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Evaluating Quarterbacks

College Football Handicapping: Evaluating Quarterbacks

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

In college football, there are a ton of teams, meaning there are many quarterbacks. The great majority of these young quarterbacks will never play professional ball. And they shouldn’t be looked at as professionals. They’re amateurs--young kids who might have been a big deal in high school just trying to find their way in the world of big-time college football.

We know who the supposedly good quarterbacks are. Because the media never shuts up about them. It’s the most visible position in football. If a quarterback is tearing it up, we will know about it. But that tends to do a few things that might be harmful to our handicapping of games. First of all, it teaches us to attribute too much credit to a QB for his team doing well or too much criticism when they do bad. And with the big-stat quarterbacks getting all the attention, we fall into the trap of over-valuing statistics when appraising college quarterbacks.

If anything, the average college football bettor needs to place less importance on the quarterback position. A key point to keep in mind is that a quarterback is really only as good as the people around him. Take some of the recent big-time college quarterbacks in recent years. Do you think you would even know their names if they had somehow ended up on a team with no weapons? Would Andrew Luck have lit the world on fire playing behind a bad line? Would Brandon Weeden had compiled awesome stats if he played for Miami-Ohio?


Over-valuing the quarterback position is sort of a lazy way to handicap. The quarterback is the most visible guy--the easiest to analyze. When we base the outcome of a game largely on the quarterback match-up, we neglect the other positions and the important match-ups that go along with it.

Again, a quarterback might be good enough to will his team to victory on occasion through sheer individual determination. Most times, however, he is only as good as his tools. But we judge them all the same. We look at stats and won-loss records. But these quarterbacks are all working with different equipment. For example, you’re going to build a deck on your house quicker with a nail-gun than if you just have an old hammer. So we need to try to judge quarterbacks in relation to how well they’re doing with the tools at their disposal.

Experience is important in college football with the quarterback position. A QB out of high school is making a big jump to the college ranks and might need time to come around. But in his second season, you want to see improvement. He will be facing a lot of the same teams he faced before and you want to see some personal growth.

And when a quarterback change ensues, take a close look. The urge is to immediately regard it as a red flag. But that should be the case only if the replaced quarterback was in fact good. And determining that will require you to actually watch the team. Is the quarterback getting the most out of his players? If not, a change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

And there are things we are looking at from college quarterbacks that don’t show up in the stats. What we are talking about is game vision--an almost instinctive quality that you want to see in young field generals. Again, since this doesn’t show up in the stat box, so you will need to watch these games to pick up on these important and game-changing variables.

You want a quarterback who has different gears, a guy who can step it up when the moment calls for it. In a close game where he hasn’t been able to get much foothold, you want to see a young quarterback who feels the urgency. He can sense the flow of a game. He understands where he stands. He doesn’t throw to a receiver surrounded by defenders 5 yards downfield on a 3rd and 13 play. When dealing with young men like these, poise and game vision are vitally important in determining the outcomes of games and our wagers.

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