At the risk of dropping a giant clusterfark, I’m going to use data I’ve assembled from some updates of our prediction system and see if we can rank the returning PAC-12 quarterbacks in 2020, at least on a statistical basis.
Yes. I know. Doing this six months ahead of time carries risk but we’re also in the FBS dead zone, so let’s do something. Doing something is better than doing nothing, Right? Kurt Vonnegut thought so when he observed:
“‘To be is to do.’ — Socrates
‘To do is to be.’ — Sartre
‘Do-be-do-be-do.’ — Sinatra”
Anyway, let’s move on. Let’s see if we can be as successful at this as in past off seasons.
I’ve isolated 13 columns of data that are relevant to quarterbacks. To keep you from stabbing your eyes with a fork, I’ve converted the data into 1-through-12 rankings and simplified it down to five categories.
Those five categories rank quarterbacks on the bases of:
- Total number of plays (experience).
- Total of all passing and rushing yards (effectiveness).
- Completion rate (accuracy #1).
- Interception rate (accuracy #2).
- Yards per carry (dual threat).
Admittedly, there are some deficiencies. For example, not one of the four northwest teams returns a quarterback with 100 snaps.
Colorado and Washington State are replacing their starting quarterbacks and head coaches so it will be weeks before we know the starters. Because there is zero data, both teams default to “12” in all five categories, at least for now.
Tyler Shough of Oregon, Tristan Gebbia of Oregon State, and Jacob Sirmon of Washington are three who are below 100 plays. Even so, let’s treat them as full participants just because . . . Don’t worry though. I’ll drop in a few asterisks to let you know where the data is too soft to draw any conclusions that are very hard.
So, here are the quarterback situations as they currently stand:
#12 WASHINGTON STATE ***
Cougar fans, let me anticipate your argument: If WSU and Colorado both lost starting quarterbacks and both lost head coaches, then why do you have to be 12th? Fair question with a hair-splitting answer. You graduated all three quarterbacks who played in 2019 whereas Colorado graduated its starter, lost his replacement in the transfer portal, but still has its third-stringer to, well, sort of, ride herd.
#11 COLORADO ***
Jacob Sirmon* is the early favorite to take over at quarterback. However, the sophomore has only made it onto the field for five plays since he arrived in Seattle and he has produced a total of just 14 yards of total offense. His efficiency numbers look good; just too sparse.
Last season, sophomore Grant Gunnell had analysts proclaiming that ‘Cat fans wouldn’t miss Khalil Tate because GG is mature, composed and effective. Indeed, he completed 65% of his passes and he had command of the team, but he didn’t produce a great deal of yardage per game and he is going to suffer from a noticeable void in skilled help.
Getting Jake Bentley** from South Carolina seemed like a bonanza for the Utes. However, none of his stats are equal or better than departed starter Tyler Huntley. Bentley will succeed as a passer because he will have a nice group of receivers but don’t expect him to salvage any games with his legs like Huntley did. Even so, Jake Bentley is a high-quality guy with a great arm and should have a nice season.
#7 OREGON STATE
Tristan Gebbia* is probably going to be hard for newcomers to beat. The former four-star completed better than 63% of his passes, threw just 1.7% interceptions, and posted a rushing average of better than four yards per carry. He consistently made the offense move. That job will be more difficult in 2020 because the offensive line appears weak and thin.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson was once a coveted recruit, but after two seasons, his college stats are subpar. His father blames the coach while his understudy, Austin Burton, sees plenty of opportunity. Burton exceeds DTR in four of our five categories but doesn’t have enough snaps that I would consider him to be the starter when the season kicks off although I find it easy to say he will become the starter soon thereafter.
Now that K.J. Costello has transferred and Stanford has transitioned from ground hawgs to winged cardinals, Davis Mills should flourish despite only having played in nine games over the past three seasons. He will benefit from Stanford’s increased emphasis on passing caused in large part because the effectiveness of the returning running back corps looks to be among the worst in the entire FBS.
Chase Garbers cut his interception rate in half and his team improved its over all turnover margin to nearly 2-to-1. While all of that sounds good, two troubling realities remain:
- Chase Garbers has suffered more injuries than most.
- Not one season since 2014 has been one with this offense scoring at a higher rate than the season before.
Kedon Slovis is the best returning passer and top passing yardage producer in the PAC-12. Only his turnover problems keep him from being the top quarterback in this assessment. He will have one of the best returning offensive lines and one of the best sets of receivers in the nation. USC will do well. Kedon Slovis will do even better.
To say that Tyler Shough* is the second-best quarterback in the PAC-12 after just 17 plays would be ridiculous, but if we place him according to his stats—as meager as they are—then he belongs in second place. His footwork, reads, reactions, and ability to move the team are good signs. He will also benefit from taking over a star-packed, conference championship program.
1. ARIZONA STATE
Jayden Daniels leads all returning quarterbacks in total yardage with nearly 3000 through the air and just under 400 on the ground. His interception rate of .6% would be astonishing for any quarterback but even more so for Daniels because he was a pure freshman. However, this offense was bad last year and looks weaker now. Plus, not even coach Herm Edwards stopped the decline in offensive points that has dropped every single season for the past seven years.
Below is a chart that summarizes the statistical rankings we’ve been discussing:
|PAC-12 quarterback rankings|
|projected 2020 ranking||total plays rank||total yards rank||completion % rank||intercepted % rank||rush yards per carry rank||average ranking points|
|1||Arizona St.||Jayden Daniels||2||2||9||3||3||3.8|
|2||Oregon||Tyler Shough *||9||9||1||1||1||4.2|
|7||Oregon St.||Tristan Gebbia *||8||8||6||6||2||6.0|
|8||Utah||Jake Bentley **||3||3||7||10||7||6.0|
|10||Washington||Jacob Sirmon *||10||10||3||2||10||7.0|
|* inadequate data . . . engaged in fewer than 100 total plays in 2019|
|** stats are from the 2018 season|
|*** unable to project a starter at this time. Both teams have new coaches and neither has a returning, starting quarterback.|