Who's the All-Pac-10 quarterback?

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
3:23
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Has there ever been a more wide-open race for first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback?

There are six legitimate candidates, and establishing a pecking order right now is extremely difficult.

 
 Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
 If Oregon can get past USC, Jeremiah Masoli could become the favorite to be All-Pac-10 quarterback.
Here's what we can say.

Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State are not going to produce an all-conference quarterback. That's certain. California's Kevin Riley may bounce back and produce a solid season. In fact, I think that will happen. But he's not going to be all-conference. (It's worth noting, though, that he owns an 11:2 touchdown to interception ratio. Hmm.)

If I had a vote now... I wouldn't vote. I think a lot turns on this weekend. And the next and the next.

USC's true freshman Matt Barkley leads the Pac-10 and ranks 17th in the nation in passing efficiency. But he won't win it if he doesn't beat Oregon on Saturday.

As good as Barkley has been in high-pressure road games, this doesn't impress: He's tossed only seven touchdown passes with five interceptions.

Last week against Oregon State, he looked like the second-best quarterback on the field -- by a wide margin -- compared to Sean Canfield. We'll get back to Canfield.

If Oregon beats USC, and Jeremiah Masoli puts up good numbers passing and running, he moves to the fore. Winning the Pac-10 bolsters an all-conference candidate, and Masoli is valuable in unconventional ways -- sort of like Marques Tuiasosopo was for Washington in 2000. Masoli's 12 touchdowns in six games (five passing, seven running) are fairly conventional, though.

Speaking of touchdowns, Washington's Jake Locker has 16 of 'em. Sure, the Huskies have been sagging a bit. And Locker only ranks seventh in the conference in passing efficiency. But he leads the conference in total offense (272 yards per game) and touchdowns. The NFL folks seem to think highly of him, and if he leads the Huskies to a late surge and -- golly -- a bowl game, you could make a good argument that he'd deserve consideration.

The same goes for Stanford redshirt freshman Andrew Luck. He ranks 18th in the nation in passing efficiency, and my personal observation is he's suffered through more dropped passes than any other quarterback.

Luck's schedule -- Oregon, at USC, California and Notre Dame -- also will give him plenty of marquee matchups to prove his mettle.

That goes for Arizona's Nick Foles, too. After a bye and a visit from Washington State, he's got this schedule: at Cal, Oregon, at Arizona State and at USC.

It's likely that Foles' best work is ahead, even against that schedule. Don't be surprised if he's not close to 280 to 300 yards passing per game by season's end, even against that slate of good defenses. I can almost see offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes cackling over the possibilities if the Wildcats' offense can get healthy.

That leaves Canfield.

"He's a very, very organized and precise player," said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, whose Bruins visit Oregon State on Saturday. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. He certainly understands their offense. It's tough to stop a quarterback who is playing on all cylinders like Sean is."

Canfield ranks fourth in the conference in passing efficiency and second in passing yards (248 per game). He completed 30 of 43 passes for 329 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Beavers' 42-36 loss at USC.

To me, it was the best performance by any Pac-10 quarterback this season -- a combination of numbers, location and opponent.

If the Beavers continue their annual second-half surge, Canfield, who seems to improve each week, likely will push to the top of the pecking order. That season finale at Oregon could be very, very interesting, considering the potential stakes for the Ducks.

And there's this: He's a senior, the only one of the group, who's overcome a lot to be where he is today. That matters to many. It does to me. If it's a photo finish between Canfield and Barkley, Luck or Foles, the tiebreaker goes to Canfield.

Of course, there's plenty of football to be played. Lots of things can happen, even (knock on wood) injuries.

But it's great fun that a seeming position of weakness in the preseason has now become one of strength, as well as one that figures to inspire much politicking when it comes time to choose who gets pushed to the front of the class.

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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