PAC-12 football will have a decidedly different look in 2012 when studying the quarterbacks under center, what with the exit of not only the Stanford Cardinal’s Andrew Luck to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts but former Arizona Wildcats’ passer Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles) and former Arizona State Sun Devils’ quarterback Brock Osweiler (Denver Broncos) as well.
Still, there was one and only one top choice at this stage of the off-season, though there may be a few other PAC-12 passers who could make a splash by mid-season.
1. Matt Barkley, USC
2011 stats: 308 attempts, 446 completions, 7 INTs, 3,528 yards, 39 TDs
Talk about stating the obvious. Now that Luck is gone to higher ground, senior Matt Barkley certainly rules the roost in the PAC-12 and is also to be considered as one of the best quarterbacks in nation. Aside from losing center/guard Matt Kalil to the Minnesota Vikings, the USC Trojans’ gravy train of talent continues to chug forward, giving Barkley a slew of skill players and pocket protectors for 2012.
2. Keith Price, Washington
2011 stats: 242-362-11-3,063-33
Price emerged during the 2011 campaign and by the time bowl season arrived, he had established himself as one of the conference’s best. In fact, he nearly led the Washington Huskies to a post-season victory with a stellar, four-touchdown performance in the Alamo Bowl had it not been for the Baylor Bears’ defense and running Terrance Ganaway’s five rushing touchdowns.
4. Zach Maynard, Cal
Maynard had a strong finish last season, giving head coach Jeff Tedford reason to relax, for now. Cal has some strong offensive weapons and if Maynard plays the way he did in the last month or so of 2011, the Cal Golden Bears could be in the spoiler role in the North and almost certainly finish as bowl-eligible.
3. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
2011 stats: 305-473-18-3,328-16
We are all in agreement that the Oregon State Beavers are not considered to be among the conference’s best and that head coach Mike Riley is definitely on the hot seat. However, Mannion is experienced and, despite his interceptions, is certainly one of the better quarterbacks in the PAC-12. Whether he can rally the troops in Corvallis remains unclear, his ability to perform without question. And if wide receiver Markus Wheaton breaks out, Mannion could explode. If only the offensive line was solid.
5. Matt Scott, Arizona
Scott appears to be the favorite for the Arizona Wildcats to replace Foles. With just five career starts under his belt, Scott will be the biggest beneficiary of the Cats’ new spread offense, courtesy of new head coach Rich Rodriguez. Scott, who had a great spring, is a perfect fit for this scheme, just as Foles was the right man for the job under Dennis Erickson in 2011. If the offense clicks, Scott could have a serious impact in the South.
6. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
If you were thinking Bryan Bennett was going to be the Oregon Ducks’ starter, you may have to reassess the situation. It was Mariota who had a superb spring, so much so that not only is he the front-runner to start, he has impressed enough onlookers to think he may become one of the conference’s best. At minimum, he should make Ducks fans forget about Darron Thomas.