Recently, I was talking to one of my colleagues about a few B1G-related topics. He lived in Louisiana, Alabama and now in Florida. Needless to say, he’s much more knowledgable about the SEC than he is about the B1G.
Still, he was doing his best to familiarize himself with the conference and he texted me a few questions. The first question made me laugh.
“How is Trace McSorley still in school?”
It’s a question many will find themselves asking in 2018. Opposing fans, coaches, coordinators, players and even plenty of Penn State fans will wonder that same thing.
After all, McSorley has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country each of the last two seasons. He started each one of the Lions’ 28 games in that stretch, and he’s been running the Penn State offense since Christian Hackenberg went down in the first half of the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl.
Yes, when 2018 rolls around, McSorley will still be chucking bombs and hitting homers. Even without Joe Moorhead and Saquon Barkley, the Penn State offense still has a chance to be one of the nation’s best. By now, McSorley is a household name. He already has Heisman Trophy buzz, and he’s undoubtedly the B1G’s most-accomplished returning quarterback.
Does that make him the face of the B1G? You bet there’s a case to be made for that.
Quarterbacks definitely have the advantage in that department because of their involvement in every offensive play. Even the handoffs in Penn State’s system require McSorley to at least make a decision. And while that decision is a little easier with a player like Barkley in the backfield, McSorley’s passing numbers should quiet any notion that he’s been tailback-dependent.
In two years as Penn State’s starter, McSorley had 75 total touchdowns. Statistically speaking, I’m still not sure that people realize just how good he’s been. Besides Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield, you’d be hard-pressed to find a résumé better than McSorley’s the last two years:
- 75 total TDs (57 passing, 18 rushing)
- 8,040 yards from scrimmage
- 62 percent accuracy
- 8.8 yards per pass attempt
- 3.2-1 TD-INT ratio
- 2 New Year’s Six Bowl appearances
- 22-5 overall (15-3 vs. B1G)
And for what it’s worth, he’s 17-0 against unranked teams since that 2016 game at Pitt. It’s funny. After McSorley threw that brutal interception to end that game, I wrote that he’d learn a lesson from experiencing such a crushing loss.
Little did I or anyone else realize that McSorley was going to learn how to become the B1G’s best quarterback.
It’s interesting because McSorley is going to get the J.T. Barrett treatment from some people in 2018. That is, they’ll try and diminish his college accomplishments because he isn’t an elite NFL quarterback prospect. That’s OK. If they want to live in the world where Josh Allen excites them more than McSorley then that’s their prerogative.
In that regard, McSorley’s makeup epitomizes classic B1G. He was the guy who was told his best option to play big-time college football was as a safety. McSorley began his college career not as a highly sought-after recruit, and he’ll end it not as a highly sought-after prospect. He just spent the five years in between working to become one of the best college quarterbacks in the country.
But in another sense, McSorley’s identity is foreign for the B1G. He operates a successful spread offense, which means he never takes the ball from under center. And when it’s 20 degrees and sleeting across B1G country, McSorley is still out there chucking 50-yard bombs like it’s nothing.
McSorley is a walking highlight reel, which certainly adds to the “face of the B1G” argument. That’s probably the biggest difference between he and Barrett, who was a bit more methodical with his production.
Like Barrett, though, McSorley has a chance to rack up a whole bunch of program records. Look at all of these Penn State marks that McSorley already has heading into 2018:
- Career touchdown passes — No. 1 (59)
- Career total touchdowns — No. 1 (77)
- Career yards from scrimmage — No. 1 (8.268)
- Career 200-yard passing games — No. 1 (22)
- Touchdown pass streak — No. 1 (26 games, active)
- Single-season passing — No. 1 (3,614)
- Single-season total offense — No. 1 (3,979)
- Single-season TD passes — No. 1 (29)
McSorley is also just 1,058 yards behind Hackenberg’s record for career passing record, which he’ll likely have by the end of September this year.
So yeah, you get it. McSorley will go down as the best quarterback in Penn State history. In my opinion, he’ll be in position to end his career as one of the best quarterbacks in B1G history. That’ll be true even if McSorley never touches another football after the 2018 season.
For now, though, he’s officially the “how is he still in school?” guy of the B1G. He’ll continue to light up B1G defenses with his arm and legs, while some will debate his unorthodox throwing style or claim that McSorley is nothing more than “lucky.” As Moorhead would say, that’s “ridiculous at best and quite frankly asinine at worst.”
The same is true for anyone who still believes that McSorley isn’t worthy of being considered the face of the B1G.