USC quarterback Matt Barkley
When you hear the phrase "pass-happy," what conference do you think of?
The former Pac-10 always had that description attached to its name, and despite the negative connotations, the current Pac-12 appears to have continued that tradition. The Pac-12 has always been a haven for top-notch quarterbacks, but some of its teams have been incorrectly labeled pass-happy.
The Oregon Ducks—despite having a running attack via the spread—are still perceived by many fans to have a pass-first, run-second type of offense. The Ducks, with their No. 4 rushing offense, are one of the most misunderstood teams in the country.
But when you have the best collection of quarterbacks in the country seemingly every year, you must be a pass-happy conference, right? The Big 12 knows just how the Pac-12 feels—it too has become a focal point for finger-pointing from football purists who aren't impressed with a team unless 200 rushing yards are achieved on the field.
This year, the Pac-12 is deeper than it has been in a few years, and coincidentally, its quarterback depth boggles the mind.
Of the 100 most productive quarterbacks in FBS, 10 Pac-12 quarterbacks make the list. Productive, of course, means total passing yards compiled by the quarterback, so the No. 1-ranked quarterback on this list means his average passing yards per game is higher than all other FBS quarterbacks.
Only one Pac-12 quarterback (Arizona's Matt Scott) is one of the 10 most productive quarterbacks; if Oregon State's Sean Mannion had not been recently injured, he would have been the second quarterback to make that list. UCLA's Brett Hundley is the next-highest-ranked Pac-12 quarterback at No. 18.
Not surprisingly, the Big 12 also has four quarterbacks in the top 20, but it also has more quarterbacks in the top 10: No. 2 Nick Florence (Baylor), No. 3 Geno Smith (West Virginia), No. 8 Seth Doege (Texas Tech) and No. 17 Landry Jones (Oklahoma).
So much for the Pac-12's "pass-happy" moniker. Is it time to pass that crown to the Big 12?
While we mull over that question, the obvious follow-up question is this: Between the Pac-12 and the Big 12, which conference has the best collection of quarterbacks?
Statistically speaking, the Big 12 does, and it's not even close.
Nine Big 12 quarterbacks are among the 100 most productive passers in FBS, but how accurate were they? Only one quarterback, Kansas' Dayne Crist, completed fewer than 62 percent of his passes, while four Big 12 quarterbacks completed 70 percent or more of their passes: Geno Smith, Seth Doege, David Ash and Collin Klein.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the Pac-12 in accuracy at 68.3 percent. Six other Pac-12 quarterbacks have a 60 percent or better pass-completion rate, but most of them don't have nearly the passing yardage of their Big 12 counterparts.
The Big 12 quarterbacks smash those numbers.
Baylor's Nick Florence has 2,226 passing yards and a 20-10 ratio. West Virginia's Geno Smith has 2,414 passing yards and a 26-2 ratio, while Texas Tech's Seth Doege has thrown for 2,209 passing yards and holds a 28-7 ratio.
In fact, of the Big 12 quarterbacks among the 100 most productive quarterbacks, their combined touchdown-interception ratio is 131-42, which averages out to a 14.6-4.7 ratio per quarterback.
Of the Pac-12 quarterbacks on that same list, their combined touchdown-interception ratio is 128-71, or a ratio of 12.8-7.1 per quarterback. The Big 12 gets the edge here.
Perhaps the final selling point is passer ratings. USC's Matt Barkley (164.11) and Arizona State's Taylor Kelly (167.06) are the only two Pac-12 quarterbacks who have a passer rating of 160 or higher.
The Big 12 has five quarterbacks who have a 160 or higher passer rating, with three above 170: Kansas State's Collin Klein (176.08), Baylor's Nick Florence (172.81) and West Virginia's Geno Smith (172.04).
One could make the argument that Big 12 defenses allow such gaudy numbers, but Pac-12 teams, statistically, have much softer pass defenses than the Big 12.
Which conference has the best quarterbacks in FBS?
Moreover, while Arizona State has the top-ranked pass defense in the nation, two Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 15 pass defenses: Oklahoma (No. 9) and Texas Tech (No. 12).
There is no doubt that both the Pac-12 and Big 12 have the best quarterbacks in the country—Matt Barkley, Collin Klein and Geno Smith are all legitimate Heisman contenders.
But this year, the Pac-12 can hand its Conference of Quarterbacks crown to the Big 12.