Which QB battles matter most?

It will be easier for some top programs to break in new quarterbacks than others

Updated: February 28, 2012, 4:44 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
Kirk CousinsHunter Martin/Getty ImagesThe Spartans could have a tough time replacing Kirk Cousins.

Spring practice is on its way in college football, and every program in the country will be preparing soon to fill holes on both sides of the ball. The NFL combine reports over the past week have served as a daily reminder of the elite talent that will be sorely missed in some college camps. As proud as fans may be to see their favorite college stars make it big at the next level, they'd much rather have those players back for one more year in school.

That wish is especially true for programs filling a hole at the quarterback position. Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III elevated their respective teams to peak program success in recent seasons and will be top draft picks in April. The Stanford Cardinal and Baylor Bears will be fortunate to find new starters who will merely approximate the previous QB's success at the position.

Those two programs are not alone. Among the top 13 teams in the final Associated Press poll of 2011, eight will debut a new starter at quarterback in 2012.

Some of these programs will take a big step back next season, and others will barely skip a beat. So which quarterback battles this spring are more crucial to the top teams than others? The numbers can give us a good idea.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site,