Key questions for 10 of college football’s best quarterbacks in 2024

    With stars J.J. McCarthy, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Michael Penix Jr. now in the NFL, the college quarterback landscape is going to look much different this coming season. Major programs are breaking in new starters and established stars have transferred. 

    Here are 10 QBs who could be the most impactful this season and key questions each must answer:

    Shedeur Sanders, Colorado | Can he block out noise, magnify his talent?

    Let’s start with the player and program the college football world can’t seem to stop talking about. 

    While Shedeur’s dad, the legendary Deion Sanders, remains the ringleader of the media circus around Colorado as the head coach, the young quarterback has stirred the pot aplenty on his own.

    Shadeur Sanders has elite talent – see his school-record 510 passing yards vs. Nebraska in the 2023 opener – but the Buffaloes struggled down the stretch and finished 4-8 as a Pac-12 school last season.

    This season, Colorado will play in the Big 12, a less challenging conference, but the question of whether its quarterback can focus on the field as much as he does in postgame news conferences looms large. 

    Quinn Ewers, Texas | Can he find consistency to make championship leap?

    Ewers has one of the best passing arms in football, but he’s prone to the occasional clunker game and lapses in accuracy.

    Last season, the San Antonio native engineered a road win over Alabama and led Texas to a berth in the College Football Playoff. However, in a semifinal loss to Washington, Ewers’ inconsistency was on full display (55.8% completions compared to a season mark of 69%).

    If  “Tuscaloosa Ewers” (24-for-38, 349 yards, three TD passes) shows up more frequently this season, Texas might win a national title. 

    Carson Beck, Georgia | Is he destined to join fellow Bulldog Stetson Bennett as a national champion?

    Last season, Beck played with elite weapons in tight end Brock Bowers and receiver Ladd McConkey as Georgia narrowly missed a Playoff spot. But those stars are in the NFL, now. 

    This fall, Beck will have a less talented group on offense than Bennett had for either of his two recent championship runs at Georgia. The Bulldogs should have no issue making a 12-team playoff field, giving Beck the chance to seal the first championship under the new format.

    Jalen Milroe, Alabama | Will he refine his game enough to lead post-Saban Tide? 

    Milroe fought through adversity – including a Week 3 benching – last season, as Alabama slipped early, then rebounded to make it all the way to overtime before losing against eventual national champion Michigan in the CFP. However, the hurdles ahead of Milroe might be even greater than the ones he leaped over in 2023.

    Legendary HC Nick Saban and a number of standout players – including WR Isaiah Bond (now with Texas) and CB Caleb Downs (now with Ohio State) – have left the program.

    New HC Kalen DeBoer is a winner and there’s still plenty of talent at Alabama, but Milroe must show much more consistency as a passer (187-for-284, 65.8% completions in 2023) for Alabama to win the SEC and a national title.

    Will Howard, Ohio State | Can he snap a trend of Buckeyes QBs who put up big numbers but fail to win a ring?

    Howard, a transfer from Kansas State, is no stranger to rising to the occasion in big moments. In the 2022 Big 12 Championship Game, he upset undefeated TCU. 

    At Ohio State, he will lead one of the most loaded Buckeyes teams yet. 

    With a run-first philosophy and an elite defense, Ohio State won’t ask a ton of Howard, who threw for  24 TDs for the Wildcats last season. It’s unlikely he’ll finish the season with C.J. Stroud-like stats. He might be able to do what Stroud couldn’t at Ohio State, though. Win a national title.

    Dillon Gabriel, Oregon | Will he step up his game at Oregon as Bo Nix did?

    With Central Florida and Oklahoma, Gabriel put up big numbers (73 TD passes in two seasons as a Sooner) with adequate and even elite efficiency at times, but he has never won anything of note, not even a conference championship. 

    Fortunately for the redshirt senior, he’s entering his best situation yet. Most ratings outlets have the Ducks as a top-five team (No. 2 by ESPN Football Power Index) and it’s hard not to consider the jump we saw from QB Bo Nix after he transferred to Oregon from Auburn when thinking about Gabriel.

    Oregon HC Dan Lanning’s team figures to be a juggernaut in the new-look Big Ten, but is Gabriel going to be the right commander given his lack of big-game pedigree?

    Cameron Rising, Utah | Will he be healthy enough to dominate in Big 12?

    Rising is a winner, having led Utah to Pac-12 titles in 2021 and 2022. The senior’s career numbers (64% completions, 46 TD passes) aren’t spectacular – Utah’s system doesn’t really lend itself to high QB production – but he passes the eye test. 

    After missing the 2023 season with a knee injury, Rising leads perhaps the best Utes team in recent memory into the new-look Big 12. He has a shot at a conference title and a first-round Playoff bye, but after a season away from the game, will he be at his best?

    Grayson McCall, North Carolina State | Will he thrive with higher-caliber teammates?

    A transfer from Coastal Carolina, McCall may not have a realistic shot to make the CFP, but he still has plenty to gain or lose this season.

    He set efficiency records (including a then-NCAA record 207.6 passer rating in 2021) with the Chanticleers but struggled in 2023 amid injury woes and a change to the school’s coaching staff. Now, he’s getting his first shot at a major conference title with a stable coaching staff. 

    McCall will have much better talent to work with at N.C. State, but he’ll face stronger defenses in the ACC than he did in the Sun Belt Conference. How he performs this season could determine whether McCall will get an NFL shot or if he’ll simply be remembered as a Group of Five legend.

    Dylan Raiola, Nebraska | Is the teen ready for Big Ten?

    Neither HC Scott Frost nor Matt Rhule has found the magic formula recently to turn around the fortunes of Nebraska. which hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2016. Enter Raiola, 19, a five-star prospect who originally commited to Georgia.

    Raiola’s talent is undeniable and the Huskers’ early schedule seems manageable – Nebraska doesn’t face a powerhouse until it plays at Ohio State on Oct. 26. But most freshman QB starters face major challenges. Is Raiola ready?

    Miller Moss, USC | Can inexperienced QB help USC take a step up in Big Ten?

    After the departure of superstar passer Caleb Williams, USC was viewed as a top transfer destination for QBs. Then the Holiday Bowl happened. In his first start, Moss threw for 372 yards and six touchdowns against a good Louisville defense.

    Now the starter’s gig belongs to Moss, who inherits a program that will play in the Big Ten and faces a challenging schedule that includes LSU, Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame.

    Was the Holiday Bowl a fluke or is Moss really going to bring championship football back to Southern Cal, which finished 8-5 last season?

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