We’re one day away from the 2016 college football season kicking into high gear, and just three days away the opening Saturday. Still, there are a handful of high-profile programs who haven’t decided their quarterback battle yet.
Or, maybe they have, and the coach hasn’t disclosed it yet.
No position is more closely watched or scrutinized in all of sports, so it only makes sense that we break down the top quarterback battles remaining in college football. Who’s left? Who has the edge? Who starts? Our predictions are below.
Who’s left? Blake Barnett (R-Fr.), Cooper Bateman (R-Jr.)
What’s the deal? Oh, you know, just another ho-hum quarterback battle for the Tide with the season right around the corner. Barnett and Bateman are the two leaders as of Monday. Saban keeps these types of battles close to the chest, so it’s hard to say who has the edge. It wouldn’t be surprising to see talented freshman Jalen Hurts take the field at some point this year, but as of now, this is a two-man race.
Who starts? If history has told us anything, coach Nick Saban is going to give both players an opportunity to prove themselves and then ride the hot hand; who technically takes the field first is probably of lesser importance. The only way that changes is if Barnett or Bateman pulls away in the final week of practice. Otherwise, that’s not the strongest indicator of who will be the starter.
Digressing: Bateman has the experience, however limited it may be, and Barnett has the recruiting hype. Saban has gone with veteran quarterbacks in the past, so we’re going with Bateman as the Week 1 starter.
Who’s left? Greyson Lambert (R-Sr.), Jacob Eason (Fr.)
What’s the deal? This is your classic battle between a veteran and a talented newcomer. Lambert, a transfer from Virginia, played in 12 games last season, but struggled in big moments. Eason, who should he win the job, would become the first true freshman quarterback starter at Georgia since Quincy Carter in 1998 (h/t Dawg Nation). First-year coach Kirby Smart will go with the player who best runs the offense, but he has other things to take into account, too, like Eason’s potential.
Who starts? We know who the fans want, and it’s Eason. The former 5-star appears to be the favorite, even if it’s a two-quarterback race publicly. With running back Nick Chubb healthy again and Smart playing with some house money his first year, now’s the time to see what Eason can do right away.
Who’s left? Wilton Speight (Jr.), John O’Korn (R-Jr.), Shane Morris (Sr.)
What’s the deal? No, what’s YOUR deal?? Anyway, coach Jim Harbaugh won’t say who will start, but multiple reports indicate Speight and O’Korn are the leaders with Morris in third place. Speight is the only one of the three to have played last season. That doesn’t necessarily grant him the job, but it appears he’s naturally moving up the depth chart.
Who starts? Probably Speight, barring an upset. Unlike other wide-open battles, Harbaugh is unlikely to play quarterback carousel. He’s going to pick a guy and go with him.
Who’s left? Damian Williams (R-Jr.), Nick Fitzgerald (R-So.), Nick Tiano (R-Fr.)
What’s the deal? There’s a reason we haven’t touched on every Power Five quarterback. Some are just more interesting than others. But Mississippi State has to replace the greatest quarterback to ever come through the program — Dak Prescott — who also happens to be the Dallas Cowboys’ new starter.
Though Williams, Fitzgerald and Tiano were listed as “OR” on the Bulldogs’ depth chart, coach Dan Mullen admitted it’s really down to Williams and Fitzgerald, both of whom have taken their turns backing up Prescott.
Who starts? Fitzgerald is the fan favorite, and the assumption by at least one other major outlet (ESPN), it’s job is his to lose. Our projection is that Fitzgerald starts but Williams sees time as well until the competition shakes out completely.
Who’s left? Malik Zaire (R-Jr.), DeShone Kizer (R-So.)
What’s the deal? Both are going to play against Texas, and neither are happy about it. What we don’t know is how the reps are going to be distributed. Even coach Brian Kelly hasn’t “figured that out yet.” Still, this is an ongoing competition that someone can take hold of during the year. Both have starting experience, which makes this a difficult choice for Kelly.
Who starts? Because both will play in Week 1, who takes the field first isn’t an indication of who will play the most. But given his production last season, one has to think Kizer will start with Zaire coming in the game at some point.
Who’s left? Shane Buechele (Fr.), Tyrone Swoopes (Sr.)
What’s the deal? Typically when a quarterback battle rages into preseason camp, it’s the incumbent or veteran who needs to be worried. It feels like the opposite is happening at Texas. An early enrollee, Buchele has been the hype of the offseason and coach Charlie Strong has (inadvertently?) dropped hints that the frosh was ahead. However, the narrative has changed in the last week or so, with Swoopes gaining some momentum.
Who starts? Psh, who knows? One camp says Buechele, the other says Swoopes, and Strong won’t say either way. We know this much, though: They’re both going to play vs. Notre Dame. If we’re talking about who technically jogs out on to the field first, I’m putting my money on Swoopes. If we’re talking about who’s starting in November, Buechele feels like the safer bet. Ultimately, what matters to Strong is that someone emerges.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Predicting the winner of college football’s biggest remaining quarterback battles