Tuesday Lunch: Quarterback Conversation Edition

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The conversation began last season when West Virginia's Geno Smith and Cincinnati's Zach Collaros battled to nearly identical numbers in the race for First Team All-Big East quarterback.

Eventually, the Big East handed the distinction to Collaros, despite the Bearcats 4-8 campaign. The argument could have swayed both ways, likely dependent on the whose is in charge of the debate.

Just know, Collaros wasn't going to involve himself in it, whether then or now as Smith comes to town with the Mountaineers.

"I think my friends and people like that paid more attention to it than I did," he said. "They would bring it up to me. i would just laugh about it. I am not really one to read newspaper clippings and stuff like that. I don't really pay attention to things said through the week or in the offseason."

Here were the numbers from 2010:

QB                         G   Cmp-Att  Pct   Yds   Y/P TD  Int  Rtg     Y/G

Zach Collaros  11  225-383  58.7  2902  7.6  26  14  137.5   263.8
Geno Smith    13  241-372  64.8  2763   7.4  24   7  144.7   212.5

The other number not included here, of course, would be 4-8 vs 9-4, those being the records of the respective quarterbacks.

You be the judge.

With both returning and believed to be the top quarterbacks in the conference this offseason, the debate raged on. The bottom line is the two present different sizes and skill sets. Smith rolls in at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds and the big arm to go with it.

"You look at Geno and you look at his stature and his physical makeup, he's an NFL quarterback," Butch Jones said. "He's a great player, he's a pocket passer."

Collaros fights the battle of his size every day at 6-feet tall, but utilizes his legs more often to make plays.While Jones wouldn't place Collaros in the same "NFL quarterback" conversation as Smith just yet, he did allow this about the football-playing future of ZC.

"I think Zach would be the first to tell you, you focus on your senior year," Jones said. "The more you win, the more attention you receive. I know he has all the intangibles, it comes down to the so-called experts with his size and his height, but there's one thing you can't measure and that is a person's heart and his heart is very big."

As for the results on the field this year, the numbers shift dramatically to Smith in coach Dana Holgorsen's fast-paced, pass-heavy offense.

Here are the stats, with them separated out to represent only the totals against BCS AQ conferences.

QB                        G   Cmp-Att  Pct   Yds   Y/P TD  Int  Rtg     Y/G

Zach Collaros  5   109-167    65.3  1248  7.5  8   6    136.6  249.7
Geno Smith    6    176-275   64.0  2267  8.2  14  5   146.4   377.8

Smith holds the edge, specifically with his passes per interception ratio, which would be 1:55. Collaros would be 1:28.

Add in the number of plays put squarely on Smith's shoulders and he deserves all the credit in the world for the success of his offense. Yet, just because Dana Holgorsen created a one-dimensional offense based on Smith's play-making, doesn't make Collaros a less effective QB.

Toss in the fact Collaros rushed for seven touchdowns in the BCS AQ games and the TD-INT ratios are about even. With only one percentage point separating their completion percentage and a deceiving TD-INT ratio when rushes are considered, the numbers live much closer to even than a quick glance over the stats would prove.

Oh yeah, then throw in the fact UC is 7-1, 3-0 compared to 6-3, 2-2 and the perhaps the jury on this debate should reconsider some of the evidence.

What makes the mark of a winning quarterback? Is it gaudy numbers, or great plays in critical spots? Winners are those that makes the plays when they are needed most. For a quarterback, that's third down.

Take a look at the stats comparing Smith and Collaros on third downs this season.

QB                         Comp-Att  %  Yds  TD  Int  Rtg     1st   1st%
Zach Collaros     39-65     60   667  7    6   163.3   28     43
Geno Smith       49-77     63   682   4    2   150.0   33    43

The concerning element for Collaros would be the interceptions on third down, but looking past that he's converted the same amount of attempts into first downs and even holds a 13-point higher rating because some of this longest passes of the year have come on third down.

Beyond that, consider Collaros also ran 12 times on third-and-seven-or-less this season. Those went for 36 yards and five times ended in first downs (42 percent) and you have a quarterback making an impact in other areas of the game.

QB play equates to more than just throwing for an absurd amount of yards. All that really matters for now are the two numbers on the scoreboard at Paul Brown Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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