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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
They are just a twisted knee or rung bell away from running your team's offense, so backup quarterback is not a position to just shrug about.
Ask Oregon fans. Before Saturday, they had a backup quarterback with significant experience who'd led a 2007 Sun Bowl victory and looked great in the spring game. Now Justin Roper is headed elsewhere, opting to transfer instead of backing up Jeremiah Masoli, and suddenly Masoli's physical running style feels a lot riskier.
Of course, ranking backups is tough. Does experience matter most? Because a few backups have lots of experience -- the bad kind.
Obviously from our list, we decided that experience is critical. My guess is some of you will howl about that.
So who will be holding their breath every time their quarterback dashes from the pocket? Here's a look.
1. Oregon State: Sean Canfield or Lyle Moevao? Lyle Moevao or Sean Canfield? It doesn't matter because the Beavers not only have two quarterbacks with significant starting experience, they have two quarterbacks who are good.
2. Stanford: It appears that the Cardinal will go with redshirt freshman Andrew Luck as the starter, which means 19-game starter Tavita Pritchard is a quality backup.
3. Oregon: Despite Roper's defection, the Ducks aren't in too much trouble here, particularly if Nate Costa -- the projected 2008 starter -- comes back healthy in the fall. Sophomore Darron Thomas is the quarterback of the future and looked good in the limited action he saw last year, including an inspired effort against Boise State.
4. USC: True freshman Matt Barkley is officially the backup, but I'm not so sure that Mitch Mustain wouldn't be the guy if Aaron Corp went down with an injury at Ohio State. Mustain saw a lot of action as a true freshman at Arkansas. And if it is Barkley, he's a big-time talent with a lot of poise.
5. California: We're not supposed to know who the backup is as the competition between Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion is officially ongoing. The fact Jeff Tedford won't say that Riley is his starter probably speaks to Tedford's belief that Brock Mansion is a pretty good talent.
6. UCLA: Much like USC, UCLA is listing a true freshman (Richard Brehaut) as Kevin Prince's backup. And, much like I wrote about USC, my guess is that Kevin Craft would be the guy if Prince went down. Craft set a school record with 20 interceptions last year, but he also led the Bruins to comeback wins over Tennessee and Stanford. That counts for something.
7. Washington State: Assuming that Marshall Lobbestael comes back healthy and wins the starting job, as expected, that makes senior Kevin Lopina, who started eight games in 2008, the backup. The experience is nice, but Lopina threw 11 interceptions and zero touchdown passes, which is not so nice. He did have one shining moment: His 48-yard pass to Jared Karstetter in final minute of the Apple Cup led to game-tying field goal, and the Cougars went on to win in overtime.
8. Washington: Sophomore Ronnie Fouch looked overmatched when he was forced into action last year when Jake Locker went down. He completed only 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns, and ended up the Pac-10's lowest-rated quarterback. He, however, looked better this spring.
9. Arizona: Matt Scott owns a slight lead over Nick Foles heading into the summer. While neither has started a game, both have at least seen the field. Scott accounted for three touchdowns in 2008, while Foles threw eight passes for Michigan State in 2007. Not sure Arizona coaches would trade either for the more experienced backups we've listed ahead of the Wildcats here.
10. Arizona State: Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a good athlete, and Sun Devils insiders are excited about true freshman Brock Osweiler, but neither has played a down of college football. Szakacsy was No. 2 coming out of spring. Osweiler could challenge him in the fall, but the guess here is he'll redshirt. Of course, one or the other also could push senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job, too.