Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It may not come as a shock but the Pac-12, home of some of the most prolific offenses in the country, features the nation's leading passer, rusher and receiver.
What might come as a surprise is that none of the three play for No. 2 Oregon or even No. 9 UCLA, the two highest-ranked teams in the conference.
Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks and Bishop Sankey have all been producing at obscene levels but without the usual publicity that comes with being national leaders.
Though he may not play for the Ducks, Mannion is still getting the job done in the Beaver State, coincidentally, for the Oregon State Beavers. While Peyton Manning has been shredding offenses at a record setting pace in the NFL, Mannion has been doing his best impression of the Denver signal-caller in Corvallis.
Through the first half of the season, Mannion has already thrown for 2,511 yards and 25 touchdowns. Both of those marks are by far the highest among any quarterback at the FBS level. Mannion is the only player in the country to have already amassed 20 touchdown passes and is one of just five to have reached the 2,000-yard plateau. The two quarterbacks right behind him on the passing yards list have played in seven games as opposed to Mannion's six.
Last week against Washington State, Mannion may have had his masterpiece. In a 52-24 victory, the junior threw for a school-record 493 yards as well four touchdowns. That was eight more yards than Derek Anderson's previous mark set in 2003. Anderson's effort was one of just 10 400-yard passing games for the Beavers all-time before this year. Mannion has added four more to the list already this season.
Mannion finally began to pick up some national acclaim last week when he was placed on the Maxwell Award Watch List. His two Pac-12 Player of the Week awards certainly show somebody is paying attention.
"It's not my job to place him anywhere. All I know is he's thrown for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns and I don't know that anybody else can match it right now," Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said of how his signal caller ranks against the top talent in the country, though he did add, "I would put him in any conversation you wanted to."
However, much like the 5-1 Beavers, it seems that the nation is waiting for Mannion to keep this going against the upper echelon of the Pac-12, before All-American candidate and Heisman Trophy contender start getting tossed around places outside Reser Stadium.
With Mannion slinging the ball so generously, someone has to be pulling in his passes. Enter Cooks, the current national leader in receiving yards. Cooks was an understudy of sorts to Markus Wheaton a year ago. However, while Wheaton earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors, Cooks still managed a rather impressive campaign (67 receptions, 1,151 yards, five TDs).
Now Cooks is the main attraction and is reaping the benefits. He is well on his way to smashing his totals from a year ago. In just six games, the 5-foot-10 junior is only four receptions away from matching his total last season, while his 944 yards put him at a pace to blow past not only his own total from last season but Wheaton's as well. At this point, with six games left to play, it is a matter of when, not if, Cooks breaks the Oregon State record for receiving yards in a season
The connection between Mannion and Cooks, who have hooked up a school-record 18 times for touchdowns in their careers, is one that clearly few quarterback and receiver tandems have and is one that makes it likely they can continue to assault teams through the air.
The offensive leaders aren't all wearing orange and black, though. Further north in Seattle, Washington's Bishop Sankey has been ripping into opposing defenses on the ground at a wicked pace.
The term workhorse is used often, perhaps too much so, in describing running backs. Sankey lives up to the billing for the Huskies as his 159 carries have him at the top of the national rankings.
Sankey plays the position in a similar style to former Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy due to their similar statures and ability to turn nothing into something thanks to quick feet and incredible elusiveness.
Such a skill set has the Washington running back leading the nation in yards per game (149.8) and tied for second nationally in rushing touchdowns with nine. He may not lead the country in total rushing yards - that honor belongs to Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews - but Andrews has played in one more game than Sankey. It is likely once the total games even out that Sankey will be on top. After all, the 5-foot-10 back has not seen any dip in production despite facing some of the best teams in the conference, as he had 100-yard efforts against both Stanford and Oregon in the last two weeks.
However, like Mannion and Cooks, Sankey is just starting to make it onto the national radar.
Said Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian about his star running back getting more respect: "He should. He's leading the country in rushing right now, halfway through the season,"
Correction coach, all three of these players should.