College football's next star QBs

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota gives the Ducks a versatile playmaker under center. AP Photo/Tom Hauck

College football lost some elite quarterbacks after the 2011 season, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III selected in the first round of the NFL draft and the game's biggest winner (Kellen Moore) and most prolific statistical shredder (Case Keenum) exhausting their eligibility.

The expectation heading into this season was that a promising crop of veteran signal-callers would fill the void, including Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Landry Jones. But for the most part, this group of experienced quarterbacks has failed to meet expectations this season. As a result, the elite quarterback torch has been passed unexpectedly early to a batch of impressive up-and-comers who are taking over the position.

Getting this list of young star quarterbacks -- defined as true sophomores and younger -- was a challenge, nearly as difficult as sorting through the top of the BCS standings. That's how good these young guns have been in 2012. Three players on this list have led their programs to a combined 27-0 record, while the other two have elevated their teams to a level few expected coming into the season. Not only have all five become difference-makers, but they also are also poised to solidify themselves as the nation's top quarterbacks going forward.

So let the debate begin. Here is my ranking of the top five young quarterbacks in college football:

1. Braxton Miller, sophomore, Ohio State Buckeyes

What would the conversation sound like concerning the Big Ten, and Ohio State in particular, if the Buckeyes were eligible for postseason play? My guess is that the rumblings about the failures and ineptitude of the conference would be quieted a bit, and a fifth team would be involved in the BCS jigsaw puzzle at the top. While Ohio State and Miller lack a signature win in 2012 -- the Nebraska shellacking notwithstanding -- Miller continues to make his mark in a system built perfectly for his skill set.