2013 college football preview: Who is going to be the best quarterback in the nation?

Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates with the trophy after a victory against the Oklahoma Sooners during the 2013 Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. The Aggies beat the Sooners 41-13. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback is the position that gets all the glory, but also gets the goat. When a team performs well, the old saying goes, the quarterback gets too much credit. When that same team performs poorly, that same signal-caller gets too much blame. Such is the life of the most scrutinized position on the football field.

No matter what team you were cheering for in 2012, you witnessed the rise of several quarterbacks to the class of college football elite.

The complaint of an East Coast bias in sports media tends to be pervasive, but young men such as Marcus Mariota way out in Oregon did his region, his school and his conference proud. So did the only passer to out-duel the redshirt freshman in 2012, another redshirt frosh in Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. Both won a BCS bowl game, with Mariota leading the Ducks to a Fiesta Bowl blowout and Hogan doing just enough to win the Rose Bowl. Brett Hundley was yet another first year starter to show the college football world that he was ready for the spotlight, leading UCLA to nine wins on the strength of his 29 touchdown passes.

[2013 College football rankings: Way too early preseason top 25]

Another very young passer who came into his own in 2012 was Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore proved his toughness with a dismantling of a dominant Florida Gators’ defensive unit in the 2013 BCS Sugar Bowl.

Former No. 1 NFL draft pick David Carr smiled watching his little brother David dominate for his alma mater, throwing 37 touchdowns and only seven interceptions for Fresno State. Carr was one of several mid-major monsters in 2012, along with dual-threat superstar Jordan Lynch, who rushed for 1,815 yards for Northern Illinois in 2012, and Rakeem Cato, who led the nation in passing with 350.1 yards per game out of Marshall.

The bruisers of the Big Ten had a down year in 2012, but 2013 is Taylor Martinez’ swan song at Nebraska, and big things are expected of him. Especially after passing for 2,871, rushing for 1,019 and totalling 33 touchdowns. However, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is the class of the league, and not only will he enter 2013 with his sights set on the Rose Bowl and BCS title game, but on a Heisman as well. A repeat performance of 2012’s perfect, 12-0 season would speak for itself.

There were similar struggles for the majority of the ACC, but not for Tajh Boyd, who led Clemson to a thrilling victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Like Miller, Boyd can do it all, and is looking to win it all in 2013.

[2013 Heisman Trophy: Way too early watch list]

Miami’s Stephen Morris should improve upon his 279 yards per game, 21 touchdowns and only seven picks in his final hurrah on South Beach, especially now that the dark cloud of an NCAA investigation has been lifted for the time being.

Of course, winning it all, whether it be the national championship or the Heisman Trophy, will not be easy. AJ McCarron has had a stranglehold on the crystal ball for the last two seasons, and he is headed back to Alabama for his senior year after leading the nation in passing efficiency (175.3) in 2012. Aaron Murray is returning to Georgia not for all the records he is going to break, but specifically to break Bama’s title streak and win one for the Dawgs.

Then there is Johnny Manziel. Like Mariota, Hogan and Hundley, Manziel came into the 2012 season a redshirt freshman. However, unlike the others, Johnny Football was a Heisman Trophy winner only a few short months later. Manziel averaged eight yards every time he touched the football en route to a conference record 5,116 yards on the year.

Will he be just the second player in college football history to repeat as Heisman winner? Will one of the two senior SEC signal-callers steal the Trophy from him?

Will 2013 see a continued rise for the little guys in the MAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA, or will a passer lead a resurgent Big Ten or ACC team to glory?

Then, of course, there’s the brace-faced Teddy Bridgewater, carrying the mantle for the Big East in his program’s final year in the conference.

There is so much talent all over the nation, but in the end, one passer will stand tall over all the rest. He may not be the Heisman winner, but individual accolades are not what any of these young men are striving for.

They want to beat the best, in order to be named the very best. Take the time now, support your favorite player, or simply vote by the stats.

We’re just going to go ahead and ask it …

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Keep voting! Who is going to win the SEC Championship? What about the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 titles?