sean Clifford | Penn State

Week 5 ranking: 44 (-45)

It could be said that the Nittany Lions let the wrong quarterback leave when Will Levis transferred to Kentucky. Or it could be said that they preferred the wrong quarterback, as Clifford has been the downfall of an otherwise loaded team in 2021. He currently has 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while ranking third in the Big Ten with 2,576 passing yards, but he has lacked elevation in his game. He also has lacked big-time throws and accuracy on his passes at key moments.

Despite the nice-looking box score stats, Penn State has lost four of their last five games, as they’ve been too short with the football and inconsistent on offense. Clifford has been late to read his receiver assignments and even later, at times, to get the ball to his receivers despite their separation skills.

88) Timmy McClain | USF

Week 5 ranking: 128 (+40)

Timmy McClain caps one of the biggest rises in these College QB Rankings. He’s been dynamic for the Bulls, and surprisingly, the wins have started to roll in with him. Alright, fine, it was one win, but USF has made competitive games out of bouts with BYU, Houston, Tulsa, and Cincinnati over the past six weeks. McClain is a big reason why, and he’s thrown for 1,534 yards in the process.

McClain’s best attribute as he continues to adjust to the college game is his legs. He’s run for 276 yards and 3 touchdowns, giving a level of dynamic ability to the Bulls’ run-heavy offense. The reigning Florida 8A High School State Champion QB has dramatically turned around the USF program. As he’ll get better, so will the Bulls.

87) Kurtis Rourke | Ohio

Week 5 ranking: 104 (+17)

Apparently, midweek MAC play has brought out the best in Kurtis Rourke. He’s thrown 3 touchdowns in back-to-back games, each of which has been played on a Tuesday. Ohio has won both games and, despite a 3-7 season record, still has a chance to win the MAC East.

Rourke has been lights out in the month of November, throwing 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He’s got the Bobcats’ offense humming through MAC play like it’s 2019 and his brother is behind center. Rourke has great control over what Ohio is trying to accomplish, and his rushing prowess has set the stage for some terrific downfield passing.

It’s too early to tell, but another win in midweek MACtion and some help from Miami (OH) could push Ohio into the conference championship game. Either way you Drake it down, Rourke has the Bobcats as must-watch TV right now. Paraphrasing his Canadian brethren, Rourke’s got OU going up, on a Tuesday!

86) Casey Thompson | Texas

Week 5 ranking: 54 (-32)

The cluster of Big 12 quarterbacks ends here, as Casey Thompson’s inconsistencies have marred some otherwise great performances. The Longhorns have lost five straight games despite scoring 48 points against Oklahoma and 56 against Kansas. The offense is largely not at fault for the team’s troubles, and Thompson has had his moments to shine.

Thompson leads the Big 12 with 23 passing touchdowns, but his 7 interceptions are second-most in the conference. Combine that with the fact that 16 of those touchdowns have come in just three games, and you’ve got a mediocre quarterback. Thompson has a big arm and an even better heart, but his awareness dips too low at times. He struggles to maintain consistency not just from game to game but from down to down.

Growing pains were to be expected for the ‘Horns this season, but five consecutive losses and a quarterback with consistency issues were certainly not. It’s now to the point that Thompson may have to earn his starting role back through spring and fall camp.

85) Jarret Doege | West Virginia

Week 5 ranking: 70 (-15)

Jarret Doege is a classic example of risking the biscuit. He leads the Big 12 with 2,448 passing yards while also topping the conference with 10 interceptions. He’s thrown some incredible passes yet again this season (most notably down in the red zone), but he’s also had his fair share of stinkers through the process. Unlike last season, Doege is hot and cold at times. He’s already thrown more than twice as many interceptions this year than he did in 2020.

Doege can sling it when he’s kept upright, something his offensive line has done a good job of this year. But his accuracy takes a dip when he’s forced to push the ball outside the numbers. The fifth-year quarterback has the experience advantage in seemingly every game, yet it hasn’t seemed to matter at times.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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