Heading into Week 6 of college football, we are almost halfway through the season and the quarterback situation in the Pac-12 has only gotten more intense as the season has progressed. During the off-season, it was being declared all over that the Pac-12 was living up to its name as the “Conference of Quarterbacks.” Let’s take a look at the five quarterbacks who’ve emerged as the best in the conference and arguably some of the best in the nation.
5. Cody Kessler – USC
The Trojans’ loss to Boston College in the third week of the season came at a time where the team seemed to fall apart. One of the lone bright spots of that game came in the form of quarterback Cody Kessler who had one of the best games of his career despite the loss. So far this season Kessler is 95-of-132 with 1107 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
While Kessler isn’t blowing out the lights every game, he is giving the team its best chance every week for a win. No interceptions heading into Week 6 is impressive and not something that all the quarterbacks on this list can boast. Compared to last season, Kessler has been making vastly better decisions and has learned to trust his line to give him the time he needs to throw. If the team can continue to play together and Kessler keeps getting better, the Trojans will give everyone on their schedule a run for their money.
4. Taylor Kelly – Arizona State
The Sun Devils started the season with the College Football Playoffs on their minds and a real shot at getting there. An injury to quarterback Taylor Kelly heading into the game against Pac-12 South opponent UCLA led to a loss, derailing those plans. Kelly won’t be back for this week’s game against USC but their backup quarterback is playing well.
Despite playing in only three games so far this season, Kelly is 42-of-68 with 625 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He will likely be back for next week’s game and get back to working on these numbers.
3. Sean Mannion – Oregon State
Oregon State lost to the Trojans last week – their first of the season — and will play Colorado this weekend. Quarterback Sean Mannion, who set 10 school records last season, had the most passing yards (4,662) and passing touchdowns (37) in the conference, which ranked second and fourth in FBS. Those numbers came with the help of Brandin Cooks who left for the NFL, leaving Mannion to find another target to trust. So far this season, Mannion is 91-of-145 for 1026 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
As can be seen by the equal number of touchdowns and interceptions this season, Mannion needs to work on his accuracy and choose his targets more wisely. The Beaver offense needs to find a way to give Mannion time to throw because when they do, he is nearly unstoppable.
2. Brett Hundley – UCLA
It seems like UCLA’s Brett Hundley decided that last week’s game was his stage and no one was going to knock him off of it. He went 18-of-23 for 355 yards and four touchdowns while rushing eight times for 72 yards and one touchdown. Those great stats for last week’s games only added to the great season Hundley is having, as he is currently 75-of-104 with 1041 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception.
If another Pac-12 quarterback is going to give Mariota any competition in the Heisman voting, it’s Hundley. The Bruins started the season off a little shaky, barely escaping a couple teams they should have destroyed, but have gotten better each game. Hundley will have another chance to impress tomorrow when UCLA plays Utah, but next week comes the real test as the Bruins take on the Ducks in a Top-10 matchup. Fans and critics all over the nation will get a chance to compare two of the best quarterbacks in the nation as they give it their all.
1. Marcus Mariota – Oregon Ducks
No one can argue with Marcus Mariota’s perch atop this list, as he has earned it every week on the field so far this season. In every single
game for the Ducks this season, Mariota has made a play that changed the tide for the Ducks and woke up the rest of the team. Carrying the team on his back at certain points during the game has made his stats all the more impressive; Mariota is 71-of-96 for 1135 yards, has 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has also rushed for 214 yards on 33 attempts and made three touchdowns.
Mariota’s ability to run and throw the ball is unmatched in the nation. His decision making skills are great and continue to get better. With a injury depleted offensive line, Mariota’s numbers during the Ducks last game should have been mediocre at best. Instead, he had one of his best games of the season so far and scored five touchdowns, despite being sacked seven times.
With half the season still to go, there are seven more quarterbacks who are eager to make their marks and earn their way into any conversation regarding the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. The shakeout has just begun.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
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