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Second-Year Quarterbacks Who Could Have Explosive Seasons

College football will happen. A six-week practice plan has been drafted by the NCAA committee that could see teams starting practice July 13. Of course, things could change but the plan is in place and we are now 86 days away from the season starting. Hopefully, it will be here before you know it.

It’s easy to look at the older quarterbacks who could be opting for the NFL draft, but I think we should step back and look at the younger signal-callers who still have a few years left to build their profiles. Here are three quarterbacks I think could really propel their team forward this season and build off first-year momentum.

Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State

To Win Big 12 Conference: +400
Regular-Season Wins: UNDER 8.5 -140, OVER 8.5 +110
Heisman Trophy Winner: +3300

When it comes to the Big 12, I’m biased toward Sam Ehlinger, but I am hyped to see what Sanders can do this season. The Cowboys went 8-5 in 2019, with three losses coming by 10 points or less. Sanders was not under center for two of the five losses due to injury, including the 34-16 setback in their regular-season finale against Oklahoma and a three-point loss to A&M in the Texas Bowl.

In the 10 games Sanders did play, he had a 62.8 percent completion rate on 247 attempts for over 2,000 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for over 600 yards with two rushing majors.

The downside: his freshman season also came with 11 interceptions. However, seven came during a three-game stretch midseason when he tossed a pair in back-to-back games against Texas and Kansas State, and three against Texas Tech.

What to Look For 

Sanders is a dual-threat quarterback who can make plays outside the pocket. The Cowboys return leading rusher Chuba Hubbard (+1800 to win the Heisman) and three leading receivers, including Tyler Wallace. An area to focus on for improvement: cashing in on third-down opportunities. The Cowboys ranked 97th in third-down conversions but this team has the pieces in place to adjust. 

This could be a breakout year not only for Sanders but for Oklahoma State as well simply because of the number of offensive weapons available. They were 9-3-1 ATS last season, and 4-1-1 ATS away from home. Sanders has road-game experience and that could come into play as the Cowboys will face TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State all on the road.

Having beaten both TCU and Iowa State last year, the Cowboys could find themselves with a 6-0 record heading into their Oklahoma matchup in October.

Sam Howell, North Carolina

To Win Atlantic Coast Conference: +1000
To Win ACC Coastal Division: +250
Regular-Season Wins: UNDER 8.5 +100, OVER 8.5 -120
Heisman Trophy Winner: +2500

Color me impressed. Sam Howell was a low-key stud in 2019. I say “low-key” because Trevor Lawrence commands the ACC spotlight. Howell had just seven interceptions the entire season to 38 touchdowns as a freshman — a freshman! That was good for a school record, and fourth-best in the entire country behind only Joe Burrow, Anthony Gordon and Justin Fields. If you’re paying attention, you know two of those guys are now in the NFL and the other will surely be a top-10 pick in the next draft. Now you are telling me that he is coming back to build off a season in which he went over 3,300 yards passing? I’m ready and I can’t wait.

Howell may have had a stellar freshman year but that didn’t translate to wins. The Tar Heels went 7-6 on the season, with their highlights being a one-point loss to Clemson (21-20) and a two-point loss to Virginia Tech (43-41) in six overtimes. The positive: all six losses were by seven points or less.

They return 10 offensive starters, including top receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, who both had over 1,000 yards receiving and combined for 22 touchdowns. Brown also finished ninth in the nation by averaging 20.3 yards per reception.

What to Look For

How well they perform on the road will determine their season. North Carolina faces a brutal back-to-back opening stretch at UCF and Auburn. October doesn’t look too good either as they face Virginia, Duke and Miami on the road. Last year they were 2-3 both straight up and ATS in away games. 

Some benefits they do have: they don’t face Clemson in the regular season, and they get to host Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. With a favorable home schedule, if the Tar Heels can find a couple of away wins, they could end up at the top of the ACC Coastal Division.

Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

To Win Pac-12: +1000
To Win Pac-12 South Division: +450
Regular-Season Wins: OVER 7.5 -110, UNDER 7.5 -110

The Sun Devils went 8-5 on the season but 4-5 in conference play. They ranked 90th in total offense and 85th in points per game. Jayden Daniels did well, however, with 20 total touchdowns (17 passing, 3 rushing) to just two interceptions. The offense ranked 108th in first-half scoring but was 43rd in second-half points scored. This team had a winning record despite slow starts — in six of its games, Arizona State produced zero points in the first quarter.

One positive: Daniels was 24th in yards per pass attempt. He had 17 passing plays of 40 or more yards, including five of 70 yards or more. 

What to Look For

Herm Edwards did away with three offensive coaches, including coordinator Rob Likens, and brought in Boise State’s Zak Hill. Hill was with Boise for four seasons, during which the Broncos ranked 19th, 35th, 17th and 41st in total passing yards while averaging 33.9 points per game.

Running back Eno Benjamin and leading receiver Brandon Aiyuk have both moved on to the NFL, but with Hill as the new OC, it will be interesting to see how he can develop Daniels, wide receiver Frank Darby and the incoming recruited talent.

Last year, the Sun Devils defeated Washington State and Oregon at home while losing to both Colorado and USC, but will now face all four teams on the road. How well Daniels and this offense develops will be key in deciding how their season goes.