Much has been made of just how "down" the Pac-10 has been this year from a national perspective. Of course there are a lot of reasons, but one stands out above all other: The quarterbacking has been far below what we generally see out of this conference, especially when contrasted with last year.
This is a quarterbacks league more than any other in the country. It's bad enough to change quarterbacks from one year to the next, as there is the inevitable breaking in period (unless you're Matt Kegel!), but check out the simple drop in talent from a lot of these schools:
|School||2007 Primary QB||Current Starter|
|Arizona||Willie Tuitama||Willie Tuitama|
|Arizona State||Rudy Carpenter||Rudy Carpenter|
|Cal||Nate Longshore||Longshore/Kevin Riley|
|Oregon||Dennis Dixon||Jeremiah Masoli|
|Oregon State||Sean Canfield/Lyle Moevao||Moevao|
|Stanford||Tavita Pritchard/T.C. Ostrander||Tavita Pritchard|
|UCLA||Ben Olson/Patrick Cowan||Kevin Craft|
|USC||John David Booty||Mark Sanchez|
|Washington||Jake Locker||Ronnie Fouch|
|WSU||Alex Brink||Kevin Lopina|
The schools that have had continuity at the position with marginally talented quarterbacks (Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, Stanford) have been able to have some success this year, as have schools where the replacement has proven to be talented himself (USC, Oregon) but not as talented as the man they replaced. Arizona State, of course, stands out as the lone anomaly. But you get the picture.
And nowhere has the drop from 2007 starter to 2008 starter been so precipitous as with the Cougars and the Huskies. In a rivalry matchup that has featured quarterbacks that read like a who's-who of all-time college QBs -- Jack Thompson and Warren Moon, Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell, Ryan Leaf and Brock Huard (OK, scratch that last one) -- it's astounding just how bad this year's quarterbacks are.
Now, obviously it's not fair to blame all of their teams' troubles on the quarterback, as both teams have myriad problems far beyond the guys taking the snaps. But the two guys who will start tomorrow have been worse than can almost be believed, and have exacerbated the other issues. A good quarterback can mask a lot of problems, but a bad one can make them worse. And that where we find ourselves as we look toward tomorrow.
How different would this game look with decent QBs starting? Consider Lopina and Fouch's numbers this year compared to Brink and Locker last year. Even Locker's 2007 passing numbers, which obviously only tell part of the story of him as a QB, far exceed Fouch's:
It's almost hard to believe that a quarterback could start at a Pac-10 school while only completing 43.6 percent of his passes. (The hilarity of that, of course, is that when Locker got hurt, UW fans were all over KJR excited about the prospect that the passing game might improve because Fouch is a better thrower. Uh, maybe not guys!) At least Lopina is close to 60 percent completions, although the yards per attempt and the interceptions tell the story there -- he just can't get the ball downfield to receivers, and when he tries to, he throws interceptions.
Because of this, it's tempting to sit here and say that whichever team gets better quarterback play will win tomorrow, but it's probably more accurate to say this, since neither guy has really shown any ability to be a playmanker: Whichever team's quarterback plays less bad has the best chance of winning.
Where have you gone, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf? Cougar Nation turns it's lonely eyes to you ... woo woo woooooo ...