Long list of Pac-12 legends among ESPN’s Top-75 QBs of the century

By all means, the quarterback crop in the Pac-12 for this upcoming season is expected to be as talented as we’ve ever seen it in recent memory. With USC’s returning Heisman winner Caleb Williams, Oregon’s Bo Nix, Washington’s Michael Penix, and Utah’s Cam Rising, the depth at the top is elite out west in 2023. If you go further, guys like D.J. Uiagalelei, Cameron Ward, Jayden de Laura, and Drew Pyne also have a chance to step into a national spotlight with some great play as well.

If things go the right way, there’s a chance that we could see some of the best QB play we’ve ever seen in the Pac-12 this year.

That’s certainly saying something, especially when you consider the history of the quarterback position in the conference. With multiple Heisman winners, and a number of early-round NFL draft picks as well, some of the best passers in college football history are from the Pac-12, many of whom played since the turn of the century.

This past week, ESPN went through and rated the best 75 QBs in college football since the year 2000. Here are the Pac-12 players who made the cut:

No. 60 — Matt Barkley (USC)

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Years Played: 2009-2012

Career Record: 34-13

Career Stats: 47 Games | 12,327 yards, 116 TD, 48 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Philadelphia Eagles | 4th Round — 98th Overall


  • Second Team All Pac-12 in 2011

Our Analysis: Matt Barkley had a great career at USC, but compared to other QBs who came before him, it’s easy to see why he is lower on the list. Barkley’s NFL career wasn’t spectacular, but he will always have a place in USC history.

No. 59 — Aaron Rodgers (California)


Years Played: 2003-2004

Career Record: 18-7

Career Stats: 25 Games | 5,469 yards, 43 TD, 13 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Green Bay Packers | First Round — 24th Overall


  • 9th place in Heisman Trophy Voting

Our Analysis: Aaron Rodgers’ NFL career would have you think that he made a bigger impact on the college football world during his time at Cal. However, Rodgers’ career was nothing too amazing. He was a great QB for the Golden Bears, and was among he Heisman candidates in his final year.

No. 55 — Joey Harrington (Oregon)

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Years Played: 1998-2001

Career Record: 19-3

Career Stats: 34 Games | 6,911 yards, 59 TD, 23 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Detroit Lions | First Round — 3rd Overall


  • 4th in Heisman Voting (2001)

  • Pac-10 Player of the Year (2001)

Our Analysis: Joey Harrington helped usher in the new era of football for the Oregon Ducks, and his Heisman campaign in 2002 nearly brought the trophy to Eugene for the first time. Harrington’s performance in the Fiesta Bowl was legendary, but unfortunately, a long string of new coordinators in the NFL hampered his professional career.

No. 40 — Alex Smith (Utah)

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Years Played: 2002-2004

Career Record: 22-3

Career Stats: 25 Games | 5,203 yards, 47 TD, 8 INT

NFL Draft Pick: San Francisco 49ers | First Round — First Overall


  • 4th in Heisman Voting (2004)

  • Mountain West Player of the Year (2004)

Our Analysis: Alex Smith had an incredible college career with Urban Meyer at Utah, going on to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2004 and ultimately becoming the No. 1 overall pick. His NFL career of course was derailed by a devastating leg injury, but he is rightfully among the top college QBs this century.

No. 23 — Carson Palmer (USC)

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Years Played: 1998-2002

Career Record: 36-26

Career Stats: 53 Games | 11,818 yards, 72 TD, 49 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Cincinnati Bengals | First Round — 1st Overall


  • Heisman Trophy Winner (2002)

  • Orange Bowl MVP

  • First Team All American(2002)

  • Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year (2002)

Our Analysis: Carson Palmer’s list of accolades is long, but it’s interesting to see how much of his collegiate success came in the final year with USC, when he won the Heisman Trophy and went on to be named the Orange Bowl MVP. Palmer also went on to have a great NFL career with the Bengals as well.

No. 18 — Andrew Luck (Stanford)

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Years Played: 2009-2011

Career Record: 31-7

Career Stats: 38 Games | 9,430 yards, 82 TD, 22 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Indianapolis Colts | First Round — 1st Overall


  • Walter Camp Award Winner

  • Maxwell Award Winner

  • First-Team All-American

  • 2nd in Heisman Voting (2010, 2011)

Our Analysis: Andrew Luck finished second in Heisman voting for two years in a row, and he had an incredible run at Stanford before going to the NFL as one of the top-rated prospects in recent memory.

No. 17 — Matt Leinart (USC)

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Network

Years Played: 2003-2005

Career Record: 37-2

Career Stats: 39 Games | 10,693 yards, 99 TD, 23 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Arizona Cardinals | First Round — 10th Overall


  • Heisman Trophy Winner (2004)

  • Two-Time National Champion

  • Walter Camp Award Winner

  • First Team All-American (2003, 2004)

Our Analysis: It’s no surprise that Matt Leinart is near the top of this list. To be honest, I’m surprised he isn’t the top-ranked Pac-12 QB of all time. As a Heisman winner and a player with as many national championships as career losses at USC, it’s hard to find many QBs as talented as Leinart was.

No. 9 — Marcus Mariota (Oregon)

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Years Played: 2013-2014

Career Record: 36-5

Career Stats: 41 Games | 10,796 yards, 105 TD, 14 INT

NFL Draft Pick: Tennessee Titans | First Round — 2nd Overall


  • Heisman Trophy Winner

  • Maxwell Award Winner

  • Walter Camp Award Winner

  • First-Team All-American (2013)

  • Pac-12 Player of the Year

  • Pac-12 Freshman of the Year

Our Analysis: Arguably the greatest player in Oregon history, Marcus Mariota is deservedly at the top of this list for Pac-12 players. With an impressive 105-14 TD:INT ratio, Mariota also added 2,237 yards and 29 TD on the ground in his career, and was the runaway Heisman winner in 2014. He fell short of the national championship, but will forever be the player who had the biggest impact with the Ducks on the national stage.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire