With only 3 Saturdays and 24 sleeps left until kickoff of the 2018 Penn State Football season, I am getting pretty antsy. USA Today named Trace McSorley the best quarterback in college football, just adding to my anticipation.
All this football talk got me thinking: ok, so USA Today (not exactly the pinnacle of sports journalism) says Trace is No. 1 in the nation. We appreciate the shout out, but why? And who does Trace have to look out for in this year’s Heisman race?
I looked at the top 10 quarterbacks as ranked by USA Today across a number of categories in any season where they had more than 100 pass attempts. At first, I threw all of their stats side by side and got very confused. There is a different leader in almost every measurable category, from completion percentage to average yards per rushing attempt. So, I compiled them into one big number and then ranked them all.
For reference, these are the stats I used to make this super score and compare QB’s.
- Completion Percentage
- Passing Yards
- Defensive Actions Distressing QB’s (DAD’s)
- Rushing Yards
- Rushing Yards / Attempt
So most are self-explanatory but a few need further detail. First is Defense Actions Distressing QB’s: this is basically a rating of how tough the defenses in that QB’s conference are. I will get into how I did this down below. Swing is the touchdown/interception +/-, where throwing a touchdown is worth 7 points, and throwing a pick is worth -4.35 points (the average value of an interception as determined by some other stats website). So most all are positive but some are closer to 0 than others. Funnel is the percentage of TD’s that have to go through the Quarterback. Essentially, everything except non-QB rushing TD’s. This shows how important a QB is to his team. Put it all together and you get a big number that is basically made up. So then I rank them on a 100 percent scale to get the red and green below. And let me tell you, 2017 Trace was in his bag.
In the 2017 season, McSorley was ranked 2nd among the returning QB’s. Now despite this favorable evidence, ESPN is not giving McSorley the same amount of love as our good friends at USA Today. Personally, I am sick and tired of reading about how great Will Grier is every day. Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a nice guy. But his numbers just don’t stack up. Let’s destroy his Heisman campaign before it begins.
Will Grier is a confusing but very real threat to McSorley’s Heisman candidacy. In an ESPN article where experts picked the nation’s top QB’s for 2018, a disconcerting 5 out of 7 chose WVU’s Grier as their man. Another article of the Top 50 players in CFB this season put Grier at No. 3, leaving poor old Trace to fall to ninth. NINTH! As disgusted as I was, and as tempted as I was to simply begin bashing Grier’s character and ESPN’s staff, I decided to resort to the numbers. These two rankings are troublesome for several reasons. First, he is 5th in my rankings of the top 10 QB’s. Second being that, as everyone knows, the Big 12 isn’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. To put that “common sense” statement to the test, I looked at Defensive Actions Distressing QB’s (DAD’s) for the Power 5 conferences.
Now full disclosure, the availability of college football stats is god-awful, let alone defensive stats. So all I had to work with was interceptions, passes defended, and sacks. These all affect a QB: an interception is an interception, passes defended is even more interesting because it tells us if the cornerbacks in the conference are even trying. And sacks give an idea of how often the QB is under pressure. Now if heavy pressure implies solid defensive lines in a conference, couldn’t it also just indicate weak offensive lines. I would respond to that with “Leave me alone life ain’t perfect.”
Every fan’s collective theory was right. The Big 12 ranked lowest in average DAD metrics per team among Power 5 conferences for the 2017 season. Higher is better in this case, with more DAD’s exemplifying the strength of a conferences defenses.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Kyle, what about UCF’s ‘National Championship’ winning QB McKenzie Milton? He is ranked higher than Trace in your stupid rankings. Why isn’t he a threat?” First, I’m surprised you know the UCF quarterback’s name. I had to look it up. Ah yes, the *national champion* – McKenzie Milton. 37 touchdowns, 9 interceptions. The 2nd highest Swing and raw QBC Score I’ve ever seen in my one week of doing this. That being said, I looked at UCF’s competition in the American conference, and it was pitiful. They are operating at less than 85% the efficiency of the top conference… you guessed it: The Big 10. And while my metric factors that into its calculation, Milton still comes out on top. However, I am quite confident that no American conference player, no matter what his Swing number ends up being – since Heisman voters obviously reference my stats – will win the Heisman this season.
So, in short, the answer to what Trace needs to do to win the Heisman is keep doing him. He is playing against the toughest defenses in college football, boasts an above average Swing and Funnel (thanks to his 39 combined touchdowns last year), and he’s the most accurate passer with over 400 attempts, showing his consistency. I expect that the ESPN writers will figure that out pretty soon.