The quarterback play so far in the 2013 college football season has been incredible throughout the country. Each BCS conference has at least one quarterback that is arguably in the Heisman Trophy running. Despite all of the great quarterback play going on in the nation, the best takes place in the Pac-12. To put it all in perspective, on Saturday in the Washington State vs. Cal game, Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday and Cal quarterback Jared Goff combined for over 1,000 yards passing and neither quarterback is in this top 5 conference list. Both Goff and Halliday are both very talented, but they have nothing on these 5 guys.
5. Kevin Hogan- Stanford
Since taking over as the starter midway through the 2012 season, Kevin Hogan has yet to lose a game for the Cardinal. In five games this season, Hogan has completed over 63% of his passes and thrown for 932 yards and 10 touchdowns as he has led the Cardinal to a 5-0 record. Stanford is a pretty run-heavy team and he has yet to throw the ball 30 times or more in a game this season. But he is a very effective game-manager and has proved that he can make big-time throws when the time comes. Hogan’s breakout moment was last year against Oregon when he led the Cardinal to a 17-14 overtime victory in Eugene. Hogan is probably most successful when he is sucking people in off the play-action pass and finding playmakers like star receiver Ty Montgomery. Hogan is efficient and he is an incredibly good decision-maker. He is also a better runner then he is given credit for. It has been amazing to see what a difference-maker Hogan has been since he took over as the Stanford starter.
4. Keith Price- Washington
Keith Price is one of those players that seems like he has been at Washington forever. We first saw him in 2010 as a backup to Jake Locker. Fast forward three years later where he is now a three-year starter and the most veteran quarterback in the conference. And he has played like it in the start of his senior season. In five games, Price has thrown for 1,394 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as completing over 71% of his passes. Price is very good at eluding the pass rush and he has shown great ability to throw both in the pocket and on the run. However probably the best thing about Price is that he is just an absolute gamer, which was not more evident than it was in the Stanford game on Saturday. Price was an absolute warrior the entire game, showing the country his ability to escape from tacklers and his ability to make big-time NFL throws down the field against one of the best defenses in the country. Price stepped up in the pocket and took brutal shots the entire game, but was able to keep the Huskies in the game with their backs against the wall. Even though the Huskies lost a controversial heartbreaker to the Cardinal, Price left no doubt in people’s minds that he is the real deal.
3. Brett Hundley- UCLA
After a 6-8 season in 2011 and the firing of Rick Neuheisel, UCLA fans couldn’t wait for the Brett Hundley era to begin in Pasadena. The highly-touted Hundley made his first start in 2012 as a redshirt freshman and since he has taken over as the starter he has brought a mediocre program into national relevance. He led the Bruins to a Pac-12 South title in his first season and has had a tremendous start to the 2013 season. In just four games Hundley has thrown for 1,059 yards and 9 touchdowns, as well as rushing for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hundley has also completed over 65% of his throws and has led the Bruins to a 4-0 record. Hundley is incredibly versatile at giving defenses different looks and his ability to go out of I-formation sets as well as modified pistol and zone read sets gives opposing defenses nightmares. He is very athletic and he is able to escape from pressure with ease and make incredibly accurate throws. With his 6-3, 222 pound frame, his arm strength, and his ability to run like a gazelle has NFL scouts drooling. Hundley is only a sophomore, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Hundley going in the top ten of the 2014 NFL Draft so don’t be surprised if Hundley forgoes his final two seasons of college.
2. Sean Mannion- Oregon State
Believe it or not, heading into fall camp for the 2013 season Sean Mannion was in a quarterback competition with Cody Vaz for the starting job. Once he won the job, Mannion has proved that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country as he continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers. In just five games Mannion has thrown for 2,018 yards and 21 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. He has completed over 67% of his throws and has thrown for 350 yards or more in every game. If it wasn’t for an OSU defense giving a piss-poor performance in an embarrassing lost to Eastern Washington, Mannion would definitely be in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Unlike the other four quarterbacks on this list, Mannion is not very fleet of foot. But Mannion has great pocket presence and his capability to stand in the pocket and make big-time throws is the best in the conference. He is incredibly accurate and he has shown several times this year his ability to thread the needle through coverage. What is most incredible about what Mannion is doing is that the Beavers are completely one-dimensional. The Beavers are 121st in the country in rushing so opposing defenses prepare for Mannion to throw fifty times a game and he still is able to give defensive coordinators nightmares. Mannion is only a junior this year but his projected to be a possible first-round pick if he decides to leave Corvallis.
1. Marcus Mariota- Oregon
Marcus Mariota had tons of hype surrounding him coming into the 2013 season, and rightfully so. As a redshirt freshman he made a splash on the national scene immediately as he led the Ducks to a 12-1 season, including a Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State. If you watch Oregon football on a consistent basis you probably notice that Mariota can sometimes have sloppy mechanics and he can be inaccurate at times. But at that the same time you can’t ignore that he is the biggest weapon on the most explosive offense in the country. In the Ducks 5-0 start, Mariota has thrown for 1,358 yards and 14 touchdowns with no interceptions. Mariota has also rushed for 338 and 7 touchdowns as well as averaging an incredible 10.1 yards per pass attempt. Mariota is probably the best athlete at the quarterback position in the entire country. He is also the biggest big play threat in the country as well, whether it be with his arm or his legs. His uncanny ability to escape from pressure and create big plays out of broken plays makes the Oregon offense almost unstoppable. Even when the offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders Mariota still finds a way to make things happen. Mariota has the most success throwing deep down the seams off the play-action fake as well as throwing on the run, which is a vital part to the Ducks passing attack. Mariota is arguably the best quarterback in the nation and is considered by many as the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
No conference can even compare to the great quarterback play taking place in the Pac-12. Four of the five quarterbacks in the conference have an outside shot to win the Heisman and be a 1st round pick in future NFL Drafts. If these guys keep up their unbelievable play, we could witness a historic year in the conference.