Barkley started out slow and the conference's plethora of young standout have gave him a run for his money, but Barkley remains still remains the best quarterback in the conference midway through the season
Going into this season, the crop of Pac-12 quarterbacks was basically seen as Matt Barkley and everybody else. Other than Barkley, most teams had unproven young quarterbacks slated in as starters and the only experienced quarterbacks who were expected to be in the same league as Barkley were Keith Price and Jeff Tuel - two quarterbacks who have greatly disappointed so far this year.
To the surprise of the many, the young and inexperienced quarterbacks have actually emerged as the class of the Pac-12 and First Team All Pac-12 quarterback will now actually be a challenge for Barkley to hang onto as he tries to fight off the other quarterbacks who have played very well. It will be interesting to watch how the conference's quarterbacks play down the stretch and to see if Barkley can go on the kind of run he went on late in 2011 and hold onto the honor ofbeing the best quarterback in the conference.
Taking into account stats, efficiency, record and leadership, here is how I think the starting quarterbacks in the conference stack up as we move further into the second half of the season.
1. Matt Barkley Sr. USC
Barkley has gotten off to a little bit of a slower start than most anticipated him to, but has started to come on in the last few weeks and still has a 22 touchdown to only 6 interceptions ratio through 7 games. Barkley didn't have a great game in the Trojans loss to Stanford and it pretty much ended his Heisman campaign, but he is still the most skilled quarterback in the conference with the ability to lead and his stats are on par, or better than any other QB in the conference right now. Barkley is still the first guy you would take if you could pick one quarterback in the conference to start a team.
2. Matt Scott Sr. Arizona
Senior first-year starters are a rarity in college football these days and Scott has been as good as any I can ever remember. Other than a nightmare game against Oregon, Scott has been nearly unstoppable and has been the most prolific quarterback in the conference statistically. He has racked up yards and touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Scott has also been the perfect quarterback for Rich Rodriguez' hurry-up offense and is a big reason why they have a great shot at a getting to a bowl game in his first season as coach.
3. Marcus Mariota Fr. Oregon
Mariota has already looked better than Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas as a freshman. Mariota does have a much easier job than most other quarterbacks in the conference, as playing the position in Chip Kelly's offense when it is firing on all cylinders is somewhat akin to coloring in a coloring book (just stay in the lines), but Mariota has done it perfectly. However, Mariota has a gear and an arm that neither Masoli or Thomas had which makes him the most dangerous quarterback in the conference on a play-to-play basis.
4. Brett Hundley Fr. UCLA
With his arm, athleticism, size and skill, Hundley has the potential to have a higher apex than any other guy on this list. Hundley has been the key piece in getting UCLA turned around towards respectability and he has put up numbers that are at the top of the conference as only a freshman. He had a bad game against Cal, but has been very consistent for a freshman starter for the most part.
5. Taylor Kelly So. Arizona State
Probably the most unknown of the guys at the top of this list going into the season, Kelly has quickly established himself as one of the best QBs in the conference with his accuracy. Like every quarterback that has faced Oregon this season, Kelly had a terrible game against Oregon, but otherwise has been very good. Kelly has a lot to do why the Sun Devils have had a great turnaround so far this season.
6. Sean Mannion So. Oregon State
Mannion would probably be a few spots higher on this list had he not missed the last two games with an injury, but still, Mannion has improved drastically from his freshman to sophomore season and has led the Beavers on their incredible surprise run this season. Mannion was prolific last year, but had a propensity for turning the ball over with interceptions and it looks like he has cleaned that up. If he can bounce back from his injury and keep his mistakes down, he will assuredly move back up these rankings.
7. Zach Maynard Sr. Cal
Maynard's lack of accuracy has been a big reason why the Bears have struggled recently, and though he has improved, there is a Grand Canyon size gap between him and Mannion. Aided by an NFL-ready receiver in Keenan Allen, Maynard can put up yards, but his completion percentage and touchdown to interception ratio still suffer greatly due to his poor accuracy and inconsistency.
8. Josh Nunes Jr. Stanford
Nunes has had a tall task in filling Andrew Luck's massive shoes in Palo Alto and he has struggled to even remotely do so. Nunes has the lowest completion percentage of any full-time starter in the conference and his limitations were a big reason why the Cardinal lost games to Washington and Notre Dame. However, Nunes has shown the ability to be a game-changing quarterback, particularly by leading the Cardinal in a huge comeback win against Arizona.
9. Jordan Webb Jr. Colorado
Being the quarterback of the hapless Buffaloes isn't one of the most desirable positions in the conference, but Webb does what he can, and has been serviceable. Webb was crucial in getting the Buffaloes their only win too in their furious comeback over Washington State where he ran for the game-winning touchdown on fourth down.
It wouldn't be fair to gauge any of these quarterbacks on their own as Wynn looked good before having his career ended in the second game of the season, Hays was filling in well before going out and now Wilson is starting in his place. Regardless though, each has been solid in his time under center, but also unremarkable.
11. Washington State QBs - Jeff Tuel & Connor Halliday
People had such high hopes for Mike Leach's offense in Pullman that many had Tuel slotted as the top quarterback in the conference after Barkley. Unfortunately Tuel wasn't able to stay healthy and keep a firm hold onto his job and Halliday stepped in and put up some good numbers with a gunslinger style, but also threw too many interceptions. It is unclear which quarterback will get the majority of the snaps through the rest of the year, but it is unlikely that either will be able to the quarterback play expectations that were in Pullman before the start of the season.
12. Keith Price Jr. Washington
It really hurts to put Price here, but there is no getting around it. He is at the bottom of the conference in every statistical category for quarterbacks, has struggled mightily with leadership, causing the Huskies to flounder and his recent turnovers have been devastating for the team. The good news for Price is that his schedule really lightens up after this Saturday's game with Oregon State and provides a great chance for him to bounce back and salvage his season.