I was reading Paul's Morning Quack notes, reviewing how Pac-10 coaches are trying to prop up the conference's overall reputation as a football powerhouse. USC has mostly obliterated the conference for more years than I care to recall. Yet, here's Pete Carroll telling us "Our conference is so challenging for us...".
Now, I don't neccesarily disagree with Carroll. USC has had a hard time escaping conference play unscathed the past few years. At the same time, I'm not ready to buy into notions that the 2009 Pac-10 is on par with the Big XII or the SEC. Close, but not quite. The reason why? Quarterbacks.
My question for the group today: Is 2009 the worst collective group of starting QBs in the Pac-10 in the past 20 years?
I'm not sure I've reached an answer myself. For now, I'll say, maybe. Here's why.
Consider Phil Steele's pre-season all-Pac-10 QBs (I had to pick someone's list, and like him or not, Steele is respected). Jeremiah Masoli was first team, followed by OSU's Lyle Moevao, Washington's Jake Locker, then Cal's Kevin Riley.
Don't question my appreciation of Masoli. I'm as enamoured as the next Quacker. Remember, however, that Masoli leads this list as an out-of-nowhere guy who was unexpectedly forced into action less than one year ago. He scuffled through some big games, then finished huge over the final four games to finish 2008. We're not sure Moevao's going to be the starter coming off surgery. Locker seems to have the potential, but thusfar he's been held back for many reasons, about none of which you can lay on his shoulders. Riley is the veteran of the group, yet coach Tedford is readily admiting he needs to see considerably improved consistency from Riley if the Bears are truly to be Golden this season.
The conference lost USC's Mark Sanchez to an early NFL exit. Willie Tuitama is done at Arizona (I'm happy to see that guy moving on). No more Rudy Carpenter (and I wonder if that poor guy will spend the rest of his days looking over his shoulder for the next big guy who's going to hit him). New guy at ASU. And at USC, UCLA, Arizona and it sounds like Standford too. Washington State will start someone with experience, though it was mostly the kind of experience that requires years of counseling and/or physical therapy.
I do believe there is talent waiting to blossom. Some of the new guys will struggle, but one or two will surprise us and come on strong. Masoli should eat the conference alive. Riley and Moevao/Canfield will be very productive, I believe. Aaron Corp might win a national championship at USC. Otherwise, 2009 will probably be remembered as the year of powerful rushing attacks (think: Jahvid Best, Jacquizz Rodgers, LeGarrette Blount, Toby Gerhart, Joe McKnight, Nic Grigsby, Stafon Johnson and Shane Vereen).