Pac-12/10 Best QBs of the BCS Era: USC quarterbacks lead the way

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Matt Barkley account for a quarter of the quarterbacks on the list.

Matt Barkley USC 2009-12

Barkley had a very disappointing senior season, but his junior season was amongst the best ever put together by a Pac-12 quarterback and he would have taken the Trojans to BCS bowl if they had been eligible. A bit like chain-smoking guitarist Slash, it probably would have been better if Barkley's career had ended after just three years, but regardless, he still finished with more than 12,000 yards and threw 116 touchdowns.

Jason Gesser Washington State 1999-2002

Gesser was the man behind Washington State's best run in program history, leading them to back-to-back 10-win seasons as a junior and senior, getting them to a Rose Bowl in 2002. He was a legitimate Heisman candidate and finished his career with 70 touchdown passes.

Joey Harrington Oregon 1998-2001

Captain Comeback led the Ducks to their greatest heights under Mike Belotti, winning a Fiesta Bowl and Holiday Bowl while leading the Ducks to back-to-back 10-win seasons. Not only did he put up big numbers and win big games, but he was also one of the most clutch quarterbacks in Pac-12 history down the stretch in games, earning his nickname.

Matt Leinart USC 2003-05

The last Pac-12 player to win the Heisman, Leinart is arguably the greatest Pac-12 quarterback of the BCS era with his pedigree, even though his disappointing NFL career has hurt his luster. More than 10,000 yards passing and 99 touchdown passes, two national championships, a Heisman trophy, just two losses as a starter and three BCS bowls... pretty hard to beat.

Andrew Luck Stanford 2009-11

The wonderkid had sky high expectations coming into college and more than fulfilled them before becoming a top overall NFL Draft pick. Along with nearly winning the Heisman twice, leading once-moribund Stanford to two straight BCS bowls and throwing for nearly 10,000 yards with 82 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions, Luck's completion percentages were out of this world.

Marcus Mariota Oregon 2012-present

Mariota has taken the Pac-12 by storm in just two furious years in Oregon's deadly offense and will likely end his career as the best running quarterback in the conference as he already has ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mariota has lost just three games in his career and has thrown 63 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions while leading an incredibly prolific offense.

Cade McNown UCLA 1995-98

Okay, he only played in the BCS era for one year, but since he did, I'm including him. McNown played in a different era, but was still able to throw for more than 10,000 yards and 68 touchdowns. He peaked as a senior, leading UCLA to the Rose Bowl as an All-American and ended up being a Top 15 draft pick.

Drew Olson UCLA 2002-05

One of the most forgettable players in conference history that put up great numbers, Olson's big achievement was his excellent senior season in which he threw for 3,100 yards with 34 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Olson led the Bruins to a 10-win season in his last season in Westwood and was incredibly accurate.

Carson Palmer USC 1998-2002

The other Pac-12 BCS era quarterback to win the Heisman, Palmer was a bit of a disappointment leading up to his senior season, but boy was it a senior season. As a senior, Palmer won the Heisman, won the Orange Bowl, threw for nearly 4,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and ended up being the top overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Palmer wasn't completely a one-year wonder though as he threw for more than 11,000 yards in his career and 72 touchdowns.

Aaron Rodgers Cal 2003-04

Rodgers only played in the Pac-12 for two seasons, but they were spectacular. In those two seasons, Rodgers threw for more than 5,400 yards and 43 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions as one of the most accurate passers in conference history. Rodgers also was integral in taking Cal out of the bottom of the Pac-10 and helped turn them into a national contender.

Jonathan Smith Oregon State 1998-2001

Smith was the face of the turning around of the utterly hopeless Oregon State program of the 80s and 90s. Smith threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 52 touchdowns and led the Beavers to the height of their modern success, quarterbacking them to a blowout win over Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl and a Top 5 finish.

Marques Tuiasosopo Washington 1997-2000

Far from the most statistically impressive player in recent conference history, Tuiasosopo might be the best pure leader and gutty player on this list. Tuiasosopo was deadly in the option running game, but also could make plays in the passing game and led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl win and a Top 5 finish as a senior where he seemed to will the Huskies to victory himself each week. His most-impressive stat line is that he finished with 20 rushing touchdowns in his career.

Honorable Mention

Derek Anderson Oregon State 2001-04

Rudy Carpenter Arizona State 2005-08

Nick Foles Arizona 2009-11

Darron Thomas Oregon 2008-11

Andrew Walter Arizona State 2001-04

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