USC Football: 5 Best QBs Trojans Will Face in 2014
2014 will be a difficult year for the Trojans given their well-known depth issues due to the just-completed sanctions that cost them 30 scholarships over the last three years.
To make things even more problematic for USC is the fact that they will be playing a very difficult schedule this year in a Pac-12 conference that features no less than six teams ranked in the USA Today coaches preseason poll.
Along the way, the Trojans will face several top quarterbacks on their schedule and, despite having a top-notch defense, these gunslingers will present major challenges for the men of Troy.
This slideshow will take a look at the quarterbacks the Trojans will face in 2014 and rank them in terms of the obstacles they present to Justin Wilcox's defense.
Although USC will see many top quarterbacks this year and all will present hurdles for the defense to surmount, here are the five who are the best on the Trojans' 2014 schedule.
Note: Rankings are predicated on the quality of the quarterback, teams the quarterbacks play for and, to a lesser extent, the venue where the game will take place.
No. 5: Kevin Hogan, Stanford
The No. 5 Pac-12 quarterback on this list is the one that the Trojans will face first when they travel to Palo Alto to meet Kevin Hogan and the Stanford Cardinal.
Entering his senior year, Hogan will look to improve upon a 2013 season that saw him throw for 2,630 yards and 20 touchdowns, but also found him throwing 10 interceptions as well.
Stanford has a solid receiving corps returning in 2014, so there will be ample opportunities for Hogan to do damage at home against a Trojan defense that will look to pressure Hogan into adding to his career picks total.
No. 4: Connor Halliday, Washington State
In Mike Leach's pass-happy offense, Connor Halliday had his ups and downs in 2013, throwing for 34 touchdowns while finishing with almost 4,600 yards passing.
Gaudy stats to be sure but not without flaws, as is evidenced by Halliday's 22 picks, which led the nation in that dubious stat.
Still, 2013 was Halliday's first in the system, and USC should see a more poised quarterback this year when they travel to Pullman for a little payback after last years 10-7 loss at the Coliseum.
Over the last four games in 2013, Halliday threw for 14 touchdowns while only giving up four interceptions, and if he can continue that trend of efficiency, the Trojans will have their hands full to be sure.
No. 3: Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Sean Mannion has been really good for a long time at Oregon State, and last year was no exception as the Beaver quarterback threw for over 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Having said that, the Trojans bottled him up very well in Corvallis last year in USC's impressive road win, and they will have to bring the same game plan this year at the Coliseum if they want the win.
However, it won't be easy, and if Mannion can go for 3,000-plus yards this year, he will join Andrew Walter, Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart as the only Pac-12 quarterbacks to throw for over 3,000 yards in three different years.
Very impressive, indeed.
No. 2: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
USC historically has had problems with dual-threat quarterbacks, and in Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, they will be facing one of the best in the nation.
Kelly came out of nowhere in 2012 to post some really nice stats, and then followed that up with a 2013 performance that saw him throw for over 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns.
As mentioned before, Kelly is also a threat with his feet, and that ability translated to over 600 yards rushing to go along with another nine scores.
Fortunately for the Trojans, they get ASU at home this year, and while that will help for sure, if USC wants to win this game, they will have to find a way to bottle up Kelly.
No.1: Brett Hundley, UCLA
Stop me if you have heard this before...USC has problems with mobile dual-threat quarterbacks.
As such, UCLA's Brett Hundley will present problems for the Trojans when they meet in Pasadena on November 22.
Hundley threw for a tad over 3,000 yards to go along with 24 touchdowns, but it is his prowess with his feet, where he ran for 748 yards and 11 more scores, that will pose the greatest challenge for USC's vaunted defense.
This game may very well decide the South Division title, and if the Trojans want to represent that portion of the conference in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they will have to figure out a way to deal with Mr. Hundley.
Okay, so some of may have noticed the picture of Marcus Mariota at the beginning of this slideshow and thought to yourself, "What's up with this McMahan guy, doesn't he know that USC doesn't play Oregon this year?"
Well, for your information, yes, I do know that, but it is my belief—and I realize I may be accused of being a blatant homer—that if USC can stay healthy and catch a couple of breaks, the Trojans could easily wind up in the Pac-12 Championship Game where I believe they will face the Ducks.
If this does indeed occur, Mr. Mariota heads to the top of this list because he is head and shoulders the best quarterback the conference has to offer.
In two seasons at Oregon, all Mariota has done is toss 77 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions, and he has proven that when he is healthy, he may be the best college signal-caller in the nation.
Of course, time will tell if this scenario comes to pass, but there is one thing I know for sure:
Both the Trojans and their legions of fans would love to see them face the best Pac-12 quarterback in 2014.
No doubt about it.
Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan