Pac 12 Quarterback Power Rankings
Pac 12 Quarterback Power Rankings
The Pac 12 has been a conference with a long-standing tradition of being a “quarterback conference” filled with big arms and high scoring offenses.
While that might be a little less than the whole picture, the conference is still home to some extremely talented signal callers who are leading some high flying offenses. Getting the offensive minds of Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez into the conference this season to join the likes Lane Kiffin, Jeff Tedford, Mike Riley, and Chip Kelly doesn’t hurt either.
But does the perception match the reality? Entering the weekend, the Pac 12 had five quarterbacks in the top 50 in the nation for passing efficiency. There are also eight quarterbacks ranked in the top 50 for total passing yards from the Pac 12 and the conference has boasted as many as six teams in the AP Top 25 in a week this season. So, yeah, they’re still playing the quarterback position pretty well out west.
But who’s playing it the best? There have been some surprises this season, quarterbacks who were expected to be middling which have turned out to be excellent. There have also been disappointments with a number of dark horse Heisman Trophy hopefuls falling off and looking like they’re just in the dark.
The preseason expectations have been shaken up by a youth movement in the conference with four of the top five quarterbacks in the conference being underclassmen, meaning the future is only going to get brighter in the blossoming Pac 12.
So without further ado, we count down the signal callers in the Pac 12 quarterback power rankings.
12. Keith Price, Washington Huskies
USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin has continued to call Keith Price “elite” in the lead up to the Trojans and Huskies squaring off this week, but that looks more and more like an opposing coach talking up an opponent to get his team’s attention. The stats have been far from impressive.
Price has completed less than 60 percent of this passes this season, going 94-for-158 (59.5%) for 882 yards. He is last in the conference in yards per attempt with an anemic 5.58 YPA. He has the fewest touchdown passes among Pac 12 starters with five and has been picked off four times.
Not all of Price’s struggles are on him, however. The Huskies offensive line has been a work in progress since fall camp and they have had their quarterback running for his life more often than not. The Huskies have also seen injuries rip their skill position depth, losing a number of running backs for the season. But at the end of the day, numbers don’t lie, and the numbers paint Price as the worst quarterback in the conference.
11. Connor Halliday, Washington State Cougars
The Washington State Cougars were expecting big things out of the quarterback position this season with the hiring of Mike Leach. But things haven’t gone that way, as Connor Halliday wasn’t even the opening day starter for the Cougars. He came on in relief of Jeff Tuel when he got injured in Week 2 against the Eastern Washington Eagles and has been in the position since, to varying degrees of success.
Halliday has proven himself to be an aggressive passer, but the sophomore struggles with his efficiency. He ranks last in the conference in completion percentage (53.6%) and has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns (9). He’s been the more explosive option (in more ways than one) under center for WSU, throwing for 1,284 yards with a 6.55 YPA.
Halliday is very young and still learning the kinds of throws he can and cannot make at the FBS level. He seems to have taken a small step back, however, in last week’s game against the Oregon State Beavers. In Corvallis, Halliday went just 9-for-20 for 81 yards (49 of which came on one pass) with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He was benched in favor of Tuel, who fared little better.
10. Jordan Webb, Colorado Buffaloes
The Colorado Buffaloes have had a rough season so far in 2012, winning just one game so far and getting blown out in several of their losses. The struggles of Jordan Webb at quarterback have been a big reason why.
Webb, a Kansas Jayhawks transfer, ranks 10th in the conference for completion percentage (56.5%) and 11th in yards per attempt at 5.91 YPA. He’s avoided too many turnovers, but hasn’t found the end zone too often either, throwing eight touchdowns to four interceptions.
Quarterback looked to be a hotly-contested position for the Buffs in fall camp with Webb battling fellow transfer Connor Wood for the number one spot. Wood has barely found the field this year, which speaks volumes about the quarterback situation as he watches Webb flounder.
9. Josh Nunes, Stanford Cardinal
The Stanford Cardinal had to replace a legend with the graduation of Andrew Luck after last season. The unenviable task of being “the next guy” fell on Josh Nunes who has been up and down so far this season, but overall has been disappointing.
Nunes is completing just 54.1 percent of his passes this season, 11th best in the conference. He’s thrown for just 1,145 yards, the fourth-lowest in the Pac 12. He has twice as many touchdowns (8) as interceptions (4) and has a respectable 7.54 YPA, but cost his team a game with poor play against the Washington Huskies.
David Shaw is sticking with Nunes as his starter, and contends that he doesn’t have to be Andrew Luck for this team to be successful. That’s true, as the Cardinal are built behind a power running game with Stepfan Taylor and a stout defense to win, but they will need more out of Nunes to overcome the teeth of their upcoming schedule.
8. Jon Hays, Utah Utes
John Hays got the starter’s job for the Utah Utes after Jordan Wynn suffered a shoulder injury against the Utah State Aggies in Week 2 which ended his football career. Not the way that you’d like to get a starting job, but Hays has been adequate in relief.
The Utes offense isn’t geared for quarterbacks to get big numbers and Hays has lived up to that expectation. He’s 59-for-100 completing the ball this season for just 627 yards (last in the conference) with six touchdowns to just two interceptions. He won’t be asked to go out and win too many games for Utah, which is good because he hasn’t shown that ability yet.
In just over three games played, Hays has yet to throw for more than 200 yards in a game and has a record as the starter of just 1-2. The Utes had high hopes coming into this season, but injuries to the offense, including the one that thrust Hays into the starting lineup, have really undercut any of hopes of success.
7. Zach Maynard, Cal Bears
Jeff Tedford expressed nothing but faith in his transfer quarterback, Zach Maynard, in his second season at Berkeley. For five games, Maynard disappointed and had fans calling for his starting job. It likely would have happened too as those voices turned their attention to Tedford’s job if not for one big game last week.
Overall, Maynard has been pretty average. He’s completing just over 60 percent of his passes (61.9%), which is good. He’s thrown for 1,348 yards with nine touchdowns to five interceptions with a yards per attempt average of 7.45, which isn’t bad. But before the Bears big blowout of UCLA, Maynard had just five touchdown passes in five games.
That isn’t the kind of performance that wins people over under a “quarterback guru” head coach and a future NFL wide receiver in Keenan Allen. However, a big night against the Bruins (295 yards, four touchdowns) turned Maynard’s blasé starts into an all right mid-season report card. If he continues the upward trend, the Bears could still be dangerous in the conference.
6. Matt Scott, Arizona Wildcats
When Rich Rodriguez took over the head coaching job for the Arizona Wildcats, there was some concern about how long it would take him to find “his guy” to run that very specialized Rich Rod offense. Turned out, he was already on the team in senior Matt Scott.
Scott has immediately taken to the spread attack of Rodriguez and has given his head coach one of the best arms he’s had in his system. Scott has thrown for 2,144 yards this season, which ranks second in the nation (even better than Geno Smith of the West Virginia Mountaineers) and is completing 64.4 percent of his passes this season. He’s averaging 7.26 YPA and thrown for 13 touchdowns (tied for fourth most in the Pac 12). He’s had some issues with turnovers, however, throwing seven interceptions (tied for second most in the Pac 12).
Scott is a bit of a departure for a Rich Rod quarterback. Normally, Rodriguez’s QBs are known more for their leg than their arm, but Scott is showing that it is just as dynamic the other way, too. Scott is putting up huge numbers in his first (and last) opportunity to start and making the transition to the Pac 12 a little easier for his new head coach.
5. Sean Mannion, Oregon State Beavers
The Oregon State Beavers have been the surprise team of the season in college football, jumping out to a 4-0 start behind the strong play of their sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion. Last season, Mannion was one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the country, but he’s tightened up his game this season and the results speak for themselves.
Mannion is ranked second in the Pac 12 in yards per game and sixth nationally, throwing for 339.5 per game. He’s completing 63.3 percent of his passes and is attacking defenses down the field, averaging 8.04 yards per attempt. He hasn’t found the end zone quite as much as Mike Riley would like, throwing just seven touchdowns to four interceptions.
The importance of Mannion to the Beavers is going to become abundantly clear as Oregon State tries to cope without their starting quarterback as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. A tough road test without their offensive leader could spell disaster for the upstart Beavers.
4. Brett Hundley, UCLA Bruins
A fun talking point this season has been that if Rick Neuheisel had decided not to redshirt Brett Hundley last season, he would still be the head coach for the UCLA Bruins. That’s the kind of impact the redshirt freshman has had for new head coach Jim Mora this season.
The young signal caller has the third best completion percentage in the conference, completing 66.1 percent of his throws. He’s second in the Pac 12 in yardage, throwing for 1,733 yards, which puts him in the top 10 nationally. He’s averaging 7.54 YPA with 13 touchdown passes with seven interceptions.
Hundley is putting his world-class ability on display, but he’s still very young and hasn’t proven that he can carry his team without help from the running game. When the Bruins are forced to become one-dimensional with the pass, they have lost this season, once to the Oregon State Beavers and last week against the Cal Bears, where Hundley threw four interceptions. Consistency from the young star will go a long ways in keeping UCLA in the Top 25 for longer than a week at a time.
3. Matt Barkley, USC Trojans
Matt Barkley came back to the USC Trojans for his senior season because he had “unfinished business” to take care of. Presumably, that meant a national championship for the team and a Heisman Trophy for himself. The team looked poised for both as the season began, but disappointing performances from Barkley have done major damage to those plans.
That is not to say that Barkley has been “bad” but he hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,308 yards. He’s averaging 7.56 YPA, and leads the conference in touchdown passes with 15 while tossing five interceptions.
It hasn’t been a Heisman-caliber season from Barkley, but issues along the offensive line have greatly hurt his production this season in a few games. He’s still throwing to the most talented receiving corps in the country, arguably, and plays for a coach that’s going to give him chances to throw it. So while he may not settle all the business he came back for, he’s still dealing pretty well.
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks had a position-battle for the starting quarterback almost all the way up to opening day. Freshman Marcus Mariota won out, impressing coaches with his upside and big playmaking ability. What’s been even more impressive, however, has been the efficient way he’s run Chip Kelly’s offense to a 6-0 start.
Mariota is second in the conference in completion percentage, connecting on 67.9 percent of his passes this season. He’s only thrown for 1,301 yards, but he’s made them count, averaging the third highest average per attempt in the conference (7.74) and sitting tied for the conference lead in touchdown passes with 15 while throwing five interceptions.
Many consider this Oregon squad the best that Chip Kelly has had and Marcus Mariota may be one of the most consistent and impressive freshman that Kelly has had. His poise under pressure, even when the Ducks have been pressed a few times early in games, has been the difference and could be what pushes the Ducks over the top this season.
1. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State Sun Devils
Sophomore Taylor Kelly has been one of the best kept secrets in college football. In a conference with big names and big arms, Kelly has differentiated himself this season as one of the best for first-year head coach Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Kelly leads the league in completion percentage (68.3%), passing efficiency (176.0), and yards per attempt (9.76). He’s near the top in every other category as well, sitting third in yardage (1,600), second in touchdowns (14), and has thrown the fewest interceptions of anyone this season (2).
He’s the conference’s only representative in the top 10 for passing efficiency nationally and has quietly led the Sun Devils to a 5-1 (3-0 Pac 12) start and a first place spot atop the Pac 12 South. He has already laid down the gauntlet for player of the week, throwing for 308 yards and five touchdowns to lead the second half rout of Colorado in Boulder. With a showdown next week against the Oregon Ducks, Kelly and the Devils won’t be sneaking up on anybody the rest of this season.