Quarterbacks are the name of the game in college football, and that is especially true this season. Many quarterbacks have rose to stardom this year with outstanding performances, while returning stars have taken their game to a new level. Now that the regular season is over, a handful of signal-callers have separated themselves from the pack, highlighted by USC star and Heisman Trophy favorite Caleb Williams.
These five quarterbacks have all been in the Heisman conversation for most of the season, and for good reason. Quarterbacks such as Florida State’s Jordan Travis, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Alabama’s Bryce Young have had outstanding seasons in their own right. However, these five players have been the elite of the elite this season.
Without further ado, here are the top five quarterbacks in college football this season, with Caleb Williams at the top.
5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
For large portions of the season, Hendon Hooker was the single best quarterback in the country. The Volunteers signal-caller threw for 3,135 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Thanks to his spectacular play, Tennessee defeated Alabama for the first time in 15 years and became the top-ranked team in the country, and Hooker himself became the Heisman favorite.
Then November rolled around, which was a month to forget for Hooker. First, Tennessee suffered its first loss of the season against Georgia, and Hooker failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season. Then, the Volunteers lost in a blowout against South Carolina, and Hooker tragically suffered a torn ACL, ending his stellar season.
Despite the abrupt ending, Hooker has undoubtedly been one of the nation’s best quarterbacks this season. He has taken Tennessee to heights not seen since Peyton Manning played there, and gave the Vols a legitimate chance at the College Football Playoff for most of the season. If he remained healthy, Hooker would definitely be a Heisman finalist.
4. Drake Maye, North Carolina
Like Hooker, Drake Maye had a November to forget after an exceptional season. North Carolina became a dark horse for the College Football Playoff after a 9-1 start, but home losses to Georgia Tech and NC State to close the season derailed the Tar Heels’ hopes. Maye himself struggled in those games with just one touchdown to two interceptions and eight sacks.
However, there’s no denying that Maye was absolutely fantastic for much of the season. The Tar Heels quarterback has thrown for 3,847 yards, 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions for a QBR of 83.7. He has also been a solid runner with 629 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season.
The most impressive part about Maye’s season is that he is still just a freshman. Even if he fell out of Heisman contention this year, he will undoubtedly be back in the conversation next year.
3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
C.J. Stroud entered the season with lofty expectations, and he has lived up to them for the most part. The Buckeyes quarterback has thrown for 3,340 yards and 37 touchdowns, the most in the country, against just six interceptions. He has had some spectacular performances, including throwing six touchdowns against Michigan State and five on three other occasions.
Stroud has had some struggles this season, especially in the rivalry game against Michigan, but he has been amazing overall. The Buckeyes may have an absurdly talented roster, but Stroud is the crown jewel of the team. When he inevitably enters the NFL Draft, any team would love to have him under center.
2. Max Duggan, TCU
On the other hand, Max Duggan and TCU in general didn’t have high expectations entering the year. However, both the Horned Frogs and their quarterback have taken the college football world by storm and are on the verge of their first CFP appearance. Many factors have propelled TCU to an amazing season, and Duggan has been arguably the biggest one.
Duggan has been at TCU since 2019, but stepped up big this year. He has thrown for 3,070 yards with 29 touchdowns and only three interceptions all season. He has also been effective on the ground with 294 rushing yards and five scores.
No one expected Duggan to be a Heisman candidate this season, but he has become one with his outstanding play. If he continues to play as well as he has, TCU will be a very tough out in the College Football Playoff.
1. Caleb Williams, USC
Caleb Williams came to Southern Cal with high hopes, and he has exceeded all of them this season. He has been the single best quarterback, and arguably the best player, in the entire country. Williams has been so good that he is the runaway Heisman favorite heading into conference championship week, per FanDuel.
The USC quarterback has willed his team to an 11-1 season and a Pac-12 Championship Game appearance. He has thrown for 3,713 yards and 34 touchdowns, all with only three interceptions, along with 351 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Williams has also stepped up in the biggest moments, especially when he accounted for over 500 yards and three touchdowns against rival UCLA.
First-year head coach Lincoln Riley deserves a ton of credit for his swift turnaround at USC, and bringing Williams with him from Oklahoma was easily his best move. The dynamic duo has brought USC back to the national stage, and they could cap it off with national championship this year.