I know. That's just like my opinion, man. But what do the numbers say about ZA's overall value as a QB? Here then is some perspective, and an attempt at projecting where this young man could end up.

First, let's look at how ZA compares to other Gopher quarterbacks this decade (which takes us back to the dawn of the Jerry Kill era). Here's how Gopher quarterbacks have faired since 2011, ranked by QB rating. ZA's current stats have been doubled, since we're at the midpoint of the season.

'13 131.9 Leidner 619 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT

'17 126.6 Rhoda 839 yds, 5 TD, 4 INT

'12 126.2 Shortell 853 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT

'14 123.8 Leidner 1,798 yds, 11 TD, 4 INT

'15 121.1 Leidner 2,701 yds, 14 TD, 11 INT

'13 119.0 Nelson 1,306 yds, 9 TD, 6 INT

'18 117.6 ZA 2,284 yds, 16 TD, 14 INT

'16 116.5 Leidner 2,169 yds, 8 TD, 12 INT

'11 114.5 Gray 1,495 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT

'12 104.4 Nelson 873 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT

'17 87.6 Croft 674 yds, 4 TD, 7 INT

Yeah, it hasn't exactly been Quarterback U. But the point is -- ZA is on track for a season that compares favorably to anything we've seen in recent years. His yardage would be second only to Leidner's in 2015. The Gophs were 6-7 that year with a bowl game win. If ZA's stats are projected over 13 games (instead of 12), he would finish with 2,474 yards, 17 TD, 15 INT.

ZA's 16-17 TD would top the list. Yes, and his 14-15 INT would as well.

But how does ZA's performance stack up against the most important measure – other QB in the division? Here are the current stats, ranked by rating:

Blough (Sr) PRD 160.1 1,695 yds, 10 TD, 2 INT

Stanley (Jr) IA 155.9 1,473 yds, 15 TD, 5 INT

Hornibrook (Jr) WI 140.1 1,063 yds, 8 TD, 4 INT

Martinez (Fr) NE 132.4 1,167 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT

Thorson (Sr) NW 126.8 1,755 yds, 9 TD, 7 INT

Rivers (Fr) IL 122.4 422 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT

ZA (Fr) MN 117.6 1,142 yds, 8 TD, 7 INT

Bush (Sr) IL 112.0 482 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT

Blough and Stanley are currently having breakaway seasons. But there really seems to be little statistical difference between the other six QB listed above.

ZA's ultimate value as a quarterback will be determined by his development over the remainder of his career. The big question: How much can he improve from his performance as a true freshman? Well, based on the trajectory of Leidner's career, not much. In fact, Leidner's rating regressed steadily from 131.9 in 2013 to 116.5 in 2016.

But regression isn't the norm. If you look at the three current division quarterbacks who have started for multiple years, there have been steady and fairly sizable increases in annual performance. Consider:

- Blough's QB rating went from 108.6 to 119.4 his sophomore year, to 137.8 last year, to 160.1 so far this year. That's a total of nearly 52 QB ratings points, or about 17 per year, on average.

- Hornibrook improved from 125.8 his freshman year to 148.6 last year, where he's essentially plateaued this season. But that was a leap of 23 QB ratings points freshman to sophomore season.

- Thorson went from 95.9 his freshman season to 125.9 his sophomore season, where he's essentially plateaued. But that was a 30-point leap in QB rating.

So, the question remains – what exactly is “peak ZA”? Are we seeing it now? Will he be like Leidner, and never really move the sticks as far as QB ratings are concerned? Or will he be like the current crop of multi-year quarterbacks in the conference, who experienced a jump of anywhere between 10 and 30 points in QB rating their second time around?

An increase of 10 points would place ZA near the middle of the pack as far as the division goes, but would place him at the top of what we've seen from Gopher quarterbacks since 2011. In fact, it would likely go down as one of the top performances in program history. Consider: Adam Weber's high-water mark in QB rating was at 129.9 in 2010, when he threw for 2,679 yards, 20 TD and 9 INT. ZA, at 127.6, would be in that neighborhood. And that's a nice neighborhood.

An increase of 30 points would place ZA in the top tier of division quarterbacks, with numbers unseen in Gopher football history. Hell, an increase of half that would likely make him the top all-time passer in program history.

Where will he end up on the overall spectrum? A one-year flash? A solid contributor rendered remarkable only by the scarcity of great quarterbacks at Minnesota? Or one of the all-time top passers in program history?

At this point, my money is on the latter. That's based on the eye test, as well as the year-to-year improvement shown by other QB in the division.

Ever since the Maryland debacle, I've been looking forward to these next five upcoming games. My belief is that these games should give us a good measure of where our program is at.

That's also true for ZA. Can he increase his efficiency, his TD/INT ratio? With less stiff competition and an apparently revitalized offensive line, will his output improve? Or will we be going into the off-season wondering who our QB will be next year.

Only time will tell.

**JTG**