Evidence of ESPN’s influence on college football is plentiful and wide-ranging. The media monolith otherwise known as "The Mothership” has transacted a number of massive broadcast rights deals, hosts a Saturday morning “College Gameday” show most every college football fan spends at least five minutes watching every week and just spent the past month shuttling a swath of major conference coaches through a daily chain of radio appearances and TV hits as part of its infamous media "car wash."
Now the company is sinking its teeth into college football’s annual spate of awards, if only tangentially. ESPN may not have created the Manning Award – the Sugar Bowl did – but the obscure QBR formula it devised, which seeks to contextualize crude statistical production with situational elements (more on QBR's wonky methodology here), undergirds the entire selection process.
A list of 30 quarterbacks on the Manning Award’s preseason watch list (which was created in honor of -- you guessed it -- the Manning family) was released Friday, and Northwestern’s Kain Colter – who registered a 65.3 QBR last season – made the cut. You didn’t need some fuzzy QB metric to know Colter is one of the most versatile and dynamic players at his position, but to put his rating into a broader analytical light, consider the following names he beat out, as measured by QBR, on the Manning top-30: South Carolina’s Connor Shaw (64.6), Fresno State’s Derek Carr (64.1), North Carolina’s Bryn Renner (63.6), Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (62.5) and Miami’s Stephen Morris (59.6).
For a player who’s weathered plenty of criticism about his passing accuracy (albeit in a limited sample size) over the past two seasons, Colter is, according to at least one quarterback metric, one of the better signal-callers in the college game.
The Mothership has spoken.