Power Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks
The Pac-12 has exploded out of the gate with a talented crop of quarterbacks in 2012. This is a conference known for its QBs with such illustrious alumni as John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Bledsoe, Rodney Peete, Jim Plunkett and Troy Aikman—just to name a few.
Four of the top nine QBs in NFL career passing yards come from Pac-12 schools. Seven current starting QBs are from the Pac-12—the most of any conference.
Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that four of the Pac-12’s starting quarterbacks are underclassmen.
Surely everyone thought Matt Barkley was the best the conference had to offer in 2012, but this interesting batch of freshly minted starters has given the USC senior a run for the title of top dog in the Pac-12.
Let’s take a look at the Pac-12’s Quarterbacks Power Rankings:
12. Jordan Webb, Colorado
Stats: 6’1", 205 RS junior (completed BA at Kansas). 89-of-152 for 961 yards, seven TDs, four INTs. He’s been sacked 20 times.
Webb, a Kansas transfer, has led the Buffs to a lone win thus far in 2012—a come-from-behind victory versus perennial Pac-12 North cellar dweller Washington State. Webb and Colorado started the season 0-3 before toppling Wazzou 35-34 late in the game. This past weekend, the Buffs fell to UCLA 42-14.
There are so many issues on the Colorado offense that it is hard to truly evaluate Webb. With 20 sacks in five games, his O-line better learn how to protect him so that he can do his job.
11. Zach Maynard, California
Stats: 6’1", 185 lbs., senior. 87-of-151 for 1053 yards, five TDs and four INTs.
Cal Coach Jeff Tedford’s offensive game-planning isn’t doing Maynard any favors. Maynard has been dealing all season with terrible snaps and bad pocket pressure, things that would put nearly any QB on the brink of disaster. Couple that with the limitations Maynard has in running the Golden Bear offense, and you have a recipe for a painful season for the Cal faithful.
Maynard is not the kind of QB who can sit back in the pocket and make plays, even if he was getting the protection he needs to accomplish this from his O-line. As it is, Maynard is scrambling for his life.
So while Maynard may not be the best QB in the Pac-12, his coach isn’t doing him any favors by calling plays in which he has no chance of succeeding. Maynard is not a five- or seven-step dropback passer, and Tedford should stop trying to turn him into one.
10. Connor Halliday, Washington State
The Cougars started the season with a new coach—Mike Leach—and their old QB, Jeff Tuel. It soon became apparent that Tuel was not the best fit for Leach’s offense and Connor Halliday took over.
Stats: 6’4”, 189 lbs., RS sophomore. 96-of-176 for 1203 yards, nine TDs and six INTs. He has been sacked 12 times. Seven of those sacks came last week against Oregon in Seattle.
The Cougars are 3-2 with wins versus Eastern Washington and UNLV and losses to BYU, Colorado and Oregon. The Cougs are clearly struggling under first-year coach Leach, which is understandable.
9. Josh Nunes, Stanford
Stats: Senior, 6’4”, 225 lbs., 65-of-125 for 785 yards. Six TDs, four INTs.
Nunes hasn’t been spectacular in replacing No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck, yet despite that, the Cardinal is ranked 18th, falling from 8th after their loss to Washington last Saturday. Nunes and company barely slipped past San Jose State to open the season, played sloppily in the win against USC and was simply out-maneuvered by the Washington defense. Despite all of that, Coach David Shaw is committed to Nunes at QB for Stanford.
Last weekend Nunes went 18-of-37 for 170 yards and an interception. Overall, the Stanford offense converted five of 18 third downs, never scored a touchdown and looked lost. (In short, they looked a lot like the Khaled Holmes-less Trojans offense looked in Palo Alto.)
Nunes is completing 52 percent of his passes, and that wouldn’t be so tragic if Stanford could get their running game, which has largely sputtered, going full steam ahead. WR Ty Montgomery keeps dropping passes, and Nunes’ arm isn’t strong nor accurate enough to deliver the ball into the hands of his 6’8" tight end, Levine Toilolo. All-world RB Stepfan Taylor was stopped at 75 yards on 21 carries, and for a team that’s built on their running game, the Cardinal sure hasn't been able to get far with that.
That said, the Cardinal is 3-1. There is no way, in its current incarnation, that Nunes and the Stanford offense is going to get past Oregon.
8. Jon Hays, Utah
Stats: Senior, 6’0", 208 lbs. 40-of-68, four TDs, one INT, seven sacks.
Hays stepped in when veteran Utes QB Jordan Webb injured his shoulder and made the decision to retire from football. This isn’t an easy position to be in, and Utah’s woeful O-line aside, his stats don’t tell the whole story.
Hays is going to have to get the ball out of his hands much faster to avoid being sacked by USC’s monster DE Morgan Breslin, who is averaging 1.38 sacks a game, leading the conference and ranking seventh nationally. He is also averaging 2.38 tackles for loss.
7. Keith Price, Washington
Stats: Junior, 6’1”, 202 lbs, 75-of-127 for 737 yards, five TDs, two INTs and 11 sacks
Price outlasted Josh Nunes and the Cardinal last Saturday as his Huskies knocked off the No. 8 Cardinal in Washington’s first win against a top-10 team since beating then-No. 3 USC 16-13 in 2009.
Price has been average at best so far this year, but last week came through in the fourth quarter, connecting with Kasen Williams for a 35-yard TD pass with 4:53 left in the game. That coupled with a Nunes interception-turned-TD secured the 17-13 victory for the Huskies.
Price was 19-of-37 for 177 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
6. Matt Scott, Arizona
Stats: Senior, 6’3”, 196 lbs. 141-of-220 for 1608 yards, 10 TDs, three INTs, eight sacks. 64 percent completion average.
Those numbers blow away most of the rest of the conference, and Scott is still new to Arizona’s first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense. Scott is a phenomenon no one saw coming as we entered the 2012 season.
While Arizona fell to both Oregon schools, they can still contend for the Pac-12 South. This Saturday’s matchup versus Pac-12 North foe Stanford will tell a lot about both teams and how good (or not) they actually are, not to mention shed some light on the talent of their respective QBs.
5. Matt Barkley, USC
Stats: Senior, 6’2”, 230 lbs. 88-of-143 for 1005 yards, 12 TDs, five INTs, six sacks. 61.5 percent completion average (USC has had their bye week).
What is there to say? Barkley came into the season the Heisman favorite and all-around Golden Boy, and somehow the glow has faded and he has completely dropped off many Heisman lists. The thing is, his numbers are decent, good even. It’s just that his playing, and more importantly, Lane Kiffin’s playcalling, hasn’t been lighting the conference on fire.
Much of Barkley’s less-than-stellar stats are not strictly his fault. The injury to center Khaled Holmes, who has been Matt’s center for eight years, was a significant blow to an offensive line that was already inexperienced and struggling.
Barkley has a chance to get back in the Heisman discussions. After all, it wasn’t until late in the 2002 campaign that Heisman winner Carson Palmer even made any lists. Time will tell. Next up: Utah on a Thursday night. Then the dangerous Steve Sarkisian-led Washington Huskies in Seattle before the Trojans head home to face Colorado.
4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Stats: 6’5”, 212 lbs. 82-of-127 for 1088 yards, six TDs, one INT and six sacks. 64.6 percent completion average.
Mannion was named the Pac-12 football’s offensive player of the week last week after leading the Beavers to a 38-35 victory at Arizona last Saturday. The sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif., completed 29 of 45 passes for a career-high 433 yards and three TDs.
This is the second game Mannion has thrown for career highs after the 379 passing yards he accumulated in the win versus UCLA.
Against Arizona, Mannion put together a 10-play, 75-yard game-winning drive where he went 6-of-6 to five different wideouts for 52 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown strike with 1:09 remaining to seal the victory.
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
Stats: RS freshman, 6’3”, 223 lbs. 121-for-183, 1480 yards, 11 TDs, three INTs, 13 sacks, 66 percent completion average.
It seems we can no longer tease UCLA about their QB issues. Hundley has burst onto the scene and into new Bruins coach Jim Mora Jr.’s offense like a rocket, surprising everyone.
However, and I will alert everyone to my bias, there are signs of trouble—he has been sacked 13 times and when the Bruins finally faced a conference foe, they crumbled.
Hundley is a redshirt freshman learning a new system and shows great promise.
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Stats: RS freshman, 6’4”, 211 lbs. 99-of-144 for 1103 yards, 11 TDs, four INTs, seven sacks, 68.8 completion percentage.
Oregon’s high-flying, lightning-quick offense is tailor-made for an athlete like Mariota. While the Ducks' early season opponents left a lot to be desired (the refrain "cupcake" comes to mind), the dominant performance versus Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats showed the world that Mariota is for real.
Perhaps a defense as strong as Stanford’s can stop him—only time will tell. One thing is for sure, he is fun to watch.
1. Taylor Kelly: Arizona State
Stats: RS Sophomore, 6’2”, 202lbs, 92-of-136 for 1292 yards, nine TDs, 2 INTs, eight sacks, 67.6% completion average.
Kelly took over for Brock Osweiler in new coach Todd Graham’s re-tooled ASU offense this year and leads the conference. Kelly is one of those mobile, dual threat QBs that give traditional pro-style teams fits.
Kelly threw three TD passes to elevate ASU over Cal last weekend, improving the Sun Devils’ record to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. Kelly completed 26-of-45 for 292 yards versus Cal, yet were unable to put much room between them and the Golden Bears. Kelly later led the Sun Devils in a 74-yard drive, connecting on 4-of-5 passes for 45 yards culminating in a 22-yard pass to Kevin Ozier to make it 27-17 with 6:17 left in the game.