The best quarterbacks aren’t always paired with that one lightning rod receiver. Likewise, the best wideouts don’t necessarily receive from a top flight quarterback. In those instances when such a pairing exists however, it’s magic. Those perfect combinations like peanut butter & jelly, John C. Reilly & Will Ferrell, Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson don’t come along often. Yet currently on the college football landscape, there may be more such pairings than at any time recently in the game’s history.
CREAM OF THE CROP
- Landry Jones & Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
The Sooners’ dynamic duo continues to thrive despite offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson leaving for Indiana. Todd Monken has employed the same spread offense as Wilson, which capitalizes on both Jones and Broyles’s abilities. Broyles’s style is reminiscent of former great Marvin Harrison. While he’s not the prototypical long receiver, he’s quick as a hiccup and able to outrun most corners. That lengthens the field and allows Jones to stretch coverages. The result is more than 12.5 yards per reception for Broyles, and six touchdowns through just four games.
- Brandon Weeden & Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Staying in the Sooner State, the football program in Stillwater has managed to wrest away some of the attention on its rival that bears the state nickname. Brandon Weeden has found Justin Blackmon 38 times to help buoy that 74.3 percent completion rating. Blackmon is also responsible for 450 of Weeden’s nearly 1600 yards, and is a steady presence for the sometimes erratic quarterback. Weeden has had turnover issues, throwing six interceptions, but with Blackmon pacing the receiving corps Weeden is accounting for more yards per game than any other quarterback but Case Keenum at Houston.
- Robert Griffin III & Kendall Wright, Baylor
Sensing a theme here? The Big 12 Conference’s future may be uncertain, but its present is punctuated with some of the most exciting offenses in the nation. Robert Griffin III has tossed 18 touchdown passes this season and done an effective job spreading the wealth, but Kendall Wright has proven himself the clear favorite target. The tone was set when Wright caught three passes on BU’s opening drive of the season, and hauled in RG3’s first scoring strike on that very series.
Since, the pair has accounted for six more goal line crossings and Wright leads the nation in yards caught per game with 155.3.
- Matt Barkley & Robert Woods, USC
If Matt Barkley doesn’t have a very nice Christmas present ready for Robert Woods, he should. The mega-talented USC receiver has provided Barkley a reliable target to the tune of 11 receptions per game, many of those coming against what would be double coverage — if secondaries could keep up with Woods. Barkley’s sometimes guilty of placing balls in precarious positions, but Woods’s ability to get to passes has helped the Trojan quarterback cut down on interceptions. Some of those throws would be picks with a different receiver, but Woods is like a heat-seeking missile for passes. He leads the nation with 55 receptions and has six scores, as well as two games with more than 200 yards.
- Tajh Boyd & Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Like all of Clemson’s start, the Tajh Boyd-Sammy Watkins combo has been a pleasant surprise maturing ahead of its time. Boyd is in just his second year, while Watkins is a veritable college football baby. Yet the pair looks like it has played together for years, hooking up 31 times for an astounding 15.2 yards per reception. So reliable has been Watkins, it prompted former Georgia defensive end and current ESPN analyst David Pollack to ask if Watkins was the best receiver in college football.
With nearly 20 percent of all of Boyd’s receptions coming to Watkins, the Tiger quarterback would probably say so. Having that reliable No. 1 has helped Boyd throw 14 touchdowns (six to Watkins) and just two interceptions, one of the best such ratios in the nation.
- Marshall Lobbestael & Marquess Wilson, Washington State
Marshall Lobbestael was not even Washington State’s No. 1 quarterback coming into the 2011 campaign. Talented Jeff Tuel broke his collar bone against Idaho State in Week 1, seemingly pointing the Cougars toward another bleak, one-or-two-win season. But the Red Lobster’s come on and paced Wazzu to 44.5 points per game, the 11th most in the Bowl Subdivision. At 334 yards per game, Lobbestael is the fourth most prolific passser in all of college football. The Cougars have ridden that offensive output to a 3-1 record with very realistic bowl game aspirations.
Fueling those aspirations was a big Pac-12 Conference road win a week ago at Colorado, in which Marquess Wilson’s importance was readily evident. He caught a touchdown pass and hauled in six passes for 120 yards to lead all receivers. Wilson’s caught five scores in just four games, and is bringing down passes at a ridiculous 26.2 yard per reception clip.
- Tanner Price & Chris Givens, Wake Forest
Wake Forest is a half-quarter away from a perfect 4-0 start, vastly exceeding expectations. The ascent of sophomore Tanner Price is a key factor; aside from his seven touchdowns and over 1100 yards passing, one need look no further than that one partial quarter at Syracuse when Price was injured to see how ineffective the offense was without him. Of course, Price’s effectiveness is largely predicated on Chris Givens, recipient of four of those touchdown passes. Givens is among the top five receivers nationally in yards per game, on track for a 1500-yard season.
Florida State’s stout defense will put the Wake duo to the test this week in Winston-Salem, but so far Price-to-Givens has proven to be a formidable foil to defensive coordinators.
- J.J. McDermott & Darius Johnson, SMU
June Jones’s offense is conducive to eye-popping numbers for its passers, and J.J. McDermott is no exception. He’s paced the Mustangs to a 4-1 start with nearly 1500 yards and eight touchdowns. Four of those came last Saturday in a defeat of cross-metroplex rival TCU, a landmark win in the program’s long and arduous ascent from the college football abyss. Darius Johnson’s been critical to the SMU passing attack with 39 receptions for 550 yards and four scores.
- Bryant Moniz & Royce Pollard, Hawaii
Speaking of June Jones, his spread system’s remained in tact at Hawaii under Greg McMackin. Bryant Moniz is the latest in a line of Warrior quarterbacks to air it out at a ridiculous pace, and Royce Pollard is emerging from the mold of NFL-level receivers the Island’s produced (Greg Salas, Devonne Bess, Kealoha Pilares). Last week’s road romp at Louisiana Tech saw Moniz and Pollard connect 10 times for 216 yards — that’s 21.6 yards per catch for those of you as bad at math as I — and three touchdowns. That doubled Pollard’s scoring line for the season, and bolstered what is one of the best yards per catch averages in all college football, with him snatching passes at a 16.2 per catch clip.
Moniz meanwhile is winging it around for over 315 yards per game, and with a 15 touchdown to 1 interception output, has the best score to turnover ratio in the nation.
- Alex Carder & Jordan White, Western Michigan
Western Michigan scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win at UConn. All three were from quarterback Alex Carder, whose 12 total touchdowns rank along with some of the more celebrated quarterbacks around the nation. Carder is boasting a nearly 70 percent completion rating and has thrown for over 293 yards per game, but those figures wouldn’t be possible without Jordan White. Like Freddie Barnes at Bowling Green two years ago, White is likely to attract “best receiver in the nation” talk to the MAC. His 55 receptions tie Robert Woods for most in college football, and only Woods has more yardage.