The Pac-12 features arguably the best collection of starting quarterbacks in college football. With three potential NFL first-round picks, the leader of a playoff team, and a highly touted 5-star prospect, there should be plenty of high-scoring games in the conference this season.
We’ve ranked the quarterbacks in the conference based on statistics and potential success this season.
Your rankings will no doubt differ, but here’s our Pac-12 Quarterbacks Power Rankings, in inverse order:
12. Chase Forest / Ross Bowers, Cal
2016 stats: N/A
2017 outlook: The jury is out on both of these quarterbacks, as neither has played much. Chase Forest, a redshirt junior, saw mop-up duty in three games for the Bears in 2015 behind Jared Goff, throwing for 162 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Ross Bowers appeared in one game in 2016, but did not accrue any statistics. Both were rated 3-star quarterbacks coming out of high school.
With the “Bear Raid” offense a thing of the past, will new coach Justin Wilcox bring a more conservative approach? Bottom line: With no track record for either Forest or Bowers, it’s easy to project first-year struggles for whoever gets the starting nod.
11. Keller Chryst, Stanford
2016 stats: 12 games, 905 yards passing, 10 TDs, 2 INTs, 159 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 56.6 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Keller Chryst had modest numbers last season due to splitting time with Ryan Burns. But even if you take that into account, looking further into Chryst’s game logs shows that he only threw more than 20 passes in a game three times last season. He never threw for more than 300 yards in a game.
Stanford’s conservative offense won’t allow for any quarterback not named Andrew Luck to put up big statistics. The offensive weapons are limited, and coach David Shaw is more than willing to lean on a ball-control offense with Bryce Love and an always-stout offensive line. A knee injury suffered in Stanford’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina could also limit Chryst, who may not be ready for the start of fall camp. Expect unexceptional, albeit efficient, numbers for Chryst, Burns, or whomever else the Cardinal go with in 2017.
10. Marcus McMaryion, Oregon State
2016 stats: 8 games, 1,286 yards, 10 TDs, 5 INTs, 59.6 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Marcus McMaryion returns as the most experienced quarterback on the Beavers roster. He took over midway through last season and produced modest numbers. Similar to Stanford, the Beavers offense likely will remain run heavy with Ryan Nall carrying the load. McMaryion, a redshirt junior, could get pushed for the starting job from Jake Luton, a transfer from Idaho who sat out last season.
9. Blake Barnett, Arizona State
2016 stats: 3 games, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 57.9 completion percentage (Alabama)
2017 outlook: The Sun Devils have a crowded quarterback group, and junior Manny Wilkins is the incumbent who could start because of his familiarity with the offense. But Wilkins was prone to turnovers. My guess is that Blake Barnett’s elite talent comes to the forefront on a team that doesn’t have much firepower.
Barnett has a strong arm and good mobility, and was the No. 2-ranked QB in the country coming out of high school in 2015. He’ll take his lumps in his first full season as a starter, but he’ll be able to get the Sun Devils offense moving in ways nobody else on the roster can. He’ll develop alongside a young WR corps. The first and only time Barnett faced a Pac-12 opponent (USC in September 2016), he had mixed results.
8. Troy Williams, Utah
2016 stats: 13 games, 2,757 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INTs, 235 rushing yards, 5 rush TDs, 53.1 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Troy Williams had his moments last season as the Utes’ starting QB, namely his 296-yard, 4-TD explosion vs. Arizona State. He also struggled mightily at times. His 3-interception effort vs. BYU almost allowed the the Cougars to pull a big upset. Williams was plagued by inconsistency and inaccuracy. He had only four games last season with a completion percentage of better than 60 percent.
On the ground, Williams is a chain-mover and nothing more, using his legs to efficiently keep defenses off balance. But he lacks game-breaking speed and elusiveness. If he can become an improved passer and cut down on mistakes, he’s the right man to help the Utes compete in the Pac-12 South.
7. Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
2016 stats: 10 games, 1,348 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 944 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs, 53.1 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Brandon Dawkins is the only true dual-threat QB on this list, as he led the Wildcats in both rushing yards and touchdowns in 2016. He won’t be expected to throw a lot in 2017 (only four games with more than 20 attempts last season), but his ability to pick up chunk yardage on the ground will be vital to keep defenses off balance for an Arizona team that is expected to struggle. Dawkins had five games with at least 1 passing and rushing TD last season, and returns as the most dynamic player on the Wildcats offense.
6. Steven Montez, Colorado
2016 stats: 8 games, 1,078 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs, 231 rushing yards, 1 rush TD, 59.3 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Steven Montez is possibly the hardest player to rank in the conference. He was electric in three games as a starter after taking over for oft-injured Sefo Liufau. His breakout performance came at Oregon, where he threw for 333 yards and 3 TDs while running for 135 yards and another score. He followed up with a 293-yard, 3-TD effort vs. Oregon State.
Montez is relatively inexperienced, but at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he is a strong quarterback with the athleticism to make things happen if the pocket breaks down. If he can take advantage of his opportunity and efficiently lead the Buffaloes offense, the redshirt sophomore has a chance for a big season. He is surrounded by a dynamic offense with weapons everywhere you look.
Here’s a look at what Montez can do:
5. Justin Herbert, Oregon
2016 stats: 8 games, 1,936 yards, 19 TDs, 4 INTs, 161 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 63.5 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Justin Herbert took hold of the starting job after five games last season and ran with it, throwing for 266 yards and almost 3 touchdowns per game. Now comfortable as the undisputed starter, the true sophomore could help lead Oregon back to national prominence. He has an athletic, talented corps of playmakers surrounding him, and if coach Willie Taggart embraces an uptempo philosophy like he did at South Florida, Herbert will be in a great position to succeed. He’s got a strong arm and is accurate — two things you need for quick, decisive throws in the spread formation.
4. Jake Browning, Washington
2016 stats: 14 games, 3,430 yards, 43 TDs, 9 INTs, 45 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, 62.1 completion percentage
2017 outlook: There’s not much that Jake Browning didn’t do last year for the Huskies as they marched into the College Football Playoff. He’s smart, accurate, has great touch and throws a beautiful deep ball. Despite the loss of first-round pick John Ross, he has lots of toys to play with in Seattle, particularly speedy wide receivers Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher.
Browning’s 43 TDs ranked second in the nation last season. While there might be some regression in that stat, there’s little reason to think Browning won’t once again put up huge numbers in a powerful offense and light up Pac-12 defenses.
3. Luke Falk, Washington State
2016 stats: 13 games, 4,468 yards, 39 TDs, 11 INTs, 70.0 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Over the past three seasons, Luke Falk has established himself as one of the most accurate passers in the country while guiding Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Falk gets the ball out quickly and almost always makes the right decision. Losing all-time leading receiver Gabe Marks and River Cracraft will hurt, but Washington State is assured to throw the ball all over the yard again this season. Falk attempted 48 or more throws in nine games last season. The Cougars will live and die on Falk’s right arm.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
2016 stats: 6 games, 1,915 yards, 10 TDs, 5 INTs, 59.3 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Some would say Browning and Falk are more deserving than Josh Rosen of the No. 2 spot on this list. And you can argue that the biggest knock against Rosen has been his inability to stay on the field, and his often questionable decision-making off of it. But there’s no denying that when he’s healthy, there might not be another signal caller in the country with as much upside. Rosen is the prototypical big, strong-armed QB that every coach dreams of. He can make any throw, and has put up big numbers at UCLA without an exceptional receiving corps. He’s an elite talent, and in this game of projections and hypotheticals, that wins out.
1. Sam Darnold, USC
2016 stats: 13 games, 3,083 yards, 31 TDs, 9 INTs, 250 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 67.3 completion percentage
2017 outlook: Sam Darnold checks in atop the list of Pac-12 quarterbacks, and you’ll find his name atop many national lists. Lacking the question marks of Rosen, Darnold is what you get when potential and production meet. The redshirt sophomore is primed to lead USC to great heights in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Darnold grabbed the job by the throat four games into last season and continued to get better, culminating in his epic 453-yard, 5-TD effort in the Rose Bowl in USC’s dramatic 52-49 win over Penn State.
We may have only seen a glimpse of what Darnold is capable of, and he’s already indicated that he is strongly considering returning to the Trojans for his junior and senior seasons. He possesses stoic leadership that is rare in college football, and has all of the physical tools to be special. Maybe Heisman Trophy special.