Big Fish in Small Ponds
by Nick Parsons
This article was written by Nick Parsons' intern Myles Valentin
A Look at Elite Quarterbacks in Small Conferences
NFL caliber Quarterbacks in smaller conferences always provide value to bettors. Teams in the SEC and BIG 12 have the depth and talent to gameplan around the Colt McCoy’s and Sam Bradford’s of the world but in smaller conferences natural skill often dominates.
Take for instance the 2003 Miami (OH) Redhawks who tore through the MAC, going 13-1 and covering the spread in nine of those games. It’s pretty much safe to say that Ben Roethlisberger was a big reason for that success.
This goes beyond Big Ben. The Mountain West saw Alex Smith lead Utah to a 12-0 (10-2 ATS) record in 2004, in 2006 Donovan McNabb heir Kevin Kolb helped the Houston Cougars go 10-4 (8-5 ATS), and last year 49ers rookie QB Nate Davis propelled perennial MAC punching bag Ball State, to an incredible 12-2 (8-5 ATS) year.
For years smaller colleges have benefited from late bloomers and overlooked high school seniors. Ohio State and Michigan weren't banging on Roethlisberger's door because he only played one year at QB in high school. And likewise the quarterbacks themselves have benefited from early playing team and weaker defenses.
So while the headlines this year will be focused around Tebow, McCoy, and Bradford, the smaller conferences have their own big three who are set to have big years of their own.
Dan LeFevour CENTRAL MICHIGAN (MAC)
The Central Michigan Chippewas began the decade with a 22-46 record and zero Bowl appearances. Dan LeFevour changed all of that in 2006. In the last three years with LeFevour as the starter at QB, the Chippewas won two MAC titles and have gone to three straight Motor City Bowls.
The senior has already thrown for 9,467 yards and 74 TDs and has helped put favorite target Bryan Anderson on the NFL's radar. LeFevour, who is rated as a top 5 QB in most mock drafts, will look to close out his career with a bang.
The Chippewas are in for bumpy ride though, with road games at Arizona, Michigan State, and Boston College. Big time performances at any one of those games would boost LeFevour's draft stock.
Bettors should look to take advantage of big numbers in those games as the Chippewas are capable of an upset in all three.
Max Hall BYU (Mountain West)
The school that produced Steve Young and Ty Detmer always expect big things from their quarterbacks. Especially when a QB is entering his senior year and the team is expected to win the conference.
Max Hall began his career at Arizona State but then left, went on a one year LDS mission and transferred to BYU. In his two years as a starter, Hall has thrown for 7805 yards and 61 TDs, leading the Cougars to a 21-5 record.
But before BYU enters conference play this year, they will have to go up against BCS Title contender Oklahoma and a much improved Florida State.
Regardless of the result in those games Hall will have been tested and should have an slightly easier time in Mountain West play. Look for blowout wins in several in-conference games and for Hall to live up to all the hype in Provo.
Tim Hiller WESTERN MICHIGAN (MAC)
Last year Tim Hiller not only led the MAC in passing yards (3725) and touchdowns (36), but he also graduated with a 4.0 GPA. At 6'5, the senior has everything NFL teams want and he's projected to be taken in either the first or second round.
So what could possibly motivate Hiller to improve upon last years 9-4 record and Texas Bowl appearance? A win against Dan LeFevour's Central Michigan Chippewas of course.
For the past three years The Mustangs have been on the losing end from their instate rivals. This basically leads up to the MACs version of the Red River Shootout when the Chippewas have to visit Kalamazoo on Oct 17.
Early playing time at smaller school has allowed LeFevour, Hall, and Hiller to develop into NFL Caliber QBs. With all three entering their senior seasons, bettors should expect big stats and high scoring games.
Others to look out for: Kellen Moore SO BOISE ST, Rusty Smith SR FAU, Colin Kaepernick JR NEVADA
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