There's no preseason to watch, only closed practices and cryptic quotes to parse. The lack of information is there for a reason: Quarterback battles in college football carry so much weight -- teams' playoff hopes and Heisman Trophies have been in part determined by battles in the spring and preseason. This year is no different -- nine teams are heading into the final weeks of camp without a locked-in No. 1 QB. Amongst the teams looking for a "main man" are title contenders and coaches on the hot seat. Here's where those battles stand, and predictions on where they end up in the coming days and weeks:
Notre Dame - Malik Zaire vs. Deshone Kizer
Zaire won the starting quarterback job last year, but after sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in September, Kizer took over the helm and nearly led the Irish to the College Football Playoff. The buzz out of camp is that Kizer has held onto the starting job with above-average performances in the spring and in preseason camp. But given Brian Kelly’s freewheeling nature with QBs, there’s no guarantee that Kizer ends the season as the starting QB.
Getty ImagesJennifer Stewart
Michigan — John O’Korn vs. Wilton Speight vs. Shane Morris
O’Korn was amongst the most polished quarterback prospects in the nation when he signed with Tony Levine’s Houston in 2013. After being passed over by Heisman contender Greg Ward in his sophomore season, he transferred to Michigan to play for Jim Harbaugh. Speight had an edge on O’Korn after spring, but Harbaugh has always favored O’Korn and will give the redshirt junior the nod.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Georgia — Jacob Eason vs. Greyson Lambert
One of the toughest jobs to handicap in the country, first-year head coach Kirby Smart has to choose between potential and experience in his first year — a campaign that, given the state of the Georgia program, is critical. Lambert, a 6-foot-6 senior, holds the NCAA record for passing percentage in a single game (24-of-25 against South Carolina last season) but was also usurped for the starting job twice last year. Eason is the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation and appears to be from the same mold as Washington’s Jake Browning and UCLA’s Josh Rosen — two highly heralded prospects who started as true freshmen and thrived last season. Ultimately, bet on Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to go with Eason Week 1, as it’s likely inevitable he’ll start by the end of the season anyway. Going with him from Day One gives Smart and Chaney some cover amid high expectations.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
Florida — Luke Del Rio vs. Austin Appleby
This job was supposed to be Del Rio’s — the former Oregon State QB has spent a year learning Jim McElwain’s system and because of the poor play of his predecessors, was all but handed the job midway through last year as he sat out per NCAA transfer rules. But graduate transfer Austin Appleby, whose strong play was masked by a dearth of talent around him at Purdue — every Boilermaker game was a festival of drops — made a strong push in preseason camp and is in position to pull out a shock win. Both QBs could see action in Week 1 against UMass, but the smart money is on Appleby to start in the SEC opener Sept. 10 vs. Kentucky.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
USC — Max Browne vs. Sam Darnold
This wasn’t supposed to be much of a battle coming into this season — Browne waited for his turn, having lost out on the starting job in 2014 and 2015. The five-star prospect was supposed to be a shoo-in for the job, but he’s had a tough time separating from redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. The edge is still Browne’s, but given the terrifically tough start to USC’s season — Alabama, at Stanford, and at a defensively stout Utah in the first four weeks of the season — Browne could be on a short leash.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Alabama — Cooper Bateman vs. Blake Barnett
Alabama has a Top-5 offensive line, the best wide receiver core in the country, excellent tight ends, elite running backs, and an extraordinary defense that can singlehandedly win games — this should be the best quarterback job in the nation right? Well, it might be the most stressful — whoever wins this job will be viewed as the weak link in a well-oiled machine. Bateman had a strange 2015, getting the start in Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss in Week 3, only to be relegated to the bench again. The job has been his since the start of spring, and reports out of camp say that redshirt freshman Blake Barnett — who was in the running for the starting job last year — hasn’t done much to overtake him.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Auburn — John Franklin III vs. Jeremy Johnson vs. Sean White
Franklin is the heralded JuCo recruit who originally signed with Florida State out of high school but was moved to wide receiver. He fits what Gus Malzahn -- who is somehow in a make-or-break year on the Plains -- wants to do in the offense, but his inconsistency has reportedly been a big problem in camp. Jeremy Johnson was a Heisman favorite this time last year -- that didn’t work out well (a big part of the reason Malzahn is on the hot seat.) He’s done little to re-establish that hype this summer. That leaves White -- the QB with the lowest ceiling and highest floor. The unspectacular option, White -- who started six games last year, posting mediocre to poor numbers -- is the best bet to get that seventh career start against Clemson in Week 1.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Michigan State — Tyler O’Connor vs. Damion Terry vs. Brain Lewerke vs. Messiah DeWeaver
O’Connor has controlled this job since the end of last year, and he’s done little to relinquish the starting role. Coach Mark Dantonio has called O’Connor, who led the Spartans to a 17-14 win over Ohio State last season in Connor Cook’s absence, the "headline guy” in the last week. Terry will be the go-to guy should O’Connor falter or go down with an injury, though. O’Connor will have to prove himself early -- Sparty plays Notre Dame, Wisconsin and BYU over the course of a four-week span between Week 3 and 6.
Getty ImagesJamie Sabau
Stanford — Keller Chryst vs. Ryan Burns
Chryst is drawing comparisons to Andrew Luck. This is a competition in hype only. Burns might start a lot of places, but Chryst has the inside track, along with the track next to it. It would take a calamitous scenario for Burns to start Week 1 against Kansas State.