Pac-12: Alex Brink

You may have noticed this story Monday from Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN Stats & Info. It's a nice breakdown of how the 2013 class of quarterbacks across college football might be one of the best ever. Kraemer offers five reasons why:

  1. The best teams of 2012 return their quarterbacks
  2. The best passers are returning
  3. A diverse array of NFL talent
  4. Little QB turnover in SEC
  5. Award winners back on campus

We're going to take this and, point-by-point, give it a Pac-12 rinse.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Photo/Bruce SchwartzmanOregon QB Marcus Mariota showed that he was more than just a strong runner last season.
The best teams of 2012 (in the Pac-12) return their quarterbacks: Yep. Stanford (12-2), yes. Oregon (12-1), yes. Oregon State (9-4), yes (and yes). UCLA (9-5), yes. Arizona State (8-5), yes. It should come as no surprise that the top six teams in our post-spring power rankings all have their quarterback coming back. In fact, there were only four teams last year that started the same quarterback in every game (Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, Washington) and those are four of our top five teams in the rankings.

Thus, it's not by chance that the five of the bottom six in the power rankings have an ongoing quarterback competition. That's not to say that a school like USC, which has too much talent to be sitting in the bottom half of the rankings, can't quickly make a jump to the top once their quarterback situation is resolved.

And the same goes for No. 6 Oregon State -- which is fortunate to have two capable starters competing. I don't know who first opined that if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one. I don't buy it. Ask any coach in the bottom half of the power rankings if they'd prefer zero quarterbacks who have won games or two. I think we all know the answer.

The best passers are returning: Yep. Marcus Mariota led the Pac-12 in efficiency and Taylor Kelly wasn't far behind. Matt Barkley was third, Brett Hundley was fourth and Sean Mannion was fifth. However, it's worth noting that Kevin Hogan's efficiency would have ranked him slightly above Hundley had he appeared in more games in 2012 (the cutoff was appearing in 75 percent of the games, Hogan was at 71). That means five of the top six quarterbacks in efficiency are back.


A diverse array of NFL talent: Yep. Anyone who thinks Mariota is just a running quarterback failed to witness his 32 touchdown passes and league-best 68.5 completion percentage. He will fit nicely into any NFL offense.

Same for Kelly (29 touchdowns, 67.1 completion percentage) and Hundley (29, 66.5). Hogan should be well-versed in the pro-style attack (and NFL scouts love quarterbacks who know the pro-style/West Coast coming out of college) and if Mannion (if he wins the job) bounces back, he's got the prototypical NFL pro-style frame.

And let's not forget Keith Price, who we're expecting to have a nice bounce-back year. He was extremely efficient in 2011 (33, 66.9) so the potential and athleticism is obviously there.

Little QB turnover in the league: Well, the Pac-12 can't make that claim with six starting jobs still in doubt and potentially five schools starting a fresh-faced QB.

Award winners back on campus: Yep. Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year (Mariota). First-team quarterback (Mariota). Kelly, Hogan and Hundley were honorable mention.

While it's true that this might shape up as one of the greatest years in college football history for quarterbacks, it's equally true that the Pac-12 might have its best crop of quarterbacks in league history.

The Pac-12 has sent at least one quarterback to the NFL since 1995 and at least one has gone in the first round in nine of the past 16 drafts. There was 2003 when Carson Palmer (USC) and Kyle Boller (Cal) both went in the first round. 1999 was a strong year with Akili Smith (Oregon) and Cade McNown (UCLA) going in the first round and Brock Huard (Washington) going in the third. Three times the Pac-12 has had four quarterbacks go in the draft (2005, 1991 and 1989).

2004 comes to mind as a pretty darn good collection with Aaron Rodgers (Cal), Matt Leinart (USC), Derek Anderson (Oregon State), Andrew Walter (ASU), Kellen Clemens (Oregon), Trent Edwards (Stanford), Drew Olson (UCLA) and Alex Brink (Washington State).

It's a little too early to start speculating about who is going to go and who is going to stay. But based on what we've seen from this crop in the past nine months, it's possible the 2013 class will be right up there in the conversation as one of the best collection of quarterbacks ever in the league.

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

November, 14, 2011
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Taking stock of the 11th week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Oregon took care of business at Stanford with a 53-30 win and has re-emerged as a national title contender. It defeated a top-five team on the road for the first time in school history and won its 19th consecutive conference game.

[+] EnlargeOregon
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireWith a big win against Stanford, the Oregon Ducks are in the running for the national title.
Best game: The only Pac-12 game that was undecided in the fourth quarter was Washington State's 37-27 upset win over Arizona State. The Sun Devils twice drove inside the Cougars 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and ended up with no points on either possession, turning the ball over on downs once and missing a chip shot field goal the second time.

Biggest play: On a fourth and 7 from the Stanford 41-yard line, with Oregon up 15-9 in the second quarter, Ducks QB Darron Thomas dumped a pass to true freshman De'Anthony Thomas, who scooted through the flailing Cardinal secondary 41 yards for a touchdown. That was the moment when you saw how Oregon's speed advantage was going to tax -- big time -- the Cardinal defense.

Offensive standout (s): Washington State's redshirt freshman QB Connor Halliday came off the bench and threw for 494 yards and four TDs in the win over Arizona State. He completed 27 of 36 passes with no interceptions. His yardage total was the best in conference history for a freshman and just 37 yards shy of Alex Brink's school record of 531 yards set against Oregon State in 2005.

Colorado RB Rodney Stewart, playing with a sprained ankle, rushed 24 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns, caught two passes for 23 yards, and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to QB Tyler Hansen in the Buffs 48-29 win over Arizona, the program's first Pac-12 victory.

Defensive standout (s): USC DE Nick Perry had 2.5 sacks in the 40-17 win over Washington, and Utah CB Conroy Black grabbed two interceptions in the 31-6 win over UCLA -- the second of which he returned 67 yards for a touchdown.

Special teams standout (s): Arizona State's Jamal Miles returned the opening kickoff at Washington State 95 yards for a touchdown, while USC's Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 88 yards for a TD against Washington.

Smiley face: Oregon's effort at Stanford was brilliant in just about every way: Outstanding plans on both sides of the ball executed about as well as plans can be executed.

Frowny face: Does anyone want to win the South Division? UCLA gift wrapped a huge opportunity for Arizona State to re-take control, but the Sun Devils flopped in the chill of Pullman. And now Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson's job might be in jeopardy.

Thought of the week: The North should secede from the Pac-12 union. At least this year. South teams have been dreadful, other than USC, which isn't eligible to win the title due to NCAA sanctions. Arizona State and UCLA, the two frontrunners, are a combined 2-8 on the road this year. Yeesh.

Questions for the week: What might a USC upset at Oregon mean? For one, it wouldn't upset the Pac-12 apple cart, other than eliminating the Ducks from the national championship hunt. Oregon would still go to the Rose Bowl if it won out -- Civil War with Oregon State and Pac-12 championship game -- and Stanford would still be favored for an at-large berth in the Fiesta Bowl. But it would give Trojans coach Lane Kiffin a landmark win and Trojans fans plenty to cackle about. And it certainly would provide the program momentum as it heads forward with scholarship reductions.

Yards to Glory: 'Apple of Their Eye'

August, 4, 2011
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A football field is 100 yards long, and each yard marker has produced immortal memories in college football.

ESPN.com is looking at some of the most famous touchdowns in college football history for each and every yard marker, and Alex Brink's touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson that gave Washington State a 42-25 victory over rival Washington in the 2007 Apple Cup is the choice at 35 yards.

You can check out "Yards to Glory" here.

And here's what I wrote about Brink's pass, which I actually witnessed.

35. Apple Of Their Eye

Washington State takes Apple Cup in last-second fashion

Oct. 24, 2007: Washington State quarterback Alex Brink found Brandon Gibson for a 35-yard TD with 31 seconds left that gave the Cougars a 42-35 victory over rival Washington in the Apple Cup. Brink, who'd also connected with Gibson on a 40-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 35 with 7:30 remaining, threw for an Apple Cup record 399 yards and five TDs and became the first Cougars QB to beat the Huskies three times.

Out of spring practices, Lobbestael must wait to compete

February, 13, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

If you want to know when Washington State's 2008 season truly went rear-end-over-tea-kettle, look no further than when redshirt freshman quarterback Marshall Lobbestael's knee tore apart early in the fourth quarter against Oregon State.

 
  AP Photo/Dean Hare
  Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael is the front runner for the Cougars starting job even though he is coming off a severe knee injury.
At that point, things went from bad to hopeless. And just a bit ridiculous.

With torn anterior-cruciate and medial-collateral ligaments in his left knee, Lobbestael became the third Cougars quarterback to suffer a significant injury, following Gary Rogers (out for season) and Kevin Lopina (three games).

If you remember, Washington State even earned national attention when it was forced to hold open tryouts to find a scout-team quarterback.

What you might not remember is the promise Lobbestael flashed during his brief tenure as the starter.

It didn't start great. He threw two passes in mop-up duty against California, and one was intercepted. But instead of wilting, he came back to complete 9 of 12 for 149 yards -- his first two passes going for touchdowns -- in the Cougars 48-9 victory over Portland State.

That earned him Pac-10 offensive player of the week honors, and it wasn't inconceivable to be cautiously optimistic that the then-1-3 Cougars might be finding some rhythm.

That didn't happen, of course, and after Lobbestael went down the Cougars were shut out in three of their next four games.

Still, Lobbestael's numbers were by far the best among the quarterbacks. He threw four touchdown passes with four interceptions in five games while his chief competition for the starting job in 2009, Lopina, a rising senior, threw 11 interceptions and no touchdowns in nine games.

Problem is Lobbestael won't be able to compete for the starting job during spring practices because he's still rehabilitating his knee.

"I should be able to throw and do some drop-backs [during spring practices] -- I'm not really sure yet," he said. "Right now I'm trying to focus on what's going on with my rehab, so I don't want to think too much about spring and get ahead of myself. But I should be able to throw."

He's off crutches and walks around campus without a brace ("It sometimes gets a little stiff when it gets cold but I'm walking pretty good so far," he said), but his recovery was pegged at nine months, which means he'll have to wait until fall practices to make his claim for the starting job.

"I'm trying to watch a lot of film, and during spring I'll take a lot of mental reps," he said. "Hopefully I won't fall too far behind. But there will be a little bit of catching up to speed when I come back in the fall."

In the fall, touted incoming freshman Jeff Tuel will join the fray, with sophomore J.T. Levenseller also a possibility.

But Lobbestael is considered the frontrunner.

Whoever wins the job, however, will have to significantly upgrade the position 2009 if the Cougars are going to improve their 2-11 finish. Washington State ranked 115th in the nation in passing efficiency last season -- a year after Alex Brink threw for 3,818 yards and 26 touchdowns.

"A lot of stuff [has to get better]," he said. "I think the first thing is we've got to totally change our attitude. Our entire team, the way we practice and the way we play obviously, but also off the field, the way we eat and the way we train."

If there's a starting point -- a place to plant the seeds of hope -- it's that the Cougars know they walked away with one shining moment in 2008: a 16-13, double-overtime victory over Washington in the Apple Cup.

As a product of Oak Harbor, Wash., Lobbestael knows that means something.

"When people ask about the 2008 season we can say, 'We didn't do that good but at least we beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup' That's something we'll always have on them, to hang over their heads a little bit," he said.

The larger question is whether Lobbestael and the Cougars can get more in 2009.

Looking at the weekend ahead in the Pac-10

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

There's a Rose Bowl elimination game (the Civil War), bowl elimination game (UCLA at Arizona State), a national rivalry game (Notre Dame at USC) and a beach trip for the celebrating Cougars (Washington State at Hawaii) this week to keep you entertained while you digest your turkey.

Friday

UCLA (4-6, 3-4) at Arizona State (4-6, 3-4): The loser becomes a loser -- record-wise -- and is out of the bowl hunt. The winner then will try to earn mediocrity -- record-wise -- and bowl eligibility vs. its rival on Dec. 6. UCLA and Arizona State have split their last four meetings, but the Bruins have won seven of 10 at Sun Devil Stadium, including their most recent visit in 2006. Last year, in the Rose Bowl, the No. 9-ranked Sun Devils improved to 9-1 with a 24-20 victory. Keegan Herring was the difference, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Saturday
Notre Dame (6-5) at USC (9-1): The nation needs this game to matter because it's a unique and special rivalry. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis isn't keeping up his end of the bargain since the classic 2005 affair. The Irish are coming off a humiliating home loss to Syracuse. After the game, Irish fans pelted some of their players with snowballs. USC could use a quality Notre Dame team to bolster its national standing. Too bad. As it is, the Trojans need a blowout or they will face further skepticism from voters. Duplicating last year's 38-zip win in South Bend might do the trick. That was the most decisive Trojans victory in the 79-game series and their first shutout in South Bend since 1933. Mark Sanchez, making his second career start in place of John David Booty, threw four touchdown passes and USC rushed for 227 yards.

The Civil War
Oregon (8-3, 6-2) at Oregon State (8-3, 7-1): If Oregon State wins, it's going to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years. If Oregon wins, the Beavers don't go to the Rose Bowl and likely end up in the Sun Bowl because the Holiday Bowl likely would prefer the Ducks. So, there's a lot at stake here in the biggest Civil War since 2000. This is the longest running football rivalry on the West Coast in terms of games played. The teams have met 111 times dating to 1894 and uninterrupted since 1945. The Ducks lead the series 55-46-10, but Oregon State won at Eugene last year -- 38-31 in double overtime -- snapping a 10-year run of the home team winning. The Beavers have won five in a row in Reser Stadium with the last Duck victory in Corvallis coming in 1996.

Washington State (2-10) at Hawaii (6-5): The Cougars would like to remind you that that last weekend they beat Washington 16-13 in double overtime. Oh, this game? Well, Washington State leads its all-time series with Hawaii 2-1, including a 22-14 win in 1999, the team's most recent meeting. In that game, quarterback Jason Gesser, who, unlike Kevin Lopina, never beat Washington -- which lost to the Cougars 16-13 last weekend in double overtime -- led WSU to 10 points in the final three minutes in his first collegiate start in his hometown of Honolulu. Gesser, of course, though he never beat Washington 16-13 in double overtime, went on to become the school's all-time passing leader before being eclipsed by Alex Brink, who was part of three victories over Washington, though never by a count of 16-13 in double overtime.

Arizona (6-5), California (7-4), Washington (0-11) - open dates.
Stanford (5-7) - season concluded.

Looking at the weekend ahead in the Pac-10

November, 17, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Just three games this week, but two have big bowl implications and the third decides who finishes last in FBS football.

No. 21 Oregon State (7-3, 6-1) at Arizona (6-4, 4-3): Oregon State tries to keep its Rose Bowl dreams alive, but Arizona will be a test. The Wildcats, who are playing for their own bowl positioning, have won six of their past seven at home, the lone loss coming to USC. Last year, the Beavers started their annual second-season run with a dominant 31-16 victory over the Wildcats, the first of seven wins in eight games (the lone loss coming to USC). Oregon State took a 31-3 lead and coasted home. Arizona didn't score an offensive touchdown and had 231 total yards and just nine yards on the ground. The Beavers picked off three passes and posted eight quarterback sacks. So the high-powered Arizona offense, which ran 98 plays and scored 28 second-half points in a losing effort at Oregon, will be looking for revenge. It's noteworthy, however, that the Beavers have won eight of the last nine in the series, including three straight in Tucson.

The Big Game

Stanford (5-6, 4-4) at California (6-4, 4-3): Stanford needs to win the West Coast's oldest rivalry to earn bowl eligibility, and California needs to win to not allow the Cardinal to win two in a row in the series and to move up in the bowl pecking order. Stanford leads the all-time ledger 55-44-11, though the point total -- 1,780 for Cal, 1,755 for Stanford -- is nearly identical. Stanford's win last year snapped a five-game Bears winning streak, and Stanford hasn't won in Memorial Stadium since 2000 (36-30 in overtime). They met at Palo Alto last year and celebrated the 25th anniversary of "The Play." The Cardinal prevailed 20-13, handing Cal its sixth loss in seven games since being ranked No. 2 in the country.

The Apple Cup

Washington (0-10, 0-7) at Washington State (1-10, 0-8): Laugh at the records, sure, but know that this the 101st Apple Cup will be played with great intensity because the winner gets at least one positive memory for the season and the loser gets a national dunce cap. The Huskies lead the all-time series 64-30-6, but the Cougars have won three of four. Washington won the last meeting in Pullman, a 35-32 victory in 2006 that likely prevented the Cougars, who finished 6-6, from earning a bowl invitation. The last six games have been decided by eight or fewer points, including the Cougars 42-35 win in Husky Stadium last year. Cougs quarterback Alex Brink threw for an Apple Cup record 399 yards and five touchdowns, including the game winner to receiver Brandon Gibson -- who was uncovered -- with 31 seconds left.

Arizona State (4-6, 3-4) - open date - next game Fri., Nov. 28 vs. UCLA
UCLA (4-6, 3-4) - open date - next game Fri., Nov. 28 at Arizona State
Oregon (8-3, 6-2) - open date - next game Sat., Nov. 29 the Civil War at Oregon State
USC (9-1, 7-1) - open date - next game Sat., Nov. 29 vs. Notre Dame

Where have all the Pac-10 QBs gone?

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A lesser known Simon & Garfunkel ditty:

Where have you gone, Pac-10 quarterbacks,
The West Coast turns its lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, College GameDay.
The QBs have left and gone away,
Hey hey hey.

Every season since 2002, at least four Pac-10 quarterbacks averaged more than 240 yards passing per game.

This year? Zero.

Every season since 2002, at least two Pac-10 quarterbacks passed for more than 3,000 yards

Heck, in 2002, nine Pac-10 quarterbacks passed for more than 2,750 yards.

This year? Only USC's Mark Sanchez is on pace to eclipse that total.

In only one other season since 2002 has the Pac-10 not produced a quarterback ranked in the top-10 in the nation in passing yards -- 2006 -- and that season four Pac-10 quarterbacks ranked among the top 30.

This year? Just two in the top 30, with Sanchez at No. 23 and Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter at 29.

What in the name of Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers and Derek Anderson is going on with the Conference of Quarterbacks?

The best QBs apparently migrated to fly-over states of the Big 12.

Quick: Name the starting quarterback for every Pac-10 team.

Of course, you can't do that because, even if you are tuned in enough to know who Ronnie Fouch and Kevin Lopina are, there's uncertainty who will start for a couple of teams Saturday.

Here's the starting list in 2004: Matt Leinart, Aaron Rodgers, Kellen Clemens, Derek Anderson, Trent Edwards, Andrew Walter, Drew Olson and Alex Brink.

All of them are presently on NFL rosters, other than Olson, who was waived by the San Francisco 49ers in July.

Only four conference teams this year have started in every game the guy who led the first-team offense during spring practices, and one of them, Stanford's Tavita Pritchard, has been clawing to hold onto his perch every day since.

The mediocrity (and worse) is so prevalent at the position that USC coach Pete Carroll admitted last week that his outstanding defense might look other-worldly at times because of the lack of talent and experience running the offenses opposing the Trojans.

"There's no question that it's helped us play better defense," Carroll said. "Our numbers and the things we put up here at this point is a benefit of teams that have been banged up. And, of course, good play. I don't want to take anything away from it. It's still seizing the opportunity. But sometimes when players aren't there for you, the big-time guys, it makes an enormous difference."

Yes it has, see the national perception of a down Pac-10.

Here's grounds for measured optimism.

Only two (full-time) starting quarterbacks are seniors: Arizona's Willie Tuitama and Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter. California's Nate Longshore is also a senior, but he's closer to sophomore Kevin Riley's backup than the reverse.

Conventional wisdom is that experience is critical for quarterbacks and even more so in the Pac-10 where offenses are far more complicated than in the cavemen conferences.

So that means eight teams should be stronger at the position in 2009.

Otherwise, Pac-10 fans will sing another obscure Simon & Garfunkel song:

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a QB terribly passing,
Threw more picks and left me weeping,
And the losing that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of booing.

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Saturday, 12/20
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