It goes without saying that you need a good quarterback in order to be a successful college football team. While it may not wholly determine a team’s success each season if they have a quality signal-caller behind center, one doesn’t become a consistent winner without a quarterback making all the throws and executing the right decisions on offense.
That’s why the position is so important across college football and a big reason why each quarterback matchup is highlighted on the schedule each week of the season. Heading into 2017, a strong group of returning starters and a handful of big-time transfers across the country make for some extremely enticing meetings that are worth circling on the calendar. We made life a little easy on you and did just that for most major conferences so you know just what to watch for when teams hit the field this year.
No league has a group of quarterbacks more talented or deeper at the position than the Pac-12 in 201. So here are the top 10 matchups involving the conference’s best signal-callers:
1. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Sam Darnold (USC) – Nov. 18 (Los Angeles)
This may be the best quarterback matchup in the country and one many scouts view as a potential battle to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen was injured for last season’s meeting between the two crosstown rivals so this likely one-and-done matchup will be all the more interesting when things kickoff at the venerable Coliseum.
2. Luke Falk (Washington State) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Nov. 25 (Seattle)
The Apple Cup is always one of the better rivalry games out there and it’s sure to be on everybody’s bucket list this season given the two signal-callers involved. Falk has been terrific on the Palouse in piling up numbers for the Cougars and will be looking to get the win over the Pac-12’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year in Browning.
3. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Oct. 28 (Seattle)
A Jim Mora trip back to Seattle may draw a lot of the attention in this one but the real stars of the show when the Bruins travel to play the Huskies in late October will be the players under center. Both Rosen and Browning had terrific debut campaigns as freshmen and will be hoping that their game takes the next step in 2017.
4. Sam Darnold (USC) vs. Luke Falk (Washington State) – Sept. 29 (Pullman, Wash.)
Size? Check. Rocket arms? Check. Tough as nails? Check and check. Yes, when the Trojans travel to face off against Wazzu, the quarterbacks involved will tick off just about every box you’re looking for at the position in a game that probably won’t be any fun for the defensive backs involved.
5. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Oct. 21 (Pasadena. Calif.)
The Pac-12 has a history of young quarterbacks bursting onto the scene and these two teams are acutely aware of that with these two signal-callers having done just that. Each side will be sporting a new-look offense for this year’s contest, adding to this top-tier matchup.
6. Luke Falk (Washington State) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) – Oct. 7 (Eugene, Ore.)
It’s not exactly a stretch to say that Falk helped usher in a coaching change in Eugene thanks to his big-time performances in surprising back-to-back wins over Oregon, throwing for six scores and averaging more than 400 yards a game. He’ll hope the third time also is the charm in facing off against the young but talented Herbert.
7. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Blake Barnett (Arizona State) – Nov. 11 (Pasadena, Calif.)
Back in 2015, the two best high school quarterbacks in the country both hailed from Southern California in Rosen and Barnett. While both had forgettable 2016 seasons that were filled with ups and downs, the end result is meeting of these two on the field this fall for a fascinating Pac-12 South battle.
8. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Nov. 4 (Seattle)
The schools involved in this Pacific Northwest rivalry really don’t like each other and another chapter was written last year when Browning threw for six touchdowns in a 70-21 blowout in Eugene. That just so happened to be Herbert’s first college start and he’ll be hoping for a bit of revenge this time around in Seattle.
9. Sam Darnold (USC) vs. Blake Barnett (Arizona State) – Oct. 28 (Tempe, Ariz.)
The quarterback dominoes related to the class of 2015 were fascinating to follow if you were a recruiting junkie and many thought that two of the best were these signal-callers from Southern California. The pair already played each other in last season’s opener when Barnett was still at Alabama, but this edition in conference play could be even more interesting.
10. Luke Falk (Washington State) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) – Sept. 9 (Pullman, Wash.)
This was a sneaky-good matchup a season ago when Falk nearly rallied the Cougars to an epic second-half comeback that fell just short in the end. Rypien helped his opponent out with two late interceptions to spoil a quality outing against a Power Five opponent and will no doubt be looking for a more consistent performance when both sides meet again in Pullman.
— 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.