We’re taking a look at where each Pac-12 team stands coming out of spring ball on a position-by-position basis. We call them power rankings. You call them something to complain about. And since this is the conference of quarterbacks, we’ll start there.
USC: This was a tough decision between Cody Kessler and our No. 2 selection, Cal’s Jared Goff. Both are outstanding. And both have a talented cast around them. But a slight edge goes to Kessler, for now, based on his 2014 numbers. More touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a better completion percentage. Last year he tossed 39 touchdowns to just five interceptions and completed nearly 70 percent of his throws. He even ran in a couple of scores. But Goff isn’t far behind in the rankings.
California: Goff took a major step forward in his second year as a starter. And we’re looking for an even bigger step in 2015. His touchdown-to-interception ratio went from 18-10 in 2013 to 35-7 last year. He also upped his completion percentage from 60.3 to 62.1. Look for the Bears to continue making strides offensively in their third year of the Sonny Dykes system. And with a good crop of skill position guys around him, we wouldn’t be surprised if Goff is atop this list by season’s end.
Arizona State: Though he only had three starts last year, Mike Bercovici more than proved he’s ready to take over the Sun Devils’ aggressive, up-tempo offense. He’s a different quarterback than his predecessor, Taylor Kelly. And he’s less likely to tuck and run. But he did throw 12 touchdowns to four interceptions last year. And with a deep backfield and the always-dangerous D.J. Foster bouncing around the field, Bercovici will have plenty of opportunities to show off that arm strength. As far as quarterback transitions go, this has to be one of the smoothest in the nation.
Stanford: The Pac-12 blog is banking on seeing more of the Kevin Hogan who ended the 2014 season, not the one who started it. It took Hogan some time to adjust to not having a consistent running game. Through the first 10 games, he completed 63 percent of his passes with a nearly 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. For the final three wins -- which included a 31-10 win over No. 8 UCLA -- he completed 76 percent of his throws with four touchdowns to one interception. If he builds off his late-2014 surge, the Cardinal will be in great shape.
Oregon: Is Vernon Adams the answer? Or simply a one-year stop gap? Maybe it’s not even Adams at all. Jeff Lockie had a very efficient spring game and has been studying under Marcus Mariota the past two seasons. And he’s taken full advantage of the fact that Adams hasn’t graduated yet from Eastern Washington and won’t arrive until next month. Still, it’s hard to overlook the seven touchdowns Adams tossed last year in a narrow loss to Washington -- a team with three first-round picks on defense and another second-rounder -- or the six he accounted for two years ago in a win over Oregon State. Whichever way the coaching staff goes, it’s going to be plenty of debate fodder for the next few months.
Arizona: Anu Solomon is a winner. No doubts about that. From his sterling high school career to leading the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl in his first season, he’s a talented competitor. He had a solid 28-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his first year and ran for a couple scores. But the coaches want to see the sacks drop and the completion percentage to rise from 58 percent. Experience is always the best teacher, and with a talented cast around him, he should take a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2.
Utah: If there’s a more up-and-down quarterback in the country than Travis Wilson, we’d be surprised. On one hand, you look at the poise and confidence on the game-winning drive against USC. Then you see the out-of-control (though still passionate) play against Michigan. When he’s poised and in control, he’s probably in the top 5 on this list. He can do some pretty special things with his arm and legs. The completion percentage needs to be higher than 60 percent. But he did a better job taking care of the ball last year, tossing 18 touchdowns to five interceptions.
Colorado: The Buffs are close (we’ve said that a lot in previous offseasons, but this time we mean it!) And if Sefo Liufau can continue to improve, they will inch closer to a bowl game appearance. Three losses were by a touchdown or less. And a lot more were competitive deep into the second half. Liufau needs to cut back on the turnovers. He threw 15 picks and fumbled three times. But a third-year guy should be more in tune with the offense and he did throw 28 touchdowns last year while completing 65.3 percent of his throws.
UCLA: Jerry Neuheisel is the safe choice. The coaches know this, and they’ve told me as much. He understands the offense and will take care of the ball. Nothing wrong with that at all. Josh Rosen is brimming with talent -- but a freshman is still a freshman, prone to freshman mistakes. UCLA is a team that is going to be very, very good this year. The quarterback spot, however, is the missing piece. The right decision here could propel them to the Pac-12 South championship. The wrong one could leave them looking up the ladder. Question is, what’s the right choice?
Washington State: It’s Luke Falk’s gig to lose, or so we postulate, because Mike Leach is keeping fairly quiet on the topic. However, if the spring game is any indication (Falk was 26-of-33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns), then he might have separated himself from Peyton Bender. He’s got some experience, having filled in for Connor Halliday last year, throwing 13 touchdowns to seven interceptions and completing 64.2 percent of his throws. He even ran for a touchdown. Leach-coached quarterbacks are destined for big numbers. If Falk has truly solidified his place as the starter, and given the offense he’s in, there’s a very good chance he’ll climb these rankings within the first few weeks of the season.
Washington: The only thing keeping the Huskies from being 12th in these rankings is that they at least have someone with game experience, Jeff Lindquist. He had a very efficient spring game and may have been able to create some separation between himself, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning. But there is way too much unknown at this point. The competition should go well into fall camp and it’s probable that we’ll see multiple quarterbacks for the Huskies in what is likely a rebuilding year.
Oregon State: Remember, these are post-spring, and right now we just don’t know enough to place the Beavers' signal-callers any higher. None of them have any playing experience. And whether Seth Collins or Nick Mitchell gets the job (new head coach Gary Andersen said Marcus McMaryion did enough to compete for the No. 2 spot, but not No. 1), it’s an uphill climb under a completely new coaching staff. That’s not to say these guys won’t succeed. Collins was all the rage coming out of the spring game for his versatility and athleticism. But spring games are just that … barely glorified scrimmages. Too much inexperience and too many unknowns to rate OSU higher at this point.