Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is new leader in the college football quarterback rankings

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker has sparked the Volunteers’ development into a national championship contender with one of the best starts to a season by a quarterback in SEC history, pushing him in front of Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and into the driver’s seat for the Heisman Trophy.

He’s also atop this week’s list of the nation’s best quarterbacks after a brilliant show in the 52-49 win against Alabama. Hooker averaged 12.1 yards per attempt and had five touchdowns, all to wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, as Tennessee handed the Crimson Tide one of the most painful losses in modern program history.

Almost across the board, Hooker’s numbers are in line with the record-setting 2019 season from former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the Tigers to the national championship and was the runaway Heisman winner.

Burrow averaged 378.1 passing yards per game and 10.8 yards per attempt, completed 76.3% of his throws and tossed 60 touchdowns with 201.9 efficiency rating.

Through six games – with at least seven and as many as nine more games to go – Hooker is averaging 302.8 yards per game and 10.7 yards per throw and completing 70.0% of his passes with 15 touchdowns for an efficiency rating of 187,7.

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Hooker has stiffer competition for the Heisman than Burrow faced in 2019. But with a strong second half, he could fend off Stroud and become the first player in Tennessee history to take home the award. 

Those two lead the way among Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks heading into Week 8:

1. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (2)

Hooker could put a lock on the Heisman by leading No. 4 Tennessee to wins in the two biggest games remaining on the schedule: No. 18 Kentucky on Oct. 29 and No. 1 Georgia on Nov. 5. Doing to Georgia what he did to Alabama – or even coming close – might be enough. The Bulldogs are allowing quarterbacks to hit on just 54.5% of their throws with just 5.4 yards per attempt.

BOWL PROJECTIONS:Tennessee moves into playoff after Alabama win

FIRST-HALF AWARDS:Ohio State, Tennessee’s Heupel lead superlatives

CALM DOWN:The biggest overreactions from Week 7 in college football

RE-RANK:Alabama tumbles, Tennessee joins top four in the latest 1-131 

2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (1)

Stroud’s marquee game won’t come until the regular season finale against No. 3 Michigan. But he should be tested by Iowa’s stingy defense in this Saturday’s meeting, even if the No. 2 Buckeyes are heavy favorites against the offensively challenged Hawkeyes. While Stroud has multiple touchdown passes in every game so far, Iowa has given up just three scores through the air against six interceptions.

3. Bryce Young, Alabama (7)

Young rebounded from his shoulder injury and showed why he may be the most important player in the country in nearly leading No. 6 Alabama past Hooker and the Volunteers. After missing the previous week’s win against Texas A&M, he threw for 455 yards and tied a career high with 35 completions in the narrow loss.

4. Max Duggan, TCU (4)

Duggan continues to put up big numbers as No. 8 TCU marches up the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. He drastically outplayed No. 11 Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders in last weekend’s double-overtime win, with 286 yards and two scores without an interception along with another 57 yards on the ground. Duggan ranks second on the team with 261 rushing yards at a tidy 6.1 yards per attempt.

5. Caleb Williams, Southern California (5)

Williams had his best game of the season in the No. 12 Trojans’ 43-42 loss to No. 15 Utah. After struggling in two of his first three starts in Pac-12 play, the former Oklahoma transfer threw for a season-high 381 yards and five touchdowns. USC led 21-7 and was in control before the Utes stormed back and then took the lead with under a minute left, but the loss falls on the shoulders of a wobbly defense.

6. DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson (8)

His night-and-day transformation continued with another really nice start, this time against Florida State. Uiagalelei averaged 8.8 yards per attempt and had three touchdowns in the 34-28 win, giving him at least three scores in three of the Tigers’ past four games. Uiagalelei’s development has brought No. 5 Clemson back to the top of the ACC after falling short last season.

7. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest (3)

No. 13 Wake Forest still has six opponents to go in ACC play: Boston College, Louisville, No. 23 North Carolina State, No. 24 North Carolina, No. 14 Syracuse and Duke. While the Demon Deacons are essentially eliminated from winning the ACC Atlantic for the second year in a row, winning at least five of six would merit a New Year’s Six bid and could land Hartman a seat among the Heisman finalists.

8. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan (6)

McCarthy’s counting totals don’t match up with the other names on this list – he’s thrown just nine touchdowns during No. 3 Michigan’s perfect start and ranks 94th nationally with 185.3 passing yards per game. But he’s only averaging 20.6 attempts per game, which sits outside the top 100 in the FBS, and is maximizing those opportunities: McCarthy leads the nation in completion percentage (77.1%) and is tied for 20th in yards per throw. Besides, why force McCarthy to do it all when Michigan’s running game can go for over 400 yards, as it did in last weekend’s rout of No. 16 Penn State?

9. Cam Rising, Utah (NR)

Rising threw a late interception that cost Utah dearly in the season-opening loss to Florida but was very clutch late against the Trojans, running in a late touchdown and then converting the two-point conversion to seal the 43-42 win. Those runs capped a career day for the second-year starter, who had 475 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, three on the ground. 

10. Quinn Ewers, Texas (NR)

Texas is a different team – a pretty good team, even – when Ewers is under center. Would the No. 21 Longhorns have gotten past Alabama had Ewers been healthy? Looking ahead, it’s clear Texas has a great chance at winning the Big 12 should the freshman maintain his level of play from the past two weeks. After torching Oklahoma for 289 yards and four scores in that rout, Ewers had three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Longhorns beat Iowa State 24-21.

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