With Marcus Mariota putting together one of the most astounding seasons ever put together by a college quarterback while leading the Heisman race and steering his team towards a potential national championship, I have a feeling that when the 2013 season is all said and done, Mariota's campaign will be considered the best in conference history. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at which recent quarterback seasons, Mariota will be competing with to outperform to achieve that honor.
Here are the Top 10 quarterback season of the past 10 seasons (2003-2012)
1. Matt Leinart USC 2004
This is the one that I think will be the hardest for Mariota to catch as he will likely have to match the almost impossible trio that Leinart achieved in 2004 - astounding numbers, an undefeated national championship season and a Heisman trophy. Leinart put up 3,322 yards 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions while also running for three more touchdowns, and though they aren't the overall most-impressive stats of any of these highlighted seasons, the national championship and Heisman puts him on top.
2. Matt Leinart USC 2003
Leinart's breakout season, he put up ridiculous numbers for era that he was playing in and led the Trojans to an AP national championship. Leinart broke the 3,500-yard mark back when that was a gigantic deal and threw 38 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions. Leinart also did all of this with the pressure of following up Carson Palmer's Heisman season and he ended up finishing sixth in voting himself.
3. Andrew Luck Stanford 2011
I forgot how mind boggling Luck's completion percentages were in college - it was 71.3 in 2011. Along with that, Luck threw for more than 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns while running for an impressive 11 more. Luck also led the Cardinal to a BCS Bowl and lost just two games while barely losing out on the Heisman to Robert Griffin III.
4. Andrew Luck Stanford 2010
Luck's sophomore season may not quite have been as good as his junior one, but it was good enough to where he would have likely been the top pick in the draft had he declared for the draft and to have him finish second in Heisman voting for the first time - this time losing to Cam Newton. His numbers were overwhelming as he threw for 3,300 yards with 32 touchdowns and a 70.7 percent completion rate while also running for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Cardinal to their best season in ages with a BCS bowl win, only one loss and a Top 5 finish.
5. Matt Leinart USC 2005
It's crazy to think that Leinart's 2005 season was his worst as a starter with how good it was. He finished third in Heisman voting while throwing for more than 3,800 yards, but his touchdowns were low for him at only 28, though he did run for six. He also nearly led USC to a perfect season and a third-straight national title as they just came up short to Texas in the national championship game.
6. Alex Smith Utah 2004
Sure, it wasn't in the Pac-12, but I also considered Utah and Colorado out of fairness to them. This is the season that made Smith the number one overall NFL draft pick as he was incredibly efficient in leading the Utes to an undefeated season as he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions and 631 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. Sure it was in the Mountain West, but it was very impressive. Smith also contended with Leinart for the Heisman and ended up fourth in the voting.
7. Matt Barkley USC 2011
Barkley threw the most touchdowns passes by a Pac-12 quarterback in conference history in 2011 with 39 and he threw just seven interceptions. Outside of pure stats, which also includes more than 3,500 yards passing and a 69.1 percent completion percentage. On top of that, Barkley led the Trojans to their one good season under Lane Kiffin where they actually may have been the most dangerous team in the country at the end of the season but were ineligible for a bowl. Also, Barkley's performance in USC's upset win at Oregon was one of the most impressive Pac-12 quarterback performances ever and he finished sixth in Heisman voting.
8. Marcus Mariota Oregon 2012
The best freshman season by a Pac-12 player at any position probably ever, Mariota took the Oregon offense to the next level with his athleticism, poise and accuracy. Mariota didn't put up astronomical yards, but he threw 32 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions with a 68.5 percent completion rate and a breathtaking 752 yards rushing with 5 touchdowns. Mariota also quarterbacked a team that only lost one game and almost won a national championship as just a redshirt freshman.
9. Drew Olson UCLA 2005
One of the most forgotten great seasons ever put together by a Pac-12 quarterback, Olson put together amazing numbers while leading the Bruins to a rare 10-win season that included a Sun Bowl win. Olson had some crazy efficient and prolific numbers with more than 3,100 yards and 34 touchdowns with just six interceptions which led to him finishing eighth in Heisman voting.
10. Darron Thomas Oregon 2011
Thomas has kind of been overshadowed by just how good Mariota has been, but he was very impressive in Oregon's offense and quarterbacked two of their best teams. 2011 was probably the better of his two seasons statistically as he finished with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions along with running for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
John David Booty USC 2006
Dennis Dixon Oregon 2007
Brian Johnson Utah 2008
Aaron Rodgers Cal 2004
Mark Sanchez USC 2008
Darron Thomas Oregon 2010