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 | 70-84

There are still a few teams who have used several QBs throughout the season among this group, including the 84th-ranked school. Let’s continue!

84) Henry Colombi, Donovan Smith | Texas Tech

Week 5 ranking: 33 (-51)

We were probably a bit high when we ranked Henry Colombi 33rd after he entered the lineup for Tyler Shough. Yet, we may never really know, as Colombi was injured against Oklahoma, allowing freshman QB Donovan Smith to enter the fold. Smith threw for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown against the Sooners while trying to make a game of it.

He then started the Week 11 contest against Iowa State that was won in a heroic fashion by Texas Tech kicker Jonathan Garibay. Smith has been truly terrific this season for the Red Raiders, and he may be the quarterback of the future for the new regime in Lubbock. Through just one start and the majority of the action against Oklahoma, Smith has thrown for 584 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Impressively, Smith is completing 78% of his passes. If he can keep this up, maybe there will be a Texas Tech quarterback to crack the top 35 quarterbacks this season after all.

83) Holton Ahlers | ECU

Week 5 ranking: 91 (+8)

Holton Ahlers is a tough read this season. He’s not quite on pace to throw for the gaudy numbers he did back in 2019, and he’s seemingly lost a bit of pep in his throws in 2021. Yet, the Pirates are 6-4 and on a three-game winning streak. Ahlers has thrown for 2,497 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those numbers may sound good, but he ranks as a middling AAC quarterback this year.

The big-armed lefty has dropped his accuracy a touch this season and is completing just 61% of his passes, eighth in the conference among full-time starters. The moxie is still there, and he’s already matched his career-high in rushing touchdowns (6). But Ahlers seems to have regressed just slightly through the air.

82) Zach Gibson | Akron

Week 5 ranking: 98 (originally ranked as DJ Irons)

Gibson is the only full-time starting quarterback with 130 pass attempts and no interceptions thrown this season. In doing so, he clearly leads the MAC with a 10-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. Despite that, Akron has won only two games this year and head coach Tom Arth has gotten the ax.

Gibson took over for the Zips in their lone FBS win this season (Bowling Green in Week 6), accounting for his lack of total production. He has played the majority of snaps at quarterback in just four games this season but Gibson has given Akron a chance in each of them. In total, the third-year “redshirt freshman” has completed 69.9% of his passes for 1,151 yards and finished his full-time games with a record of 1-3. Two of those losses have been by a total of 11 points as well.

81) Chase Garbers | Cal

Week 5 ranking: 83 (+2)

With their Week 11 matchup against USC canceled, the Golden Bears will be on the road to close out the season and unable to reach bowl-eligible status. Garbers can return The Axe back to Berkeley and subsequently save the season in the process for the Bears if he were to beat Stanford in Week 12. That is, of course, if he can return from a positive COVID-19 test that shut down the USC game.

On the field, Garbers has set career-highs in passing yards (1,979), pass completions (171), and has his sights set on toppling his previous season-best passing touchdowns. The pro-style offense isn’t doing Garbers many favors in terms of pitting to his strengths, but he’s still picked and chosen his shots well this season.

80) Layne Hatcher | Arkansas State

Week 5 ranking: 55 (-25)

Hatcher has finally grasped the starting role for the Red Wolves after splitting time with James Blackman for the first six weeks of action. Hatcher has battled through two-QB systems for three seasons now, and the fruits of his labor have finally broken through to a victory as he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder or exit the field during a hot streak.

Despite splitting reps, Hatcher is still fifth in the Sun Belt in passing yards at 1,873. However, he’s already thrown a conference-leading 11 interceptions, a new career-high. The majority of those interceptions have come since he’s taken the starting reins from Blackman with multi-interception games over his last three outings. Hatcher possesses a great arm and can throw from multiple platforms. He’ll have to get out of his head if they want to win more than two games in 2021 as the season comes to a close with winnable games.

79) Adrian Martinez | Nebraska

Week 5 ranking: 71 (-8)

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Adrian Martinez will be in the preseason Heisman discussion any time he’s on a collegiate roster. While his numbers this season indicate a slight uptick in his level of play, he still has largely played below expectations for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has lost four straight and six of their past seven games as they find themselves sixth in the B1G West.

Martinez has had his moments, but they’ve been far too few and between. He’s back to playing his brand of football that is not as high-level as his statistical output may illustrate. Martinez has thrown for 2,512 passing yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 502 yards and 12 TDs on the ground. Yet, the ‘Huskers have been largely outmatched and outplayed on offense.

78) Bo Nix | Auburn

Week 5 ranking: 112 (+36)

His season is over after he fractured his ankle, but Bo Nix did impress in 2021. Despite Auburn losing two straight and three of their past five, Nix was doing his all to keep the Tigers in games. He’s come a long way from being benched against Georgia State and watching TJ Finley become the hero who led them to victory. But sometimes, a punch in the face is exactly what a player needs to improve.

Nix’s downfield passing has clearly taken a leap this season, but his down-for-down accuracy and decision-making have not. He’s still the troublesome, unruly, unsustainable quarterback that has haunted Auburn for the past few years. With Nix’s injury removing him from the lineup, it’s Finley’s turn to move the ball down the stretch.

77) Mikey Keene | UCF

Week 5 ranking: 89 (+12)

There were always going to be growing pains as the Knights went from Dillon Gabriel to Mikey Keene. The true freshman took a few games to adjust but has settled in nicely for UCF. He’s rattled off a couple of wins and complete games, but he’s shown inconsistency in his play which can largely be attributed to his youth. When he is on his game, Keene has a solid arm and, like his predecessor, loves to hit his receivers downfield and outside the numbers.

Fortunately for Keene and UCF fans, the youngster has shown that he has all the arm strength and ability to hit those deep shots early on in his career. Keene has thrown 13 touchdowns and 1,263 yards, both of which are top-10 figures in the AAC.

76) Rocky Lombardi, Northern Illinois

Week 5 ranking: 94 (+18)

The Michigan State transfer has taken Northern Illinois to heights they didn’t expect this season. And yet, there’s been more to be desired for the Huskies. Lombardi has thrown for 2,117 yards and 13 touchdowns but the same accuracy issues that plagued him at Michigan State have appeared at NIU.

He’s thrown 7 interceptions and ranks last among full-time MAC starters with a completion percentage of just 58.2%. He has great pocket maneuverability and doesn’t go down on first contact but he also loses sight downfield at times. These are things that can be ironed out and NIU fans will certainly hope he does as they can clinch the MAC West with another victory.

75) Connor Bazelak | Missouri

Week 5 ranking: 41 (-34)

Connor Bazelak has a ton of talent in his right arm. He possesses enough power to hit all levels of the field and can launch it from any platform. What has taken a dip in 2021 is his awareness and decision-making. He’s currently tied for the second-most interceptions in the SEC with 10, while he’s thrown 15 touchdowns. Bazelak’s trust in his arm is almost as strong as his trust in his receivers. However, the latter has gotten him into trouble too often this season.

Bazelak is a terrific thrower over the middle of the field when he can see the defense. He has shown an ability to layer his throws and drive others through tight windows. His rapid ascension in these QB rankings was halted, however, as he’s struggled against good defenses and missed the game against Georgia.

Bazelak is the man for the job at Missouri, but he may have to get a better supporting cast while he learns to elevate his teammates. That, plus making snappier decisions when throwing to areas outside the numbers, will go a long way for him in the future.

74) Chevan Cordeiro | Hawaii

Week 5 ranking: 23 (-51)

The Rainbow Warriors’ and Cordeiro’s respective seasons have been plagued by injury. Chevan Cordeiro missed three games in the middle of a tough stretch of opponents, and he hasn’t seemed to get his rhythm back. Despite that, he’s still thrown for 2,064 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, his second straight season with 2,000+ passing yards and at least a dozen passing touchdowns.

He hasn’t quite been the dynamic runner that he was a year prior, as he is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry on 88 attempts. Cordeiro is a talented quarterback who is capable of much better games than what he’s been able to showcase in 2021.

73) Davis Brin | Tulsa

Week 5 ranking: 25 (-48)

Perhaps we were a bit too high on Davis Brin after he put forth valiant efforts against Oklahoma State and Ohio State during Tulsa’s out-of-conference schedule. But then again, maybe we were right to have faith, as Brin flashed potential early on. But he hasn’t reached that level of potential yet. Brin has thrown more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13) and is completing fewer than 60% of his passes.

He’s fifth in the AAC with 2,428 passing yards, but his 14 interceptions are 4 more than second-place Tanner Mordecai. Tulsa’s had a rough go of it this season, as they lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Brin hasn’t taken that next step yet and has been unable to elevate the talent around him. He’s got a great arm and a ton of talent, so be patient, Tulsa fans.

72) Austin Kendall, JD Head, Aaron Allen | Louisiana Tech

Week 5 ranking: 49 (-23)

Austin Kendall gave the Bulldogs a chance to win their games with his high-octane style of play, but he exited their Week 9 matchup against ODU and hasn’t returned. In his place, JD Head filled in admirably, while Aaron Allen ultimately won Tech’s third game of the season with a victory over Charlotte in Week 11. In spite of it all, Kendall still ranks in the top 10 in touchdown passes and yards this season among Conference USA quarterbacks.

Fortunately for Louisiana Tech, their final two games against Southern Miss and Rice should be winnable as they figure out their quarterback situation with two games remaining. Unfortunately for them, however, it will be too little too late as they’ve already been eliminated from postseason play.

71) Braxton Burmeister | Virginia Tech

Week 5 ranking: 78 (+7)

Had Burmeister been the quarterback for any other team not in the ACC this season, his numbers would stack up nicely. However, when you’re playing quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2021, you better be throwing for 30 touchdowns and 3,000 yards to crack the top tier of the quarterbacks. Burmeister hasn’t quite cracked those thresholds, nor will he this year as he has connected on 12 touchdown passes and 1,710 passing yards.

Still, he’s done a great job of taking care of the football and keeping the Hokies offense in rhythm. His career year also includes 358 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Tech is a win away from a bowl game while Burmeister can cap his best season to date with potentially another victory in the Commonwealth Cup.

70) Kaleb Eleby | Western Michigan

Week 5 ranking: 20 (-50)

It’s been a largely disappointing season for the Broncos and Eleby in 2021. There have been flashes but for the most part, Eleby has been sporadic more often than not. There is no denying his arm strength and ability to drive the football but the touch hasn’t quite caught up in Year 3 for Eleby.

On the year, Eleby has thrown for 2,470 yards and 15 touchdowns but his accuracy hasn’t quite been there this season. He’s on pace to set a career-low in completion percentage and already has thrown more interceptions than any previous season.

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