One of the great debates in college football has always been, “Which conference is the strongest?”
Within that broad debate is an argument over which conference produces the best quarterbacks.
You sure won’t hear someone ranting that their conference turns out the best kickers this or any other season. That’s a topic of discussion that ranks right up there with who brews the best light beer.
This season, debating which conference produces the best quarterbacks has been taken to a ridiculous extreme.
Citing the current crop of Big 12 quarterbacks, delusional fans suggest that there has never been a stronger group in one conference in one season.
There isn’t much to debate about the conference with the strongest group of quarterbacks this season. The group is impressive and includes:
- Chase Daniel
- Colt McCoy
- Todd Reesing
- Sam Bradford
- Zac Robinson
- Graham Harrell
- ...and six other guys
That’s a solid group, but the best collection of college quarterbacks in a single season of all-time?
Not even close.
There’s no need to dig deep into the record books to find a spectacular group of quarterbacks from one conference in an individual season. For that matter, the conference doesn’t even need 12 teams to fill out an impressive list.
Take a look at the QBs in the Pac-10 during the 2001 season, and you’ll find a truly impressive group that terrified opposing defenses. In no particular order, check out these gunslingers:
- Joey Harrington
- Carson Palmer
- Kyle Boller
- Jason Gesser
- Jonathan Smith
- Randy Fasani
- Cody Pickett
The first three—Harrington, Palmer, and Boller—were first round picks. All seven enjoyed success in the NFL. It’s not likely the pros will tap the current Big 12 group for three first rounders.
Not only did Palmer win the Heisman, he set Pac-10 records for career passing yardage and touchdowns.
All Harrington did at Oregon was win games, compiling a 25-3 record as a starter.
Speaking of winners, Gesser is the only quarterback in school history to lead Washington State to back-to-back 10-win seasons. Yes, that was at WSU, where the quarterbacks preceding Gesser were the likes of Jack Thompson, Tim Rosenbaugh, Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe, and Ryan Leaf.
Boller, Smith, and Pickett set school career marks for passing yardage and touchdowns.
In terms of leading college teams to victory, the 2001 Pac-10 quarterbacks were awesome.
Taking into consideration the Pac-10 has long been a pass first, run second conference, their performance on the field is much more impressive than the Big 12 group.
The Big 12 has long been a conference focusing on the running game. Defenses are built to stop the ground game. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this year there are enough good quarterbacks in the Big 12 to expose what can happen after decades of defensive coordinators focused on stopping the run.
Even Big 12 fans would have to concede that the way to beat a Pac-10 team is by rushing the football. The current crop of outstanding Big 12 passers wouldn’t fare as well against defenses built to shut down the passing game.
That should set the record straight.