Can Mettenberger help LSU win the title this year?
College football can be predictable but at other times it can be very unpredictable. When I think about what teams need in order to win a National Championship, it almost always includes veteran leadership at the quarterback position. Tim Tebow, Vince Young and Matt Leinart are just a few of the recent veteran quarterbacks that have led their teams to National Titles. In the last three years a strange trend has started to rear it's head. The last three teams to win the BCS National Championship have done so despite having a first year starter at quarterback.
In 2009, it was Greg McElroy leading Alabama to the promise land. He was a junior but he'd only thrown twenty passes over the previous two years while backing up future Atlanta Falcons clipboard holder, John Parker Wilson. In 2010, Cam Newton took the world by storm. Will anybody remember that a guy named Chris Todd was the starter for Auburn in 2009? Finally in 2011, it was once again Alabama using a brand new signal caller as sophomore AJ McCarron led the Tide to it's second National title in three years after backing up McElroy in 2010.
Are there any teams out there who could possibly give the college football world a fourth straight National Title from a first-year starter? Here are a few candidates:
Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Zach steps into a perfect situation for a brand new quarterback. He's got an all-star defense and he's also got an army of running backs at his disposal. LSU made it to the National Championship game last year. Mettenberger should provide an upgrade at the QB position for LSU, will it translate into a Crystal Trophy?
Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota, Oregon: We got a glimpse of Bennett last year and I liked what I saw but Mariota might be the man that ends up with the starting job. Whoever Chip Kelly decides to trust as the starter will have some fantastic talent in the backfield to work with and Oregon will be in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt and should have a chance to peak it's head into the National Title race if things go their way.
Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State: Outside of LSU and Oregon there really aren't any strong contenders but there are a few darkhorses and Michigan State is one of them. After getting throttled by Alabama in their 2010 bowl, the Spartans have gotten stronger and proved that by beating Georgia in the 2011 Capital One bowl game. Michigan State will need a lot to go it's way but they have a strong defense and return a good running back to help Maxwell out.
Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin: Wouldn't this be crazy? He loses his starting job at an ACC school that wins just two games and then goes to the Big Ten and wins a National Title? Crazier things have happened...wait...have they?
Whoever wins the starting job, Boise State: Kellen Moore dominated the Broncos QB position for so long, it's hard to remember who came before him. Now that Moore is gone (and a host of others) there are lessened expectations from the Nation for Boise. One thing to note is that with the exception of the opener against Michigan State, Boise has a really, really, really, really, really easy schedule. Ridiculously easy.
Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State: Brandon Weeden has moved on and Wes Lunt steps up in his place. The Pokes have gone 23-3 in the last two years. Sure they lost Weeden and Justin Blackmon but Gundy has created something in Stillwater and if Lunt is a plug and play kid then the Cowboys might be knocking on the door this year.
Andrew Luck's replacement, Stanford: Jim Harbaugh built Stanford into a wrecking ball and that's not going to change with Andrew Luck gone. Stanford will still be able to run the football. If Luck's replacement can grow into the position then the Cardinal could have a shot.