The state of college football — and indeed the world — looks a lot different now than it did a year ago heading into the start of a new season. As a result of the COIVD-19 pandemic, we don't really know what to expect on the gridiron this fall nor how, exactly, things might play out both between the lines and outside of them.
Given such uncertainty surrounding the upcoming campaign, it will be more important than ever for teams to have a quarterback they can rely on to deliver the big play and secure those crucial wins. There's no position more important on the field and a good signal-caller can certainly be the difference between a conference title and trip to the playoff or being on the wrong end of an upset.
For much of its history, the Conference of Champions has also doubled as the conference of quality quarterbacks. Such appears to be the case once again in 2020 despite a host of fresh faces taking over in key spots. The Pac-12 also followed the Big Ten in deciding to pursue a conference-only schedule this fall. While that means we no longer have Ohio State-Oregon or USC-Alabama or even North Dakota State-Oregon (among others) to no longer look forward to, there are still several intriguing matchups between quarterbacks on tap for this fall:
Note: Games listed below are subject to change.
1. Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) at Kedon Slovis (USC)
The Pac-12 game of the year might come early on as these two sophomore quarterbacks hope to replicate their success from a year ago. Both notched some massive wins and will be brimming with confidence coming into the 2020 campaign. Daniels can beat you a bit more with his legs than Slovis can but the latter more than makes up for it with a system that is conducive to him tossing the ball around the yard with one of the game's best receiving corps.
2. Chase Garbers (Cal) at Kedon Slovis (USC)
The Bears were a team transformed when Garbers was in the lineup, going 7-2 and looking like a team that could potentially challenge for the Pac-12 North title in 2020 given what's back in Berkeley. That should add to the intrigue of this intra-state battle that could double as a preview of what's to come in Las Vegas during the conference title game. Slovis put up 406 yards and four touchdowns against Cal last year but will have to step his game up if Garbers is in the lineup this time around.
3. Chase Garbers (Cal) at Jayden Daniels (Arizona State)
Cal does not miss either of the favorites in the Pac-12 South and has to go on the road to both, including this late-season trip to Tempe. Though both the Bears and Sun Devils are two teams in the conference who lean heavily on their defenses, they also rise and fall depending on the play of their young QBs. Enter Garbers vs. Daniels as a battle between signal-callers who can drop dimes almost as easily as they can pick up first downs off scrambles.
4. Kedon Slovis (USC) at Davis Mills (Stanford)
This early-season tilt between the Cardinal and Trojans has typically been a pretty big measuring stick game for both programs and should serve doubly so for each QB involved. There's been a lot placed on Slovis' shoulders given how he performed as a freshman and he'll need to be on the ball early down in the Farm. As for Mills, this is a marquee opportunity to show that Stanford is headed for a turnaround in 2020 after last year's injury-plagued disaster only gave us flashes of what the former top recruit can do.
5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) at Jayden Daniels (Arizona State)
The top two dual-threat signal-callers in the conference, this could be a clash that will turn heads no matter what record each team sports coming in. DTR has had his ups and downs in Westwood but has a chance to turn things around if he can knock off a Pac-12 South rival like Daniels.
Best of the rest:
- Kedon Slovis (USC) at Jake Bentley (Utah)
- Kedon Slovis (USC) at Grant Gunnell (Arizona)
- Kedon Slovis (USC) at Tyler Shough (Oregon)
- Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) at Tyler Shough (Oregon)
- Davis Mills (Stanford) at Chase Garbers (Cal)
- Kedon Slovis (USC) at Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA)
Will be missed due to COVID-19:
- Kedon Slovis (USC) vs. Ian Book (Notre Dame)
- Tyler Shough (Oregon) vs. Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
- Tyler Shough (Oregon) vs. Justin Fields (Ohio State)
- Kedon Slovis (USC) vs. Mac Jones/Bryce Young (Alabama)
- Davis Mills (Stanford) at Ian Book (Notre Dame)
- Chase Garbers (Cal) vs. Max Duggan (TCU)
- Grant Gunnell (Arizona) at Alan Bowman (Texas Tech)
- Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) vs. Zach Wilson (BYU)
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.