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A Banner Year for SEC Quarterbacks

Cam Newton leads a bumper crop of quality SEC passers this season.
Cam Newton leads a bumper crop of quality SEC passers this season.

I can remember before the season hearing a lot of talk about how the Pac-10 was the premier quarterbacking conference in the country. It hasn't worked out quite that way as Jake Locker, who Kiper and McShay are pulling hammies from distancing themselves from him as quickly as possible, turned out not to be the platonic quarterbacking ideal after all.

However the SEC has ended up having a banner year for quarterbacks, counter to expectations. The conference currently has five signal callers in the top 25 in passing efficiency, just behind the Big Ten's six and ahead of the Pac-10's four. Cam Newton is third, Stephen Garcia is fifth, Ryan Mallett is seventh, Greg McElroy is eighth, and Aaron Murray is 25th. If you extend the arbitrarily chosen limit from 25 to 31, the SEC picks up 31st-ranked Mike Hartline without the Big Ten picking up another one.

There still is time left in the season for the standings to shake up, so we can't call the race yet. However, if the conference maintains those five at the top, it would be the most it has had in the past five seasons. The SEC had three in 2009, three in 2008, two in 2007, and four in 2006. That quartet in 2006 contained JaMarcus Russell (3), Andre' Woodson (13), Erik Ainge (14), and Chris Leak (23).

Looking ahead, the chances of maintaining five doesn't look bad. Murray has Idaho State, Auburn (75th in passing efficiency defense), and Georgia Tech (43rd) to go. Hartline has Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt (92nd), and Tennessee (67th) to go. Bowl opponents (both should squeeze in at 7-5 or 6-6) will factor in as well, of course, but neither is exactly headed to a BCS game.

If Murray stays there and Hartline advances, that'd give the SEC six in the top 25. The most anyone has had in the last five seasons was the Big 12's seven in 2008.