College Football Playoff quarterbacks, ranked by who’s best in CFP

The College Football Playoff is finally upon us, as the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines will face off against the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl, while the No. 2 Washington Huskies will play the No. 3 Texas Longhorns in the AllState Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day for a spot in the National Championship game.

All four teams were conference champions this season and earned the nod over the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles, who were an unbeaten conference champion, but lost starting quarterback Jordan Travis to a season-ending injury that ultimately was the difference-maker for the committee.

One similarity between all four playoff teams? Each had strong play from their quarterback, who helped their respective teams earn a spot in the top four.

Let’s rank all four quarterbacks and the seasons that each had for their team.

1. Washington: QB Michael Penix Jr.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Oregon at Washington

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A Heisman runner-up, Penix followed up a breakout 2022 season with another strong campaign in 2023 — throwing for 4,218 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, while completing 65.8 percent of his passes on the year.

Possessing a howitzer of an arm, Penix has overcome a number of season-ending surgeries to revive his career in Washington under head coach Kalen DeBoer.

Working with wideouts Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan at his disposal, Penix is a gamer that leads one of the more prolific passing attacks in the nation at Washington, which he’ll look to continue in the College Football Playoff.

Running back Dillan Johnson has been an explosive threat on the ground, and Penix’s arm, combined with Washington’s offensive line creates an extremely well-rounded attack for the Huskies.

2. Alabama: QB Jalen Milroe

NCAA Football: SEC Football Championship-Georgia at Alabama

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One of the breakout stars of the 2023 season, Milroe took over for Bryce Young this season and developed as the year went along.

Overall, Milroe threw for 2,718 yards, 23 touchdowns, and six interceptions at a rate of 10.4 yards per attempt.

But, the most impressive aspect of his season was the increase from a 58.5 percent completion rate in 2022 to 65.5 percent in 2023, as accuracy was one of the biggest questions in his game

Additionally, Milroe was a significant threat on the ground, rushing for an additional 12 touchdowns.

Milroe’s late-season evolvement aided Alabama’s late push for a College Football Playoff spot, which involved key moments — such as the quarterback’s 31-yard touchdown pass to wideout Isaiah Bond on 4th & Goal to save the game against Auburn.

Now, he’ll look to take his team over the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines in the semifinal in hopes of earning the first National Championship in his first year as a starter.

3. Michigan: QB J.J. McCarthy

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Michigan at Iowa

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A potential first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, McCarthy had a strong junior season, throwing for 2,630 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only four interceptions, while throwing for 9.2 yards per attempt and completing 74 percent of his passes.

A two-year starter at Michigan, McCarthy possesses a strong arm and plays in a pro-style system where he has showcased the ability to maneuver through his progressions.

Additionally, McCarthy has shown flashes of being a dual-threat quarterback, as he has good enough mobility to extend plays with his legs, and make off-schedule throws.

Despite possessing elite efficiency in 2023, McCarthy does occasionally struggle with ball placement, and his frame has been questioned by critics for potentially not being big enough at the position.

Still, McCarthy has been one of the top quarterbacks over the 2023 season, and works well with Michigan’s system that heavily involves top running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

4. Texas: QB Quinn Ewers

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Oklahoma State at Texas

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One of the bigger storylines in college football since signing with Ohio State, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers put together an impressive redshirt sophomore campaign, throwing for 3,161 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions, while completing nine yards per attempt.

Ewers missed two games this season due to injury, but improved from a redshirt freshman campaign where he completed 58 percent of his passes.

Likely to return for another season in 2024 at Texas, Ewers has taken on the reigns, working with top receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai “AD” Mitchell, who have been big-play threats for the Longhorns on the outside.

Ewers has the respect of opposing head coach Kalen DeBoer, who knows the talent that the quarterback has, which will be tough to contain in the Sugar Bowl.

“Been very impressed,” DeBoer said about Ewers earlier this week. “He can deliver the ball, put it wherever he wants. We know we’ll have our hands full trying to slow Quinn and the offense down.”

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