Without a great quarterback-receiver connection, all hope of fielding a potent passing attack is lost. And without a potent passing attack, dreams of securing a spot in the College Football Playoff are all but gone because offense wins championships.
Thanks to the advanced Pro Football Focus data, we can identify college football's best quarterback-to-receiver tandems, whether the receiver is a big-bodied tight end, a small and shifty running back or a do-it-all wide receiver. And given the small sample thus far, we are also taking the 2019 season into account.
In terms of PFF wins above average (WAA), only 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow was worth more wins than Justin Fields was in 2019. He lit up defenses both inside and outside of structure, recording the third-best big-time-throw rate among college quarterbacks and putting the ball in harm's way at the 16th-lowest rate nationwide.
Wide receiver Chris Olave will team up with Fields once again as the Ohio State Buckeyes set their gaze toward the College Football Playoff. Olave created separation on 82% of his targets last year, leading all FBS wide receivers, while his 3.38 yards per route run ranked 11th among receivers who saw at least 50 targets.
Fields has the ability to put up impressive numbers without a receiver who can separate at an elite level, but Olave just makes life much more comfortable, and this offense that much more dangerous.
What more is there to say about Lawrence? He has thrown an accurate pass on 94.1% of his passes so far this season, a rate nearly 20 percentage points higher than that of any other college quarterback, and his 95.7 PFF passing grade has him sitting comfortably atop the nation's quarterbacks through four weeks of play.
Ngata has been nursing an injury this year, but he is bound to comprise a formidable duo with Lawrence when he returns to full health. Ngata produced some incredibly impressive reps against press coverage on the outside last year, hauling in 9 of 17 such targets for 147 yards and two touchdowns. With his size and physicality, Ngata just dominates undersized cornerbacks.
Morgan is one of the country's very best anticipation throwers, which regularly shows up on the team's patented run-pass option (RPO) slant. The Minnesota quarterback led all college quarterbacks in passing grade on RPOs last year. All told, he completed 60 of 90 RPO attempts for 1,053 yards and nine scores, ranking him third and fourth, respectively, among qualifying quarterbacks.
Morgan was slated to play the 2020 season without Bateman, who initially opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, but the pass-catcher recently changed course after the Big Ten announced its decision to return to fall football. Bateman earned an 89.0 receiving grade in 2019, ranking 13th among 361 qualifying FBS wide receivers, generating a step or more of separation on 57.8% of his targets against single coverage and catching 10 of his 16 contested downfield targets.