One of the most interesting college football seasons we’ve seen in recent history (in multiple aspects) rolled on this week and was filled with big wins, upsets, and teams covering the spread that we didn’t expect to.
As we move through this college football season, and release these rankings weekly, a quick note: Players enter the season with a preseason ranking that they have earned over the course of their college career up to this point. Players have good weeks and bad weeks. Some pick themselves up while others enter a downward spiral. Some start near the top, have one bad game, and consistently get worse and fall off the radar for good reason. But do not expect to see a player drop 15 spots in the rankings because of one or two bad performances. Players will be moved down at a proper rate—there will be no jumping the gun and bouncing around here. Quarterbacks are evaluated on criteria that include accuracy, ball placement, level of mental processing, and natural/raw athletic ability.
Here’s a look at who makes the Top 25 rankings at the quarterback position in the 2022 NFL Draft after Week 9:
1. CARSON STRONG, NEVADA
Last Week: No. 1
Nevada got the bounceback it wanted in this past week’s rivalry game against UNLV—the Fremont Cannon isn’t leaving Reno any time soon. Just one week after recording a completion percentage over 80%, Strong turned in yet another standout performance, completing 37-of-49 passes for 417 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the 51-20 victory. That’s good for a 77% completion percentage, and factoring in drops, we’re hovering in the 80s. So far this season, Strong has completed more than 71% of his passes for 2,883 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
And for your weekly dose of insanely-accurate-deep-ball-down-the-sideline:
2. KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH
Last Week: No. 2
Pickett broke Dan Marino’s (82) all-time record of touchdowns responsible for in Saturday’s matchup against Miami when he completed 39-of-55 passes for 519 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a tough 38-34 loss to Miami. That performance brought him to a completion percentage of 69.2% with 2,755 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and three interceptions. There were misfires in the game against Miami that Pickett would like to have back, but also some big moments and plenty to build upon as Pickett continues to make his case in a wide-open quarterback race.
3. MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS
Last Week: No. 3
Corral is battle-tested. He’s gone up against some great teams throughout his career and has accomplished some impressive things against them, including when he had to play through injury in this past weekend’s 31-20 loss to the Auburn Tigers. Corral completed 21-of-37 passes for 289 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception, also carrying the ball 10 times for 47 yards with one rushing touchdown. He put some good drives together despite playing on a bad ankle that had head coach Lane Kiffin thinking he had lost his starter for at least the remainder of the game with a scary first-half ankle injury. Though the Rebels scored their only touchdowns on the ground and he didn’t have a flashy number of touchdowns, what Corral was able to accomplish under these circumstances and his body of work this season ahead of the game is admirable.
4. MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY
Last Week: No. 4
Willis and the Liberty Flames could hardly have put more of a hurting on a UMass Minutemen team that has just one victory this season, winning 62-17 on their home turf Saturday. Willis completed 19-of-27 passes for 307 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. This follows a win over North Texas in which Willis completed 12-of-18 passes for 222 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It wasn’t long ago that Willis had two consecutive performances with three interceptions each against lower-level competition, but he’s convincingly back on the right track again and is continuing to do the rare things he’s been commended for that can be accredited to nothing other than natural ability.
5. SAM HOWELL, NORTH CAROLINA
Last Week: No. 5
For three consecutive games, we have seen a pretty good mix of Howell being used both on the ground and as a passer, including in the team’s 44-34 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. On Saturday, Howell completed 24-of-31 passes for 341 yards with one touchdown and one interception, also finishing the game as the team’s leading rusher with 18 carries for 101 yards and one rushing score. There have been ups and downs for Howell throughout the season that seem to have calmed down some, and he’s certainly got something to be proud of after setting the UNC program record for most touchdowns responsible for this weekend as he crossed the 101 mark.
6. GRAYSON MCCALL, COASTAL CAROLINA
Last Week: No. 6
After an upsetting loss to App State, McCall and the Chanticleers got the job done with a 35-28 win over a Troy Trojans team the quarterback gave credit to and says he doesn’t understand why the opponent they faced is so “slept on.” McCall completed 14-of-26 passes in this one for 294 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, also running the ball 15 times for 59 yards with one rushing score. The sophomore, whose play often makes us forget he is a sophomore, has completed 73.4% of his passes for 2,063 yards so far this season with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
McCall has made some throws you have to watch a few times this season to believe and has had several good ones on the run—something important to be able to do in today’s NFL:
7. DESMOND RIDDER, CINCINNATI
Last Week: No. 7
The No. 2-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats didn’t lay quite the beating we expected them to on Tulane, as the Green Wave fell 31-12 to Ridder and company. Ridder was below 200 passing yards in the two weeks leading up to this game, as he completed 18-of-30 passes for 176 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the 27-20 win over Navy directly before. This past week, he completed 17-of-27 passes for 227 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, also carrying the ball 13 times for 47 yards.
Ridder has been effective and has done things that catch the eye (including in this week, see below), but there’s still just a little something to be desired and a little bit of tweaking to do if he wants to be considered a legitimate Heisman contender:
8. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Last Week: No. 11
Zappe has become an impossible quarterback to ignore and is slowly starting to pick up more steam. WKU head coach Tyson Helton had a really good point when he said this guy was the best he’s ever been around (including Sam Darnold at USC), specifically noting how well he thrives as a quarterback slinging it in the traditional Air Raid offense as well as a form of the Air Raid they run at WKU, which features a run piece and also trains quarterbacks extensively in understanding protections. This is a quarterback who knows what is going to happen before it happens. In the Hilltoppers’ most recent 45-13 win over the Charlotte 49ers, he completed 33-of-46 passes for 393 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, also adding a rushing touchdown.
9. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last Week: No. 13
Clifford seems to be slowly returning to the quarterback who we thought was making strides from last year to this year—and in some aspects, he did look better than he did last week when it looked like he was still playing through injury. So, factor in the fact he is still most likely not at full capacity and is going against the No. 6 team in the nation in Ohio State that is littered with talent everywhere. Clifford completed 35-of-52 passes for 361 yards with one touchdown and one underthrown interception, again finishing with a negative rushing total. Before Clifford was injured against Iowa, he was being commended for his ability to evade pressure and make plays with his legs, something that we should expect to see resurface from his toolbox again when he’s presumably more able. Turnovers were killer for Clifford and Penn State here, but clean those up and get Clifford healthier and you get the feeling he might be in business again.
10. Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Last Week: No. 12
To say Purdy has become a more and more intriguing quarterback prospect by the week might be an understatement. The No. 10 spot on the list is one that gets moved around frequently because of the type of quarterback class this is and just how open it continues to be at just about every level. Purdy came into this weekend’s matchup with some head-turning numbers, with four games this season in which he’s recorded a completion percentage of 80% or higher, including a recent outing where he completed 81.8% of his passes over a No. 8-ranked Oklahoma State. Also going into this game, Purdy had the highest passer rating (129.0) of any college football quarterback in the red zone with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. This week is one that he and the Cyclones will be looking to bounce back from as he completed 16-of-27 passes for 185 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions along with one rushing touchdown, but Purdy’s overall body of work this year deserves to be recognized.
11. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
12. Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia
13. JT Daniels, Georgia
14. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
15. Jake Haener, Fresno State
16. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
17. Devin Leary, NC State
18. Will Levis, Kentucky
19. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
20. Tanner Mordecai, SMU
21. Chance Nolan, Oregon State
22. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
23. Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
24. Dustin Crum, Kent State
25. Jayden De Laura, Washington State
Honorable mentions/Injured Reserve: Phil Jurkovec (Boston College), Dillon Gabriel (UCF), Tyler Shough (Texas Tech), D’Eriq King (Miami), Chase Brice (App State), Kedon Slovis (USC), Spencer Petras (Iowa), Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Emory Jones (Florida)