As football continues to align itself more and more with offense, stats are becoming more inflated than they've ever been. At no position is this truer than quarterback, where players pass and run for 5,000 yards-plus and 50 touchdowns every year now. Usually, stat monster quarterbacks like Joe Burrow or Kyler Murray go on to win the Heisman Trophy and get drafted No. 1 overall. But you don't need to be an award winner to put up monster numbers, as any Washington State quarterback under former coach Mike Leach will tell you.
Heading into the 2020 season, our staff picked their favorite quarterback to put up massive numbers. These are our best guesses for who is going to lead the country in total yards, touchdowns or both. All of them are familiar names for college football fans, but there's always the chance someone comes out of nowhere to take the sport by storm. Let's get to the contenders.
Tom Fornelli: Kedon Slovis, USC
Slovis didn't enter the 2019 season as USC's starter but was instead thrust into the position after J.T. Daniels went down in the team's season-opener. Slovis would not relinquish his position. The mostly anonymous freshman seemed a perfect fit for USC's new Air Raid offense. He finished ninth in the nation with 291.8 yards per game while completing 71.9% (third nationally) of his throws for 8.9 yards per attempt (11th). His 30 touchdown passes were the 14th most by any FBS QB last season despite the fact he missed most of USC's win over Utah and its entire loss to Washington because of a concussion.
He now enters the 2020 season as the presumptive starter at USC, and considering J.T. Daniels has entered the transfer portal, there isn't much reason to believe his grip on the job isn't held with an iron fist. Slovis put up terrific numbers as a freshman who was reined in a bit, as his 32.7 pass attempts per game ranked 27th nationally. In 2020, he'll likely find himself given more rope to sling the ball around in an offense designed to showcase its quarterback and receivers. Considering the talent he's surrounded by, there's a good chance Slovis will finish the season with eye-popping numbers.
Chip Patterson: Sam Ehlinger, Texas
The question is for "most productive" not "best" or "most popular," though I'd feel comfortable with my selection if we were only polling in the state of Texas. Ehlinger is the nation's leader among returning players for total offense, ranking No. 4 in the country a year ago with 332.8 yards per game. Ehlinger might be dealing with a change at offensive coordinator, but when the stage is the biggest, Tom Herman reflects shades of that Urban Meyer coaching tree with the commitment to putting the game in the hands of the quarterback. The four-year starter is going to carry a heavy load in the Texas offense, and that's going to help power another year of ranking in the top-five nationally in total offense.
Barrett Sallee: Justin Fields, Ohio State
All Fields did in his first season as a starting quarterback was throw for 3,273 yards, account for 51 touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing), earn an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and lead his team to the College Football Playoff. Not too shabby. Coach Ryan Day will put even more on his plate as a junior, which means he'll put up video game stats comparable to what you put up on the "NCAA Football" video game (RIP). Expect him to be more of a factor in the running game alongside Master Teague and take on more in the passing game. The only thing that could prevent him from putting up 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards is if he is so good that he hits the bench to rest up too early in games.
Ben Kercheval: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
As official Staff Picks curator, I always allow my colleagues to make their selections first before my own and I can't believe no one chose Lawrence. It's as though he's too much of an obvious choice. Well, sometimes the easiest (or most correct) answer is the most obvious one. Even after a "slow" start, Lawrence put together 4,228 yards of total offense, which ranks third nationally among returning quarterbacks. He also scored 45 total touchdowns. The emergence of Lawrence as a runner, highlighted by him leaving Ohio State's bewildered defense in the dust, was a new dimension to Clemson's offense. While the goal should always be to keep Lawrence upright, his legs should continue to be a part of the arsenal. Don't let the dip at the beginning of last season fool you: Lawrence was more productive as a sophomore than as a freshman when Clemson won the national title. He's getting better, as scary as that is.
David Cobb: K.J. Costello, Mississippi State
Costello threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns at Stanford in 2018 before injuries hampered him last season. Now he is headed to Mississippi State as a graduate transfer to join Mike Leach's Air Raid attack. If Costello stays healthy and is close to the player he was in 2018, watch out because the numbers will be astronomical. Just look at Anthony Gordon, who threw for 5,579 yards in his only season as a starter in Leach's system at Washington State last year. Sure, the robust defenses of the SEC will provide Leach's system with its stiffest challenge to date. But even if the win-loss record isn't great for Mississippi State this season, the production of the Bulldogs' quarterback will be.