Monday, May 27, 2013

Will Ex-Major Conference Have Best QB?

The "Big East Conference" conference has become "The American Athletic Conference", at least as far as football is concerned.   The small private basketball schools have split from the rest of the conference and kept the "Big East" name.  The Big East was always the weakest football conference, only the fact that they were one of the conferences with an automatic BCS bid propped them up, and that is going away.   Some of their best members have been raided by the true major conferences and the league's plan for a coast-to-coast conference pretty much fell through.

"The American" still has Louisville though, at least until next season is over when they will jump to the ACC.   And Louisville has Teddy Bridgewater at QB.    Bridgewater was a five-star recruit and has shown himself to be a five-star player for coach Charlie Strong.  As a sophomore last season, he passed for 3,718 yards with a remarkable 68.5% completion percentage.   The Cardinal's QB passed for 27 touchdowns last season, verses only eight interceptions, a truly astounding ratio.

The critics who might have said that Bridgewater accumulated those statistics against weaker Big-East competition were silenced when the Cardinals went bowling and put a 33-23 whipping on the vaunted Florida Gators of the SEC.   He passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns in that game, despite playing hurt.

Quarterbacks have become so important in college football that a mediocre team with a great QB can play about as well as a great team with a mediocre QB.  Witness the mixed results mighty Texas has had of late- they have been a good team, but they traditionally finish near the top of the nation in recruiting.   They have lots of talent, but have had trouble finding a great QB to go with it.

That brings me to the "sleeper" for a great QB in "The American"- Garret Gilbert of SMU.  Gilbert, like Bridgewater, was a five-star recruit.  He was supposed to be the great quarterback to go with the great team that Texas had, but the young man played hurt and appeared shell-shocked during his time in Austin.   After his early failures, the negative energy was so strong that he transferred to the Mustangs.

Last season Gilbert passed for 2932 yards for a 53% completion average with 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.     Those stats alone would not justify a prediction of great things for Gilbert's senior year, but a closer look reveals two seasons.   In the first six games, Gilbert tossed only seven touchdowns versus eleven interceptions.   In the last seven he threw for eight touchdowns and only four interceptions, including a five game run with zero turnovers.   The Gilbert that finally started clicking is the one to watch for.

While Bridgewater is a pure passer, Gilbert found ways to beat people with his feet as well as his arm.  But even that did not show on the field until his mid-season transformation.   In the first six games he rushed for a net negative yardage total and had zero rushing touchdowns.  In the last six games he rushed for over 300 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns.    Add that to the passing touchdowns and the G.G. of the first half of the season had seven touchdowns, the G. G. of the second half had sixteen.  

If Gilbert picks up where he left off and fulfills the big expectations of his days as a recruit, Bridgewater could get some competition for top QB in the American, even as he is one of the top in the nation.    Of course, Gilbert had Zac Line as a RB to help take the heat off of him.  Traylon Shead has the potential to step into that role, but the offensive line is a big question mark.   Another question is whether or not Gilbert and Shead will get enough time on the field- SMU's defense might not be able to make enough stops to give a high-powered Pony offense a chance to shine.  Top defensive player Margus Hunt is now in the NFL.

The Cincinnati Bearcats may also have a surprise entry in the top QB competition, with former top-recruit Gunner Keil.  Keil transferred from Notre Dame recently when it appeared he lost the battle for QB to Everett Golson.  Golson might have been Bridgewater's top competition for best college QB, but immediately after Keil left Golson was dismissed from the team over academic issues.   Still, Keil says he is a Bearcat.   If Keil fits in at Cincinnati, look for the Bearcats to have a strong season.


Blogger Sharon Nobles said...

The very nice blog.

5:25 PM, June 10, 2013  

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