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Top quarterbacks beginning to emerge
By Gary Danielson
Special to

Each Monday, ABC college football analyst Gary Danielson will break down the top quarterbacks around the country and rank his Top 10.

Just as the Top 10 teams are beginning to shape out as the season continues, the top 10 performers are beginning to emerge at quarterback. Like baseball players when they come through the minors, you have to be careful not to judge too quickly. The true measure of any player is consistency. It's becoming more and more apparent each week that the best players are continuing to align themselves where they should.

The only person in my Top 10 that has surprised me has been Woody Dantzler. He is the one player who is playing much better than what we all thought he would. He has made the biggest improvement of any player coming into this season.

I will not be surprised any longer.

Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke will lead No. 2 FSU against Miami on Saturday.
The other factor in the Heisman race is Chris Weinke's age. There is no doubt that the age factor helps him play to such a high level.

The NCAA should look at a rule that limits the age for players. My suggestion would be a six-year rule, that when you graduate high school, you would have six years to use your college eligibility, barring extenuating circumstances, such as a severe illness or military service. And you should not be able to benefit if you choose to go into another sport or you choose to do something else. It is a huge advantage.

I believe that is an inequitable situation for teams competing against Florida State. It is something that the competition committee should address. It's not fair that he is going to be nine years older than Miami's Ken Dorsey this weekend.

There are just as many people voting against him because of his age. If his name was Drew Brees and he was just 22 years old, people would be marveling at Weinke and he would be a stronger front-runner for the Heisman than he is now.

It is balancing off a little bit. There is no doubt that it is helping him and Florida State, but it may be hurting his Heisman chances. I don't want to hold it against him for his level of play. These are the rules. He's playing by the rules and I am going to judge him against how he plays, and that's it.

Here are the latest Top 10 quarterbacks and their previous ranking in parentheses.

Respond to Gary's rankings.

No. 1 -- Chris Weinke, Florida State (1)
at Maryland: 11-15-234, 3 TD; rush: 5-(-20)
Season: 98-154-1,478, 12 TD, 3 int.; rush: 21-(-65), 1 TD
Without Weinke, Florida State would still be even with Florida, Tennessee, USC, Michigan and all the top teams. This is a good Florida State team, but without Weinke, it would be vulnerable. The Seminoles might be able to go undefeated without him, but they would be vulnerable.

With all the scrutiny that he is under, the way that he is playing and the points that he keeps putting up, I still make him my front-runner. However, he has to win the national championship to win the Heisman.

Michael Vick
A second-place finish in the Big East has Michael Vick and the Hokies out of the BCS.
No. 2 -- Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (3)
at Boston College: 5-17-61, 1 int.; rush: 16-210, 3 TD
Season: 31-61-473, 4 TD, 2 int.; rush: 41-429, 6 TD
Even though I can still be critical of some of Vick's play, I like to reward a player who does it under pressure. His defense is giving up more points than last year, and everybody in the country is watching him every week. I don't get thrilled by highlight plays, but he is continuing to make plays and make his team win.

He's the lynchpin. Virginia Tech is a less than .500 team without him. I used to say that it's not fair for a sophomore to be in the running because he doesn't feel the pressure like a senior does. That's not the case with Vick. He received so much notoriety last year, and it is almost like senior type expectations this year, and he is living up to it.

He has jumped every piece of competition put in front of him. I marvel at the type of season he is having. I give him B+ for statistics and A+ in results. I could care less if he has highlight-reel runs. I look at what he does to win and he does what he has to do to win.

No. 3 -- Eric Crouch, Nebraska (2)
vs. Missouri: 11-23-173, 2 TD; rush: 24-110, 1 TD
Season: 32-61-502, 8 TD, 3 int.; rush: 60-340, 7 TD
This is not a vintage Nebraska team. Everybody continues to say how great they are, but the Cornhuskers are vulnerable. Everyone knows that the key to stopping Nebraska is stopping Eric Crouch. He is fearless. He runs that offense better than anyone ever has at Nebraska, and Frank Solich is lucky to have a guy that can do everything that they have always done with that offense, PLUS.

I don't care about his stats. He and Michael Vick can't be judged by stats alone. Those two are more than statistics. Everyone else must have good numbers. It is part of what they do, throwing the ball. These guys are more big-play guys, like home run hitters. Just the threat of what they can do makes plays for everyone else and that's why they are so valuable.

No. 4 -- Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson (5)
at Duke: 11-19-174, 1 TD; rush: 22-134, 3 TD
Season: 63-98-865, 8 TD, 1 int.; rush: 80-629, 8 TD
He's heading for a showdown. He's running Clemson's offense better than even his own coach would have dreamed. If Florida State gets by Miami this week, he might have a better shot of knocking off Florida State than Florida. If he does that, he'll be the cover boy on SI.

It's an interesting game this weekend with N.C. State, with both staffs knowing each other so well. It's kind of a shame for the ACC that one of these schools has to lose because they are both great stories in adding credibility to the conference. Clemson should win since it has a little better defense than North Carolina State and has one more year in its system.

Plus, Woody Dantzler is playing quarterback as well as anyone in the country.

No. 5 -- Drew Brees, Purdue (4)
at Penn State: 23-50-281, 1 TD; rush: 9-43; rec: 1-5, 1 TD
Season: 126-209-1,644, 10 TD, 2 int.; rush: 37-213, 3 TD; rec: 1-5, 1 TD
Drew had a difficult day against Penn State. It was on national television, it was a tough environment, and Penn State was ready to play. The emotional advantage was on Penn State's side. Drew's receivers are not up to the level that he played with before. Purdue's special teams are not up to the level either. I feel bad for Drew. He still could salvage it this year. He could salvage a run at the Heisman.

The Big Ten is still up for grabs, but he has to have a breakout game against Michigan this Saturday. He has never beaten Michigan, has never beaten Ohio State, and has never beaten Penn State. If he doesn't have a breakout game this week, his chances for the Heisman -- and the Big Ten title -- go down the drain.

His play was at a B+ level against Penn State and his teammates were around a D. His receivers couldn't get off the bump-and-run, and the defense couldn't tackle Rashard Casey, even thought they knew he couldn't throw. They just did not play a good game, and they have had punts blocked in both losses.

No. 6 -- Jonathan Beasley (NR)
Last week: 15-25-293, 3 TD; rush: 14-68
Season: 59-96-1124, 9 TD, 2 int.; rush: 48-192, 8 TD
I held off making any judgements until he played a real college team. Colorado isn't vintage, but it is a decent football team, and for Kansas State to go there and manhandle them after USC and Washington had a shot at them with good quarterbacks, you have to say that Beasley and Kansas State have a legitimate shot at anybody. He seems to run Bill Snyder's offense better than expected. I don't know if he will win the Heisman, but he has to be in the Top 10.

No. 7 -- Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (10)
vs. Kansas: 29-43-346, 1 TD; rush: 4-4, 1 TD
Season: 98-146-1245, 8 TD, 4 int.; rush: 17-27, 4 TD
The season starts now for Oklahoma. Here come the games that the alumni have been waiting for. Oklahoma is one of 12 or 15 teams that has that magical name, and Heupel is rewriting the record books.

No. 8 -- Major Applewhite (NR)
vs. Oklahoma State: 15-28-291, 3 TD
Season: 64-115-1020, 9 TD, 3 int.
The two-quarterback system must end. It's a shame what Major has had to endure this year. He won't win the Heisman Trophy, but he has to be in the Top 10 because of the way he has been able to take a bad situation and keep Texas alive for the Big XII championship.

No. 9 -- Philip Rivers, N.C. State (8)
Last week: Off
Season: 97-169-1,331, 13 TD, 4 int.
If he wins this week, he is going to make my Top 5. I will be watching.

No. 10 -- Drew Henson (NR)
vs. Wisconsin: 15-27-257, 1 TD
Season: 23-44-398, 2 TD
Two comebacks. First start. Statistically and comfort-wise, he is not there yet, but you can see Henson has the potential of being as good a quarterback as Michigan has ever seen.

By the way, Michigan has as many quarterbacks (six) in the NFL as any other school right now. What's the surest way into the NFL right now? Start a game for Michigan at quarterback. Every quarterback to start a game for Michigan in the 1990s is currently in the NFL: Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese and Tom Brady. (Jim Harbaugh is also in the NFL.) We'll see if John Navarre and Henson keep up the streak.

Others to Watch:
Steve Bellisari, Ohio State: He's not a pretty quarterback, but he is gutsy. Ohio State needed some guts and leadership from that position and he's providing it.

Quincy Carter, Georgia: The Bulldogs are not dead for the SEC Championship. Nice comeback.

Zak Kustok, Northwestern: He's running the most exciting offense in the Big Ten right now and has two great road victories. He's running the offense as well as Randy Walker would have hoped. He's a very heady player.

Ben Leard, Auburn: Jesse Palmer and Steve Spurrier couldn't do it. Let's see if Ben Leard can put some numbers up against a very talented Mississippi State defense.

Dropped Out
Marques Tuiasosopo, Washington (7)
Carson Palmer, USC (9)
Kurt Kittner, Illinois (NR)
Antwaan Randle El, Indiana (NR)

Gary Danielson writes a column every Monday for  

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Arute: Strength-of-schedule is getting more and more important

Bowden: Weekend wrap-up

Danielson: Dantzler setting the ACC on fire

Danielson: Purdue takes the ball out of Brees' hands

Danielson: Crouch looks golden

Danielson: Vick beginning to resemble a certain Tiger

Danielson: Year of the QB