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December 5, 2013
A League of QBs
The last time Missouri went 11-1 and played for a conference championship, the Tigers were in the Big 12. At the time, that conference was the Wild West of quarterbacks, a league dominated by prolific players behind center.
Once entering the SEC, there was supposed to be a drop-off in the talent at quarterback. This season, however, that hasn't necessarily been the case.
There's no arguing the difference in total yardage between quarterbacks in two leagues, 2007 compared to 2013. Six years ago, eight Big 12 quarterbacks went over 3,000 total yards, with two over 4,000 and one (Graham Harrell of Texas Tech) over 5,000.
This season, the SEC currently has three players over the 3,000 mark, although there's a chance that four more players join that club by the time bowl season ends. One big difference between the two groups of quarterbacks, however, is that the SEC is in a run of prolific duel-threat players. This season, the SEC has six quarterbacks with over 400 rushing yards; the Big 12 had three in 2007.
There's been no avoiding the top quarterbacks in each season for Missouri. This season, Missouri will play five of the top seven yardage leaders in the SEC this season. In 2007, the Tigers played five of the top eight in the Big 12.
"I think there's been some very good quarterbacks that we've played against," defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. "On our side, now, we've played against a few replacement quarterbacks, just like we had Maty Mauk step in for us. There's certainly some great quarterbacks in this league, guys that are fifth-year quarterbacks, guys who have played their best football this year.
"This league is more spread open than it used to be, no question about that. I think you could say that about college football, and I think you can say that in general about the NFL, now, too." Now, it remains to be seen if this current run of strong quarterbacks in the SEC continues. Six of the top ten yardage leaders are seniors. Another, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, is draft eligible and could enter his name.
"A lot of good quarterbacks," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think it's over a period of time, though. We'll see. It's obviously a great league, and again, I'm not real one to start analyzing the SEC. I've only been in it two years, but obviously a lot of great quarterbacks this year and we'll see the direction it goes."
Following the 2007 season, the top ten quarterbacks in total yardage returned for the 2008 season.
Whether the trend continues or not, there's no questioning the quarterback position in the SEC may be the most athletic it's ever been. On Saturday, Missouri gets to see the most dynamic runner at the quarterback position in Auburn's Nick Marshall. At the same time, Auburn has to prepare for James Franklin, who -- if eligible based on games played -- would rank third in the conference with 295.5 yards per game.