Justin Herbert's return is a big reason why Oregon is a popular pick to win the Pac-12
The conference of champions has not quite lived up to that moniker on the gridiron in recent years but one thing the Pac-12 has done with nearly unmatched consistency is produce some stellar quarterback play. The 2019 crop will once again be deep and interesting, with a variety of styles on display sure to give opposing defensive coordinators a headache each week.
NFL scouts are surely keeping an eye on some of the elite names of that group but with only three schools not returning their starter under center, there's experience and talent well beyond the big names out West. With that in mind, here are the top 10 matchups involving Pac-12 quarterbacks:
1. K.J. Costello (Stanford) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) — Sept. 21
The Pac-12 North has regularly been decided when the Cardinal and Ducks get together and this early-season matchup should have plenty of scouts and interested observers in town to see how a pair of potential draft picks in 2020 fair against each other. Herbert is the conference's early Heisman hopeful but Costello won't go down without a fight and will shoulder more of the offensive load for his team.
2. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Khalil Tate (Arizona) — Nov. 16
Herbert had one of his worst games last season down in the desert against the Wildcats while Tate shined for one of the rare times when he was fully healthy during the same blowout against the Ducks. Each brings a vastly different style to the quarterback position but both are plenty capable of wowing you on every dropback no matter what the play call is.
3. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) vs. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) — Sept. 14
‘DTR' was thrown into the fire against the Sooners last year in Norman as a very young true freshman but looked the part at times. He's hoping for a big performance at the Rose Bowl this time around on what should be a massive stage against the defending Big 12 champs and their Heisman Trophy candidate at QB.
4. Jacob Eason (Washington) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) — Oct. 19
The Huskies and Ducks have one of the most bitter rivalries in the conference but things will be ratcheted up a notch this year with the pair looking like the Pac-12's best hope at a playoff berth. This will be Seattle native Eason's first taste of playing the Ducks up close but the highly rated Georgia transfer is no stranger to what Oregon (or Herbert) can do having watched last season as a redshirt. In a few years' time one could look back at this meeting as being the one with the two most hyped QB prospects for each school in decades.
5. Khalil Tate (Arizona) vs. Alan Bowman (Texas Tech) — Sept. 14
Tate is among the most electric players in the country when the ball is in his hands and he's fully healthy. Bowman looked terrific before injuries caught up to him last year, setting a number of school and conference records in the process. Each guy will beat you a different way on the field but it will all be fun to watch in what should be a high-scoring shootout in the desert.
6. K.J. Costello (Stanford) vs. Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Nov. 30
Costello played one of the best games of his early career the last time the Irish visited the Farm while NorCal native Book returned the favor in last year's rout in South Bend. Something has to give again between the two quarterbacks in a potentially huge game with playoff implications to end the year.
7. Steven Montez (Colorado) vs. Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) — Sept. 7
Montez was the hero in 2018 as the two old Big 8/12 rivals renewed their series in Lincoln while Martinez turned heads left and right in his first start before exiting with an injury in the final minutes. The return game in Boulder this year should be even better for both QBs as they aim to score a big non-conference win and showcase their growth after another year in the books.
8. K.J. Costello (Stanford) vs. Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) — Aug. 31
Costello and Johnson were each among the most highly recruited pro-style QBs in the country coming out of high school and will square off in Palo Alto as the two private schools meet for a fascinating non-conference matchup.
9. Khalil Tate (Arizona) vs. Tyler Huntley (Utah) — Nov. 23
Hopefully, both Tate and Huntley will be healthy for this one as injuries put a damper on each player's season in 2018. When they're 100 percent though, this should be an enticing Pac-12 South battle between two guys who can pile up the total yardage with their legs just as well as they can with their arms.
10. K.J. Costello (Stanford) vs. Jacob Eason (Washington) — Oct. 5
David Shaw and Chris Petersen have a well-earned reputation for being able to develop quality quarterbacks over the years and their latest proteges could be among their most talented in some time with a pair of big arms and the smarts to match. Both will need to shoulder quite the offensive load in this one if either team wants to make a run at the division, and possibly conference, title in 2019.
Best of the rest:
Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Steven Montez (Colorado) — Oct. 11
J.T. Daniels (USC) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) — Nov. 2
Steven Montez (Colorado) vs. K.J. Costello (Stanford) — Nov. 9
J.T. Daniels (USC) vs. K.J. Costello (Stanford) — Sept. 7
Khalil Tate (Arizona) at Cole McDonald (Hawaii) — Aug. 24
K.J. Costello (Stanford) at Brandon Wimbush (UCF) — Sep. 14
Khalil Tate (Arizona) vs. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) — Sept. 28
J.T. Daniels (USC) at Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Oct. 12
Tyler Huntley (Utah) vs. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) — Nov. 16
Tyler Huntley (Utah) at Zach Wilson (BYU) — Aug. 29
— 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.