[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image source="featured_image" img_size="large"][vc_column_text]National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with the toughest jobs in the Power Five, five great QB situations you might not be aware of, and five quarterbacks you should know about but might not.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]
— It’s not easy to win in the Power Five and sometimes it’s downright impossible. Here are the 10 toughest places to win in my book.
Competing in the SEC is hard enough. Competing in the SEC while having some of the toughest academic standards in the country is a whole 'nother thing. The 'Dores have had one head coach with a winning record over more than three seasons since the 1950s, and that was James Franklin. Makes you appreciate just how amazing of a job he did there.
The Blue Devils have the tough task of being another elite academic institution (a theme we'll see plenty of on this list) and also being a basketball school through and through. With four Power Five teams in the state, it's always tough to recruit to a place that does not have the same history as some of the other places nearby.
On the face of it, Illinois shouldn't be as tough a place to win as it has been. But it has a couple of very distinct things working against it. Champaign is nowhere near the population base of the state in Chicago, which is a recruiting territory that has been dominated by Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa over the past decade-plus. Additionally, Illinois has tougher academic standards than most other similar schools and is not in nearly as nice a town as Wisconsin, Indiana, or a lot of the other schools they're recruiting against.
There are definitely a couple of outposts in the Pac 12 that are difficult to win at and Oregon State is number one on that list. Corvallis is really in no man's land between Eugene and Portland, and the Beavers don't have any real strong history. It's a tough sell to get guys up there.
Lubbock is a lonely place out in west Texas. So while there's plenty of talent in the state, they're one of a dozen FBS teams in the Lone Star State, and they're not nearly as close to the talent hubs of the Dallas and Houston areas as most of their competition. Outside of a handful of Mike Leach seasons, a generational player in Michael Crabtree, and a guy named Mahomes, there haven't been a ton of truly competitive teams to come out of there.
Much like Vanderbilt, Northwestern has to deal with academic standards that are not there for 99% of other schools, and they are also in a very difficult conference. But Pat Fitzgerald has done a downright otherworldly job at his alma mater since he took over in 2006, and is the first coach with a winning record since Ara Parseghian. Don't forget, this is the program that lost 34 straight games in the '70s and '80s.
The smallest school in the Power Five, Wake Forest is yet another excellent academic institution that has a much smaller pool of potential recruits to go out and try to bring in due to the school's academic standards. Dave Clawson is the first head coach with a winning record at the school since Peahead Walker who last coached there in 1950. The Demon Deacons have the worst winning percentage of any Power Five program, as they're nearly 200 games under .500.
The Mark Mangino years were fun, but don't let that distract you from the fact that this is historically one of the worst programs year-in and year-out. While they don't have the academic restrictions of some of the other schools on this list, they are clearly a basketball school that puts all of its resources into that program. And it's not like the state of Kansas is producing a ton of 4- and 5-star recruits every year either.
The Cougars suffer from a lot of the same problems that their conference mate Oregon State suffer from, namely, remote location and lack of tradition. Wazzu has a little more winning tradition than the Beavers, especially with some of the Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf seasons, but no one is confusing them with Alabama anytime soon. They're in an even more remote location than Oregon State too - it is not easy to get to games on the Palouse unless you already live there.
BC has more tradition and program history than anyone else on this list, but that doesn't mean that it's easy to win in Chestnut Hill. For one, there is simply not a college football culture in New England like there is in the rest of the country, making it so that most people are indifferent about the Eagles. Secondly, BC does have some academic standards limiting the kids who can go there. They're also geographically separated not only from the rest of their conference (the closest ACC school to them is Syracuse) and most of their talent base.
[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— We all know that Bryce Young and CJ Stroud will put up amazing numbers this season. But here are some QBs in great situations you might not be aware of.
Brennan Armstrong is one of the best players in the country that no one is talking about. I expect to see new coach Tony Elliott use his athleticism and ability to throw on the run much in the same way that we saw him use Deshaun Watson in his heyday.
I'm still out here banging the drum for Cameron Ward and Eric Morris, the duo that will do to the Power Five what the duo of Bailey Zappe and Zach Kittley did at Western Kentucky last season when they came over together from the FCS level. Ward is an absolutely electric player who will make a ton of highlight reels and put up ridiculous stats if nothing else this year.
This is more of a vote of confidence for Mike Leach's offense than it is for Will Rogers, but I don't want to disparage Rogers. He's grown a ton in his two years as a starter for the Bulldogs, and clearly has a mastery of Leach's air raid attack. Rogers led the nation in a bunch of statistical categories last season, and I expect him to improve on those numbers in 2022.
There's been a lot of love for the Wildcats on this website recently, and you can see why. Chris Kleiman's offense may not be a wide-open, throw the ball 50+ times a game style that the others on this list are, but they offer a lot of great options for new quarterback Adrian Martinez.
West Lafayette has long been called the Cradle of Quarterbacks, and Aidan O'Connell looks like he might be the next great one to come out of Purdue. Jeff Brohm's offense fits O'Connell's big arm well, and he's shown he's not afraid to try and make big plays. Yes, CJ Stroud is head and shoulders above everyone else in the Big Ten, but Aidan O'Connell might be the second-best quarterback in that conference.
— And when it comes to the NFL Draft, we all hear the names Young and Stroud and even Tyler Van Dyke and Will Levis. But don’t forget these guys who will make waves and become NFL scout favorites.
Clayton Tune, Houston — The best Group of Five quarterback? Grayson McCall might argue but by the end of next season, we could be singing about Tune as a first-rounder.
Tanner McKee, Stanford — He’s big, has a great arm and he sees the field well. Stanford isn’t good but he is.
Jaren Hall, BYU — He’s dynamic and it wouldn’t be a shock to see folks fall for him like Zach Wilson.
Anthony Richardson, Florida — He has the ability to be amazing. I mean amazing. He has all the physical tools to make some NFL team fall in love.
KJ Jefferson, Arkansas — He doesn’t get the national attention of some others but he has the look of a longtime NFL player.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]