To win a College Football Playoff, you need good quarterback play. That has proven true every year, even for teams that catch lightning in a bottle.
In the first year of the Playoff, Ohio State rode Cardale Jones to the national title. Jones, who was the de facto third quarterback on the team in the offseason, with Braxton Miller eventually ruled out and J.T. Barrett behind him, came in for the injured Barrett during the Michigan game, and dominated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, and Alabama and Oregon in the Playoff games.
After that Buckeyes win, the starting quarterbacks of the national championship-winning teams: 2015 Alabama’s Jake Coker, 2016 Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, 2017 Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (with Tua Tagovailoa leading the team to the title in the second-half of the championship game vs. Georgia), 2018 Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and 2019 LSU’s Joe Burrow. Only Coker would be considered less than a star at the college level, and his Crimson Tide team was absolutely loaded.
Naturally, the players most vital to their teams’ College Football Playoff aspirations this season are the quarterbacks. ESPN‘s Bill Connelly ranked the 25 most important players to the CFP chace this year. His No. 1 pick, was actually an either/or situation.
With the P5 all back in the pool, I get to write one of my favorite annual* pieces after all.
IT’S THE 25 MOST IMPORTANT COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF 2020.
(* It’s officially “annual” now that I’ve done it twice.)https://t.co/iDhFtKi1g2
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) September 25, 2020
Right now, we don’t know who Georgia football’s starting quarterback will be on Saturday. JT Daniels, the former five-star USC transfer, is likely the favorite… IF he is medically cleared to play in live game action after tearing his ACL over a year ago.
If he can’t go, D’Wan Mathis is the favorite to start for the Dawgs. The situation is extremely interesting, as the two players have very different skill sets, with Daniels being a pretty typical drop-back pocket passer, and Mathis being a fantastic dual-threat athlete. Georgia will look very different, depending on who starts. Connelly has the Bulldogs duo sharing the top spot.
Daniels was No. 8 on this list last year, when it looked as if he were getting tasked with saving Clay Helton’s job at USC. He got hurt in the first game, however, and lost his job to sudden star Kedon Slovis. Now at Georgia, Daniels could be the guy to push the Dawgs out of last year’s “all-world defense, terribly limited offense” imbalance. But first he has to be cleared for competition.
His ongoing recovery from injury has opened the door for Mathis, who spent 2019 on the sideline after having a cyst removed from his brain. Mathis has apparently impressed head coach Kirby Smart and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
It doesn’t really matter who ends up starting here; it only matters that whomever it is thrives. Georgia will start 2020 with the most proven defense in college football, and while the offense could use another top skill-corps player, it still has a couple of proven linemen in receiver George Pickens, running backs Zamir White and James Cook and a new batch of blue-chippers. With great quarterback play, the Dawgs go from SEC East co-favorites to, potentially, national title co-favorites. Sounds like the QB of choice is the most important player in the country to me.
If Georgia gets great quarterback play, as Connelly says, it will go a long way towards putting the Bulldogs in serious College Football Playoff and national title contention.
The next six spots in this list are all occupied by quarterbacks, which is not a huge surprise. That group includes Auburn’s Bo Nix, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, LSU’s Myles Brennan, and Michigan’s Joe Milton.
See Connelly’s full Top 25 over at ESPN.