Ohio State and Clemson Have an Edge Over Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Oklahoma with Returning Quarterbacks

By David Regimbal on July 31, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Justin Fields

With the coronavirus pandemic still ripping through the country, we're entering an unprecedented college football season that already has major conferences scaling back schedules in an effort to make fall competition a reality.

There's so much uncertainty about what this season could look like, and with fall camps scheduled to start in the coming week, any level of stability is bound to give various teams an edge over the competition.

When it comes to the programs expected to contend for the four spots in this year's college football playoff, Ohio State and Clemson have a sense of stability that other contenders don't — a returning (and Heisman Trophy contending) quarterback behind center.

The Buckeyes, of course, have Justin Fields, who put up video game numbers during his first season in Columbus. The sophomore completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards and 10 more scores.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence followed up a historic freshman season with a solid sophomore campaign in which he amassed over 4,200 yards of total offense and 45 total touchdowns.

Both quarterbacks led their respective teams to perfect 13-0 starts and a Fiesta Bowl playoff matchup, and their returns are one of the primary reasons Clemson and Ohio State are No. 1 and No. 2 in nearly every preseason ranking available at the moment.

The popular potential contenders who are expected to join the Buckeyes and Tigers — Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Oklahoma — can't say the same.

Here's a quick look at the challenge those playoff hopefuls face in finding new signal-callers.


The Tide are a bit ahead of schedule compared to the other schools on this list because of the late-season 2019 injury to Tua Tagovailoa. 

Tagovailoa was a key cog in Alabama's title win in 2017 and playoff run in 2018. The Tide was in the latter stages of overhauling their offense from pro-style sets to spread concepts, and Tagovailoa was tremendously productive, registering nearly 7,000 total yards of offense and 87 career touchdowns.

But Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury midway through November last fall, which forced Mac Jones into a starting role for Alabama's final three-and-a-half games. 

Jones played very well down the stretch for the Tide, throwing for over 900 yards and 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions against Western Carolina, Auburn and Michigan to close the season. He has the clear edge to start for Alabama in 2020.


The Bulldogs lost multi-year starter Jake Fromm, who threw for over 7,300 yards and 70 touchdowns against 15 interceptions during his three-year career at Georgia.

Head coach Kirby Smart had set the Bulldogs up for future success when he secured a commitment from Fields as a recruit, but the dynamic dual-threat quarterback transferred to Ohio State ahead of the 2019 season.

The transfer market was good to Georgia after Fields left Athens, as Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman and USC transfer JT Daniels found new homes in Georgia. Both have experience and will compete for the starting role with the Bulldogs in 2020.


The Tigers have arguably the toughest job among 2020's college football playoff contenders in replacing a lost quarterback.

Joe Burrow was absolutely sensational as a redshirt senior in LSU's dynamic offense system in 2019, amassing over 6,000 yards of total offense and 65 total touchdowns in the Tigers' 15-0 title run last fall.

In addition to the loss of Burrow, the LSU offense needs to replace passing coordinator Joe Brady, who left the Tigers for the Carolina Panthers this offseason.


The Sooners have run with a transfer quarterback in essentially every year of the college football playoff era, with Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts behind center since 2015.

Needing a new quarterback in 2020, Oklahoma has Spencer Rattler, Tanner Mordecai and Chandler Morris competing for the role this fall. Rattler has the edge after appearing in three games for the Sooners last season, but he's only attempted 11 pass attempts during his college football career.

All the schools on this list need to replace multi-year starters who moved on to the NFL last season. Ohio State and Clemson have a sense of continuity behind center, but Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Oklahoma need to find new signal-callers.

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