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Penn State Football: If Trace McSorley Isn't No.1 It Sure Is Close

by on July 17, 2018 1:20 PM

For the sake of context it's worth noting that the Centre Daily Times is currently ranking the Top 10 Penn State players at (apparently) every position.

It's a good way to pass the time, a good idea for discussion and for the sake of having done something in the middle of July to justify sportswriting as a full-time profession when so few sports are even taking place.

In the interest of transparency I had no idea that today was the day the CDT was going to release its Top 10 quarterbacks to play at Penn State. I'm sitting at Wegman's eating salad waiting for my car to finish getting inspected and I too find myself looking for something to write about before I take a brief vacation prior to training camp.

And I've been thinking about Trace McSorley, who comes in fourth on the CDT's list.

I've been thinking about how underrated he really is in the minds of just about everyone who watches or cares about Penn State.

It's not so much that eyes shouldn't have been on Saquon Barkley the past two years, but Penn State could have found a way to win without him. Finding a way to win with McSorley? It's hard to picture the same outcome.

Ranking players is, with all due respect, dumb. That's not a new opinion or an original one (but LeBron is better than Jordan.) It's impossible to look at football 15 years ago and pretend its the same as it is now let alone 30 or 40 years. The game changes so fast, the roles of players so drastically that one great quarterback could suddenly be transformed into an average one if transported forward or back in time.

But the true role of a quarterback, the real purpose of the position. That hasn't changed. Make good decisions, get the ball to playmakers and find a way to win games. 

So in that light, how is McSorley fourth? 

Kerry Collins is perhaps predictably first on the list, but is he better than McSorley? In 1994 Collins threw for almost 1000 fewer yards than McSorley has for each of the past two years. Sure the Nittany Lions had perhaps the most explosive offense in college football history, but that wasn't all Collins, it was a confluence of many factors. In 1993 he threw for almost 2000 fewer yards than McSorley did. Perhaps a sign of the era, but true nevertheless.

Ultimately the entire idea of ranking any player comes down to what they did with the teams they had. Collins went undefeated his final year. It's hard to top that, national title or not. That being said, is there a big difference between the successes of 2016 and 1994 record aside?

Todd Blackledge is second, largely for this success-based reason, a national title to his name. But as a quarterback, Blackledge threw 41 interceptions, or one every 16 passes. Compare that to McSorley who has thrown 18 in his career with nearly 200 more attempts to his name. That ratio works out to one interception every 47.4 passes. Blackledge just cracked in 2,200 yards his final season, McSorley has never thrown for fewer than 3,500.

Or maybe it's Chuck Fusina who had two 11-1 seasons his name. But his numbers are dated, effective, but dated. 

So why isn't it McSorley? What's the reason he isn't the best to ever do it?

He already holds the No.1 and No.2 spots on the single-season passing list. He has 18 career INTs on 854 passes and more than a few of those were meaningless. He has the most 200-yard games, the most TDs, he ought to end up being Penn State's only 10,000 yard passer and he ought to reach 1,000 yards rushing and over 20 career rushing TDs. He's basically half a season from the all-time passing record as well.

On the field, he's more important than Barkley was, he has engineered a season-saving drives, comebacks and upsets on more than one occasion and he rarely makes mistakes.

Sure, maybe you're going to say he doesn't have title, or maybe he benefits from being a three-year starter. And sure, those things are valid. 

But at the end of the day McSorley is as good as anyone Penn State has had making throws, his stats are better than everyone else's and his accomplishments are not far off Penn State's brightest moments in the program's history. What you do is part of the resume, but when it comes down to being a quarterback and doing that job, nobody has been better.

So you want to give the nod to Collins or Blackledge? They deserve a nod in this conversation.

But tell me why McSorley isn't No.1 



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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