Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Best Quarterback in College Football

Who was the best college quarterback in 2006? Troy Smith won the Hesiman, Walter Camp, and Davey O'Brien awards. Brady Quinn won the Maxwell Award. Colt Brennan was the highest rated passer. Chris Leak's team won the national title. Jared Zabransky's team finished undefeated. Who was the best?

College football has many different types of quarterbacks. Some 'manage' the game well, others are fortunate to play in run n' shoot offenses that boost their passing numbers, and others are athletic and run the option. Determining which quarterback is the 'best' in any given year is nigh impossible. But that doesn't mean its not worth a shot. The method that I am going to employ to rank quarterbacks is quarterback rating adjusted for opponent. Quarterback rating is not nearly a perfect measure of how well a quarterback performed (it does not include rushing yards and touchdowns or fumbles and in my opinion puts too high a premium on completion percentage), but it is a pretty good indicator. The methodology for adjusting for opponents is explained at the end of this post. Enjoy.

Let's start by ranking the top 25 quarterbacks from 2006 based on their unadjusted quarterback rating.

Colt Brennan 186.0
John Beck 169.1
JaMarcus Russell 167.0
Tyler Palko 163.2
Kevin Kolb 162.7
Jared Zabransky 162.6
Troy Smith 161.9
Colt McCoy 161.8
Brian Brohm 159.1
Justin Willis 158.4
Adam Trafralis 155.1
Chase Holbrook 155.1
Andre Woodson 154.5
Erik Ainge 151.9
Jordan Palmer 149.6
Bobby Reid 148.1
Nate Davis 147.3
Brady Quinn 146.7
Dan LeFevour 146.2
Zac Taylor 146.1
Graham Harrell 145.8
Chase Daniel 145.1
Chris Leak 144.9
John David Booty 144.0
John Stocco 143.9

Now here are the top 25 quarterbacks based on the adjusted quarterback rating. The second number indicates how much the actual rating improved or declined while the third number indicates how much the overall ranking changed. For quarterbacks who climb or fall a significant amount, an explanation is included.

John Beck 175.3 +6.2 +1
TCU (#7 in pass efficiency defense) and Wyoming (#12) in conference play as well as Boston College (#19) and Oregon (#28) outside Mountain West play help Beck take the top spot.

Colt Brennan 175.0 -11 -1
5 WAC teams finished with pass efficiency defenses rated 101st or higher (Idaho, Fresno State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech-2nd to last, and Utah State-last). Warriors also played UNLV (#113) in the non-conference schedule.

JaMarcus Russell 167.7 +0.7 E

Brian Brohm 166.3 +7.2 +5
Several good pass defenses on the schedule: Rutgers (#8), South Florida (#11), Cincinnati (#20), Miami (#24), and Wake Forest (#26).

Andre Woodson 165.3 +10.8 +8
Faced three pass defenses in the top 10 (LSU, Florida, and Georgia).

Troy Smith 162.1 +0.2 -1

Tyler Palko 160.5 -2.7 -3

Colt McCoy 160.0 -1.8 E

Kevin Kolb 157.9 -4.8 -4
3 Conference USA opponents finished over 100 nationally in pass efficiency defense (Tulane, Rice, and Memphis) and one was knocking at the door--UCF (#98).

Chris Leak 156.2 +11.3 +13
See Andre Woodson comment and add Ohio State (#10) and Arkansas (#18), Florida State (#29), and Auburn (#33).

Jared Zabransky 155.3 -7.3 -5
See Colt Brennan comment.

Erik Ainge 153.3 +1.4 +2

Riley Skinner 151.7 +12.1 +20
The first quarterback from outside the top 25 to jump onto the list, Skinner was a big part of Wake's dream season. Faced Virginia Tech (#2), Georgia Tech (#9), Clemson (#17), Boston College (#19), Louisville (#23), and Florida State (#29).

Brady Quinn 151.7 +5.1 +4

Bobby Reid 151.6 +3.5 +1

John David Booty 151.3 +7.3 +8
No truly great pass defenses on the schedule (Arkansas-#18 and Michigan-#25 the best), but besides Notre Dame (#90) no awful pass defenses either.

Chad Henne 151.3 +7.9 +9
Henne faced the top-ranked pass efficiency defense (Wisconsin) and the number ten rated defense (Ohio State) to go along with Penn State (#14) and Southern Cal (#22).

Adam Trafralis 150.4 -4.7 -7
See Colt Brennan and Jared Zabransky comment on the weakness of the WAC.

Bryan Cupito 148.8 +8.0 +11
Faced Wisconsin (#1), Kent State (#5 and a bit overrated), Ohio State (#10), Penn State (#14), and Michigan (#25). Also poor game against North Dakota State (67.5 QB rating) gets thrown out because they are not Division IA. Only rating i really don't agree with.

John Stocco 146.0 +2.1 +5

Dan LeFevour 145.6 -0.6 -2

Justin Willis 145.4 -13 -12
See Kevin Kolb comment, but replace Memphis (#116) and UCF (#98) with UAB (#103) and Marshall (#93). Also had an outstanding game against Sam Houston State (291.2 QB rating) that is thrown out.

Brandon Cox 145.3 +6.6 +12
See assorted SEC comments.

Nate Davis 145.3 -2.0 -7

Matt Moore 144.3 +4.6 +7

There you have it. It's a scientific fact that John Beck was the best quarterback in 2006. Maybe not quite that ex cathedra a proclamation, but he certainly is in the discussion. Five quarterbacks: Chase Holbrook (once again weak pass defenses in the WAC), Jordan Palmer (once again weak pass defenses in Conference USA) and three Big 12 quarterbacks (Zac Taylor, Graham Harrell, and Chase Daniel) fall out of the top 25.


1) Exclude all games against non-Division IA competition
2) For each game take the player's QB rating and divide by the QB rating defense (pass efficiency defense) of the opponent faced
3) Multiply this ratio by the number of pass attempts for the game
4) Add the these numbers up for each game
5) Divide by total pass attempts on the season
6) Multiply this number by 127.53 (the cumulative arithmetic mean quarterback rating for all passes thrown in 2006)
7) Voila

1 comment:

Unknown said...


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Here is an example:

Please let me know if you're interested and I'll give you the details. I apologize for not e-mailing you but I couldn't find your contact information.

Thank you,
Chris Fry
Marketing Director