QB play has been outstanding so far

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
6:06
PM ET
The Pac-12's early-season passing fancy is making it feel like 2002 all over again.

Recall that high-flying season: Six Pac-10 quarterbacks passed for more than 3,300 yards. Seven threw 24 or more TD passes. Five receivers produced at least 1,250 yards in the passing game.

Washington's Cody Picket threw for 4,458 yards. Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer threw for 3,942 with 33 TD passes.

For comparison's sake: In 2010, one Pac-10 quarterback -- Stanford's Andrew Luck -- threw for more than 3,300 yards and three had 24 or more TD passes. And no one eclipsed 1,250 yards receiving.

This past weekend, five Pac-12 quarterbacks threw for more than 350 yards. All told, the conference produced 33 TD passes and just four interceptions.

Eleven of the 12 starting quarterbacks in the conference rank in the nation's top-60 in passing efficiency, and Utah's Jordan Wynn is only lower because of a poor performance in the opener against Montana State, his first game since shoulder surgery. Five quarterbacks rank in the top 23 in passing efficiency. Six are in the top-25 in passing yards per game.

As for the receivers, 10 rank among the nation's top 47 in receiving yards per game, including four in the top-25.

Yes, it's early, and some of the numbers have been rolled up against poor competition, but it's fair to say that high preseason expectations for quarterback play in the Pac-12 undersold the talent, at least based on early returns. It's also fair to say 10 of 12 teams are pretty darn happy with what they're getting at the position, with only UCLA and Oregon State struggling at the position.

You still have the big four: Luck, USC's Matt Barkley, Arizona's Nick Foles and Oregon's Darron Thomas. But guess who has the best numbers through the first two weekends? Washington State's Marshall Lobbestael, Jeff Tuel's backup, and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler.

Lobbestael is ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency and 15th in passing yards per game, and Osweiler is 10th in passing efficiency and 13th in passing yards per game.

Oh, and Colorado's Tyler Hansen is seventh in passing yards per game. And Washington's Keith Price, a sophomore, is 14th in passing efficiency.

Price and Osweiler are not the only new guys doing well. California's Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, has been more than solid against two respectable foes. Considering the top question for all three of these teams was quarterback play, things are looking pretty good during 2-0 starts.

Of course, the screws tighten once Pac-12 play begins in earnest, and the grind might get to some of the younger guys.

Still, the early returns are more than promising. The conference of quarterbacks, which could produce three first round NFL draft picks at the position this spring, may turn in one of its best passing years.

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