The Pac-12 has always been known as a conference with wide open offenses and sophisticated passing schemes. But this year’s crop of conference quarterbacks may be taking that reputation to the next level.
The top three quarterbacks in the nation in passing yardage per game — and nine of the top 26 overall — come from the Pac-12.
Leading the way is true freshman Jared Goff of California, who recently became the first Bears quarterback since Aaron Rodgers to have three-straight 300-yard passing games. Goff is averaging 434 yards per game and is on pace to finish the regular season with an astounding 5,204 yards.
After Goff comes Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, who is averaging 412 yards per game while tying for the national lead with 12 touchdown passes. Mannion is on pace to throw for 5,356 yards and 52 touchdowns, assuming the Beavers make a bowl game.
Next is Colorado’s Connor Wood. The Texas transfer is averaging 370 yards per game, which puts him on pace for 4,440 yards for the season.
If Goff and Mannion keep their pace, they’ll become the first duo from the same conference to throw for over 5,000 yards in the same season. If Wood stays on his pace, they will be the first trio from the same conference to throw for over 4,400 yards in a single season. There’s a decent chance that the conference could have as many as six quarterbacks with 4,000-plus yards.
Other prolific quarterbacks this year in the conference include Washington’s Keith Price (7th nationally, on pace for 4,329 yards), Taylor Kelly of Arizona State (11th nationally, on pace for 4,238 yards), Connor Halliday of WSU (15th nationally, on pace for 3,768 yards), Marcus Mariota of Oregon (19th nationally, on pace for 4,144 yards), Brett Hundley of UCLA (23rd nationally, on pace for 3,692 yards) and Utah’s Travis Wilson (26th nationally, on pace for 3,666 yards).
This list is even more impressive when you consider that Goff, Mariota, Hundley and Wilson are all either freshmen or sophomores.
Blame most of this offensive explosion on the changing of the guard in the coaching ranks that went on in the league recently. Sonny Dykes and Mike Leach brought the Air Raid offense to Cal and WSU, respectively. Noel Mazzone’s offensive style reigns at both UCLA and Arizona State. Dennis Erickson is helping to revive Utah’s offense. Colorado has ditched its pro-style scheme for a more wide open style. Rich Rodriguez has Arizona’s offense playing at a high level. Teams like Washington State and Oregon State are doing their best to keep up with the Joneses by tweaking what they do on offense. About the only teams refusing to go along with the new styles are Stanford and USC, both of which rank near the bottom of the conference in total offense.
The SEC became the hands-down best conference once it upgraded its coaches starting in 2005. Great head men like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban came aboard, which helped change the balance of power in the league and, hence, in college football (these two won five of the SEC’s seven BCS titles during its recent run). If the Pac-12′s flagship program — USC — finds its way and installs a quality coach, the conference might actually be able to challenge the SEC for conference supremacy.