Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference’s Top 10 Players
Who Is The Best Player The Pac-12 Has To Offer?
For the past several years, the Southeastern Conference has been a staple of dominance throughout NCAA football. While the SEC remains the nation’s premier conference, the Pac-12 has made leaps and bounds to shorten that gap.
The Pac-12 and SEC have the same number of schools in the most recent BCS standings: five. The Pac-12 currently has a 81.5 overall ranking, 14.4 points behind the SEC and 7.8 points ahead of the Big 12, according to ESPN Stats & Information’s conference power rankings. However, the Pac-12 ranks atop ESPN’s Football Power Index ahead of the SEC.
Regardless of which conference is better this season, the Pac-12 has an abundance of quality players that have helped their conference boom. Oregon’s star quarterback Marcus Mariota has been named a finalist for the 2013 Heisman Trophy Award. He has been the most dynamic player the conference has to offer all season long, but where does he fall of this list?
The Pac-12 conference championship is starting to heat up as well. Many college football pundits believed Oregon had the Pac-12 North wrapped up, but the Ducks’ loss to Arizona last weekend leaves the division to Stanford for the taking. How the North division race finishes up will be something to watch for college football fans. Both Stanford and Oregon feature players that will one day be playing in the NFL. UCLA, their likely opponent in the Pac-12 championship game representing the South division, has a few Sunday-caliber players of their own.
Who is the best player the Pac-12 has to offer?
10. Robert Nelson Jr., DB, Arizona State
Robert Nelson leads the Pac-12 in interceptions with six, but that doesn’t fully speak for his ability as a cornerback. Opposing offenses fear his presence and target his opposing wide receiver less frequently. He has been the best player on defense thus far for the No. 12 Arizona State Sun Devils.
9. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks is far and away the best wide receiver in the Pac-12. He leads the conference with 1,560 yards and 15 touchdowns. The receiver with the next highest totals in that category is Paul Richardson of Colorado with 1,289 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cook has a stellar quarterback, who will appear shortly on this list, to thank for his high totals.
8. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Statistics-wise, Sean Mannion is the best quarterback in the conference and one of the best in the nation. He leads the conference with 4,089 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. His passer rating, however, is lower than some of the conference’s best quarterbacks at 148.6 — Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, who has almost 2,000 less passing yards than Mannion ranks above the Oregon State QB. His 13 interceptions in 2013 definitely have something to do with that number. Nevertheless, Mannion deserves credit for his great season.
7. Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney ranks third in the Pac-12 with 1,296 rushing yards and is tied for second with 16 rushing touchdowns. He has been the Cardinal’s most consistent man on offense, helping lead his team back into the conference championship picture. He was able to total 171 yards on the ground against Anthony Barr and the UCLA Bruins back on Oct. 12, and is primed to continue Stanford’s dominant rush attack through the postseason.
6. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Washington’s star running back Bishop Sankey leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards and 17 touchdowns. The only reason he is lower on this list is because he somewhat struggled against the conference’s better teams -- 91 rushing yards against UCLA and just 22 on the ground against Arizona State. The junior will have one more season to solidify his resume for the NFL Draft, but he remains one of the best players in his conference right now .
5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Brett Hundley has been a fantastic quarterback for UCLA this season. He leads the conference in completion percentage and has passed for 2,637 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 507 yards and seven touchdowns. He has been the top offensive playmaker for the Bruins this season, leading the team to a 8-3 record in 2013. Hundley is only a sophomore so look for his stock to continue to rise as his college career progresses.
4. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Ka’Deem Carey does not lead the Pac-12 in rushing yards, but I believe he is better overall player than the conference leader Bishop Sankey of Washington. Carey ranks second in the conference with 1559 rushing yards — 16 yards behind Sankey — and 17 total touchdowns. Carey was a Heisman hopeful for much of the season and has led the Arizona offense to a 7-4 record in 2013. The junior may be good enough to skip his senior season and head for the NFL, but only time will tell.
3. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Anthony Barr has had a fantastic 2013 season for the UCLA Bruins, though many thought it could have been even better. He is tied for third in the conference with eight total sacks for a total loss of 46 yards. His statistics don’t speak enough volume on the quality linebacker he is for the Bruins. He’ll be a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for sure -- maybe even as high as in the top three.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Oregon’s star quarterback Marcus Maroita is, as many believed he would be, a finalist for this year’s Heisman Trophy. He leads the Pac-12 with a 171.1 passer rating and has 27 touchdowns through the air; he has also rushed for 529 yards and nine touchdowns. He has led one of the most prolific offenses in college football all season long and is deserving of his Heisman nomination.
1. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Stanford’s star defensive linebacker is in a class of his own, not only in the Pac-12 but in all of college football. He leads the nation with 13 total sacks — the man with the next highest total is Utah’s Trevor Reilly with 8.5. Even more amazing, his sacks have totaled 102 yards lost for opposing offenses. He’s out-performed UCLA’s Anthony Barr, who is still projected to be taken higher in this year’s NFL Draft. Regardless of his position in mock drafts around the nation, Murphy is the best player the Pac-12 has to offer.