As coaches like to remind us, defense wins championships.

Having a good quarterback is also a prerequisite.

Good teams have good quarterbacks. Bad teams usually don’t. When is the last time a college team won a national championship (or conference championship, for that matter) with poor quarterback play?

It just doesn’t happen.

As we’ve seen in the past, having a good defense and a good quarterback is the best way to go.
Good quarterbacks can cause good defenses problems.

This is something the Florida defense might find out about this season. The Gators will be facing a pretty impressive lineup of gunslingers in 2012.

Here’s a ranking of the quarterbacks Florida will play against this season:

1. Aaron Murray, Jr., Georgia: This guy doesn’t have NFL size, but he’s got the rest of the package. Big, accurate arm. Great at reading defenses and finding the open receiver. Leader on the field and off. He threw for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns last season and could put up even bigger numbers against one of the easier schedules in the SEC. Being from Tampa, he’s passionate about playing the Gators.

2. James Franklin, Jr., Missouri: This may be the most complete — and most dangerous — quarterback the Gators have to contend with this season. Some might say he’s the perfect spread quarterback. He’s big, fast, athletic, has a big-time arm and is an excellent runner. Last season, he passed for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 981 yards and 15 TDs. He’s a true dual threat quarterback, and he’s coming to The Swamp.

3. Tyler Bray, Jr., Tennessee:- As we saw last season, the key for Bray is to have a running game to complement his ability to throw the football. When the Vols’ running game stalled last season, he struggled with consistency. If UT can generate a productive running game, this guy has the arm to put up incredible numbers. It helps that star wide receiver Justin Hunter is back after having knee surgery last fall.

4. EJ Manuel, Sr., Florida State: He wasn’t asked to do much in last year’s victory over Florida, but he’s got the entire package. He’s a threat as a runner and elusive enough to buy more time in the pocket, and he’s got a strong, accurate arm. He’s also one of the most experienced QBs UF will face. The key for him: stay healthy.

5. Jordan Rodgers, Sr., Vanderbilt: In last year’s narrow win over the Commodores, the Gators went into the game worrying about Rodgers’ ability to run the ball, and he ended up lighting UF up with his passing ability. The bottom line is he can hurt you with his arm and his legs — and he gives Vandy hope of becoming bowl eligible for the second season in a row.

6. Connor Shaw, Jr., South Carolina: He doesn’t wow you with his size or physical skills, but the guy can play. Most important, he keeps Steve Spurrier happy with his ability to make good decisions in the offense and find the end zone. He was more of a runner than thrower last year, but he figures to be a more complete QB now that he’s got some experience. Spurrier loves the guy. He hasn’t felt this good about his starting quarterback in quite some time.

7. Zach Mettenberger, Jr., LSU: Les Miles has been heaping big-time praise on this former Georgia quarterback who won the starting role with an excellent spring. He’s big (6-5, 222 pounds), has an NFL arm and appears to have a tremendous upside. The only thing he seems to lack is playing experience in the SEC. That will come soon enough. He certainly has a ton of talent around him.

8. Matt Schilz Jr., Bowling Green: He may be one of the best passers you’ve never heard of. Schilz threw for 3,024 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and he has an excellent group of receivers to work with this season. He’ll be slinging it all over The Swamp in the Sept. 1 opener.

9. Blaine Gautier, Sr., Louisiana Lafayette: This big, athletic quarterback was the Sun Belt’s most efficient passer last season, throwing for 23 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He leads an offense that put up 32.3 points a game in 2011 and should have even more scoring power this fall. The Ragin’ Cajuns could make things interesting in a late-season game in The Swamp.

10. Max Smith, Soph., Kentucky: The way Smith came on late last season and in the spring, ‘Cat fans may have seen the last of Morgan Newton, last year’s struggling starter. Smith threw for 819 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, and he should give the Wildcats the passing game they were missing last season.

11. Marques Ivory, Sr., Jacksonville State: He’s an experienced quarterback with a pretty impressive arm. He threw for 2,248 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He’s got some good skill players around him, including running back Washaun Ealey, a transfer from Georgia.

12. Jameill Showers, Soph. or Johnny Manziel, Fr., Texas A&M: Based on Kevin Sumlin’s track record, his starting quarterback (whoever it turns out to be) is going to put up some big passing numbers in his wide-open and multiple offense. He likes both Showers and Manziel, so it’s just a matter of settling on a starter. The biggest issue appears to be a lack of experience for both.

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