Top 5 returning college QBs based on QBR

As an earlier post on our blog noted, the 2013 college football season has the potential to produce one of the top quarterback classes ever.

Either the first or second-team quarterbacks from every conference (prior to conference realignment) except the Big 12 are back this season, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and two-time BCS National Champion AJ McCarron.

From the perspective of ESPN’s new Total QBR metric (details on the NFL version, with the same principles as the college version, here), which quarterbacks are the best of this talented group?

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (90.5 Total QBR)

Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 5,116 total yards en route to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel led the nation in Total QBR on third down (98.6), in the first half (90.1) and on rushing plays (94.0). All of these factors contributed to his FBS-leading 90.5 Total QBR.

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (87.8)

Mariota led Oregon to its fifth-straight 10-win season as a redshirt freshman. He was one of two players in FBS to average seven yards per rush and seven yards per pass attempts last season (min 200 attempts). The other was Manziel.

3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (81.8)

Boyd was one of the top big-play quarterbacks in the nation last season, completing an FBS-high 48 passes of 25 yards or more. As a result, Boyd posted the highest single-season Total QBR of any ACC quarterback since 2004 (as far back as QBR goes).

4. AJ McCarron, Alabama (81.5)

McCarron won his second-straight BCS Championship last season, and he was much more than a game manager. McCarron posted an above average QBR (above 50) in all 14 of his games last season, and two of the top four games of his career by QBR were his two BCS Championship games. He posted a 90.3 and 95.6 Opponent Adjusted QBR in the 2012 and 2013 BCS Championships, respectively.

5. David Fales, San Jose State (78.3)

Fales led the nation in completion percentage while leading the Spartans to their first 11-win season since 1940. Fales’ accuracy and precision were rewarded by Total QBR, as he had the highest unadjusted Total QBR on pass plays in the nation last season.

Total QBR measures all quarterback contributions to scoring accounting for game context and adjusted for opponent strength. It is based on a 0-100 scale, and 50 is average.