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Commentary: ESPN QB ratings display unique characteristics of Keeton, Wilson and Hill

Published: Saturday, Aug. 29 2015 6:57 a.m. MDT

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, right, carries the ball against Air Force during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP) Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, right, carries the ball against Air Force during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP)

Whether it's Chuckie Keeton, Travis Wilson or Taysom Hill, the quarterbacks at the big three universities in Utah are a unique breed the state has rarely seen.

ESPN's new quarterback rating system has the stats to prove it.

This year, ESPN is unveiling its college football Total QB ratings system, which breaks down how a quarterback performs in different situations, including performances in different downs and distances as well as his personal impact on a particular play. The strength of the defenses a quarterback faces is also factored in.

The concept is meant to be a barometer for how each quarterback impacts his team's ability to win.

What the data shows two weeks into the 2013 season is that Utah State's Keeton, Utah's Wilson and BYU's Hill are among the nation's elite quarterbacks in different categories.

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson fires a pass during pre game warmups before the start of the Utes game against Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson fires a pass during pre game warmups before the start of the Utes game against Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

In the overall Total QB rating, which rates a player's overall impact on a 1-to-100 scale that ESPN says "strongly relates to a winning percentage," Wilson is tops among the Utah quarterbacks.

The Utes' starting QB is currently 10th overall with a 92.0 rating, and his 99.7 rating last week against Weber State, when he threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns and added 93 rushing yards and two more scores, was tied for the best nationally.

Utah State's Keeton ranks 15th in the Total QB rating with a 89.1 score, while BYU's Hill comes in significantly lower, at 62nd with a 63.1 rating.

According to ESPN, the QB rating will be separated into a raw QB rating and an adjusted QB rating to account for the strength of the defense that a quarterback faces. Currently on the sports news media's website, there is only the raw QB rating.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) celebrates his touchdown in Provo Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) celebrates his touchdown in Provo Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

In the ESPN system, a player's ability to account for "clutch-weighted expected points added" for his team — also known as EPA — is broken into five categories: passing, running, sacks, penalty and overall. The rating also includes the number of "action plays" by a quarterback, meaning the plays in which the player gets a portion of credit — or blame — for what happens.

Beyond the overall rating, the talents of the three Utah quarterbacks are displayed in detail.

Keeton is the most consistent across the board. He is first nationally among QBs in total EPA at 24.6, including a 21.1 score in the passing game (third nationally). In run EPA, he adds 7.0 points per game, sixth in the country. Through two games, he ties for ninth overall in number of action plays with 108, proving his efficient play is a strong determinant in the Aggies' odds of victory.

Wilson also has shown consistency in both the run and pass game in the early part of the season, though the number of action plays he's had thus far — 67 — is ranked in the bottom half of the country at 67th.

Still, when the Utah quarterback has needed to make a play, he's been clutch. Overall, he is 11th in total EPA at 15.7. In the passing EPA, he rates 18th nationally with a 11.9 score; in the run game, he is better with a 6.5 rating that ranks 10th in the country.

Hill, who has the least starting experience among the three, has the biggest variation across the board.

Where he is dangerous is on the ground, as his 259 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Cougars' 40-21 upset victory over then-No. 15 Texas can attest. Hill is first nationally in run EPA with a 21.1 rating. That is nearly 10 points ahead of Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who is second nationally in that category.

Hill ties with Keeton for ninth nationally with 108 action plays thus far, an indicator that his play will be a big factor in the success of the Cougar offense.

But Hill's passing game brings his rating significantly down. Currently, he is dead last on the ESPN rating, 138th overall, with a minus-9.0 rating in pass EPA.

If there is one thing to take away from all these numbers, it's this: BYU, Utah and Utah State fans have seen plenty of positive game-impacting plays from their quarterbacks already this season. It will be a trend to follow as the three teams head into the heart of their schedules.

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

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