Pac-12: Aaron Murray

Experience matters. One of the reasons to be high on Georgia's offense this year is quarterback Aaron Murray is a talented guy with 41 career starts, which just happens to lead the nation.

So who leads the Pac-12 in career starts?

Well, the Arizona State sports information department crunched some numbers and provided the Pac-12 blog with a list (number is career starts):
35 Brian Blechen, LB/DB, Utah

35 Michael Philipp, OT, Oregon State

34 Evan Finkenberg, OL, Arizona State

32 Osahon Irabor, DB, Arizona State

30 Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

30 John Fullington, OL, Washington State

To me, this is more evidence of a position of strength this year in the Pac-12: Offensive line. That's also an area where experience often matters most.

Here's the national list -- the Pac-12 will see a lot of these guys in nonconference competitition.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL CAREER ACTIVE STARTS

41 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

39 Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State

39* Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

39 Demarco Nelson, S, Tulsa

38 Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt

38 Tyler Larsen, OC, Utah State

38* Eathyn Manumaleuna, DL, BYU

38 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville

38 Travis Swanson, OC, Arkansas

38 Mason Walters, OG, Texas

37 Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

37 Perry Simmons, OT, Duke

37* Brandon Wimberly, WR, Nevada

36* Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

36* Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe

36 Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke

36* James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

36 Derrell Johnson, LB, East Carolina

36 Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado State

36* Corey Robinson, QB, Troy

36 Sydney Sarmiento, DT, Duke

36* Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois

36 Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse

36 Dovante Wallace, OT, New Mexico State

35 Brian Blechen, LB/DB, Utah

35 Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State

35 Michael Philipp, OT, Oregon State

34 Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

34 Evan Finkenberg, OL, Arizona State

34 Ethan Hemer, DL, Wisconsin

34 Shawn Jackson, LB, Tulsa

34* Nicholas Kaspar, OG, San Jose State

34 Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest

33 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

33 Jon Halapio, OG, Florida

33* Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU

33 Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

33* Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College

33* Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State

33 Nikita Whitlock, NT, Wake Forest

32 Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech

32* Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue

32* John Hardy-Tuliau, DB, Hawai’i

32 Osahon Irabor, DB, Arizona State

32 Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State

32 Eric Schultz, OT, Utah State

31 Stetson Burnett, OL, Tulsa

31 Avery Cunningham, S, Central Michigan

31* Nosa Eguae, DL, Auburn

31 Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

31* Isaiah Newsome, S, Louisiana-Monroe

31* Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, Boston College

31* Nickoe Whitley, S, Mississippi State

30* Josh Allen, OL, Louisiana-Monroe

30 Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

30 John Fullington, OL, Washington State

30 Terrance Lloyd, DE, Baylor

30* Tavarese Maye, WR, Louisiana-Monroe

30* Chris Pickett, S, Troy

30* Austin Wentworth, OT, Fresno State

* non-consecutive
2013 may be the season of the quarterback in college football, because a lot of good ones are coming back.

In the SEC, there's Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Louisville has Teddy Bridgewater, and Clemson offers Tajh Boyd. In the Pac-12, there's UCLA's Brett Hundley, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and Arizona State's Taylor Kelley.

But the best one coming back is Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

How so? Well, for one, that was the assignment: Make a case for the best quarterback in your conference being the best in the nation.

But it's not too difficult to make Mariota's case.

As a redshirt freshman, he ranked seventh in the nation in passing efficiency. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

He threw a touchdown pass in every game and one interception in his final seven games. He was named MVP in the Fiesta Bowl after leading a blowout win over Big 12 champion Kansas State, which capped a 12-1 season and a final No. 2 ranking for the Ducks.

He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors after leading an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring (49.6 PPG) and fifth in total offense (537.4 YPG). The Ducks scored 11 points per game more than any other Pac-12 team.

The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Honolulu native is an extremely accurate passer who might be the fastest quarterback in the nation -- see his 86- and 77-yard runs last season. Against USC on the road, he completed 87 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He tied a school record with six touchdown passes against California. He rushed for 135 yards at Arizona State.

Of course, his 2012 numbers aren't mind-blowing. A lot of that isn't his fault. Oregon blew out so many opponents -- average halftime score of 31-9 -- that it didn't require many plays from behind center after the break. For the season, Mariota threw just 24 passes and rushed eight times in the fourth quarter, compared to 227 passes and 71 rushes in the first half.

Manziel, for the sake of comparison, threw 62 passes and rushed 33 times in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater threw 86 passes and rushed 13 times in the fourth.

The good news is folks are probably going to see a lot more of Mariota this season. With running back Kenjon Barner off to the NFL, the Ducks might skew more toward the passing game after being run-centric under Chip Kelly. New coach Mark Helfrich, who was the Ducks' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last year, is expected to throw the ball around more because he has an experienced quarterback and a strong, experienced crew of receivers.

That means more numbers for Mariota as he leads a team in the national title hunt. The potential combination of stats and wins might be enough to get Mariota to New York in December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
The Heisman Pundit has released its official 2012 Heisman Trophy Watch List, and as you’d expect, it’s the usual suspects from the Pac-12 on the list.

Though in alphabetical order, it’s widely assumed that USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the front-runner with all others playing catch-up before the first snap has been taken. Here’s the list.
The Pac-12 blog entertained which player from the conference we thought would emerge as the Heisman winner in a Take 2 back in March. Watch lists are always subject to change, and until we actually see some games, it’s only fun speculation at this point.

No question that Barkley is the early leader in the minds of many. Given his statistics last season, the receivers he has around him and the lofty preseason ranking the Trojans are expected to enjoy, he’s looking down on the pack – at least for now.

Thomas is going to have big play after big play this season, which makes him a very strong Heisman candidate. His exploits can be packaged into an explosive highlight reel that is easily digestible for East Coast voters. No one ever gets tired of seeing 85-yard touchdown runs (unless you're safeties chasing Thomas).

Price lacks the national brand at this point, but that could all change in Week 2 in Baton Rouge. A strong showing against LSU is certain to boost his exposure and could catapult him from dark horse contender to major candidate. And then he's got Stanford, Oregon and USC all in the first six games. He could be the leader at the turn ... or slip out of the running all together.

Matt Barkley tops Heisman odds

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
4:00
PM ET
It was about this time last year that people started predicting that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would hoist the Heisman Trophy. How'd that work out, by the way? Still, it's not too soon to start looking at some odds.

Odds maker Danny Sheridan -- as originally reported with Alabama flavor by Izzy Gould of al.com -- released his 2012 Heisman odds Tuesday and his list includes three Pac-12 candidates in total and one obvious front-runner.
At first glance, Barkley is the obvious choice. He has a very good offensive line protecting him -- including the nation's top center in Khaled Holmes (just once, I'd love to see a center get Heisman love). The running game will come together, but until it does, you might see Barkley pass a little more. And why not? With his receivers he should put up crazy good numbers. A little surprised not to see Robert Woods on this list.

Thomas is going to do what Thomas does -- run really, really fast and score a lot of touchdowns. His chances might be hampered a bit by splitting carries with Kenjon Barner (by the way, shouldn't he be on this list also?). But with the amount of plays Oregon runs per game, that shouldn't be too much of a concern. Because Thomas is a speed guy, he's also going to have to get over the national stigma that he can't run between tackles. LaMichael James had the same label, but was quite good this past season at going up the middle.

Price is the wild card of this bunch. Last year, he spent the season with a lot of nagging injuries that forced him to be a better pocket passer. But when healthy -- as we saw in the Alamo Bowl with his three rushing touchdowns -- he can be just as explosive with his legs. Next season he should be a true dual threat and a player that should warrant serious consideration.

Other players picked by Sheridan include:
But as we've seen in recent years, there is always an out-of-nowhere candidate that was off the radar. Just looking at this awfully impressive lineup, however, it seems like it's going to be tough for an unknown to wiggle his way in.

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