Oregon States quarterback shuffle is emblematic of what has been happening around the Pac-12 all season. Injuries and inconsistency have dogged many teams in a league that always has been known for its strong quarterbacks.
The No. 15 Beavers started out the season with Sean Mannion under center. Because of injury they went to Cody Vaz. Then it was back briefly to Mannion. This week its undetermined.
Other Pac-12 teams that have switched quarterbacks include No. 14 Stanford, which started with Josh Nunes but swapped him for dual threat Kevin Hogan, and beleaguered Colorado, which started the season with Kansas transfer Jordan Webb but now is looking toward Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood.
Washington State has gone back and forth between Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday.
Injuries also are an issue. Cal senior Zach Maynard is nursing a sprained left knee. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott missed a game with a concussion and was questionable for Utah on Saturday night. The Utes were expected to start true freshman Travis Wilson, who unseated Jon Hays.
This week, as Oregon State (7-2, 5-2) prepared to host California (3-8, 2-6) late Saturday night, the starting quarterback remained up in the air on both sides.
The Beavers situation certainly is unique.
Mannion took over the Beavers as a redshirt freshman last season when the team finished just 3-9 overall. He got off to a strong start this year, leading Oregon State to four consecutive wins while throwing for an average of 339 yards a game.
But Mannions fortunes took a turn when he injured his left knee on a handoff during a game against Washington State. Two days later, the Beavers announced he needed surgery, and the timeline for his return was uncertain. So Oregon State turned to Cody Vaz, who had not started since high school but coolly led the Beavers in victories over BYU and Utah, helping the team to its best start since 1907.
Mannion made an unexpectedly quick recovery and returned to start the next week at Washington. He struggled, however, throwing four interceptions in the Beavers first loss of the season. So Oregon State turned back to Vaz, who helped the team to a victory against Arizona State.
Vaz started last week in a 27-23 loss to Stanford, but he injured his left ankle during the waning moments. Mannion was taking snaps in practice earlier this week, while the Beavers waited to see if Vaz would be cleared.
Oregon State is lucky. Since Vaz had a few quality starts, the Beavers know what theyre getting with either quarterback.
With either guy, we just decide whats going to be best to do against the upcoming team. Theyre both passers first, the both manage the offense, and I think theyre both good players, coach Mike Riley said. They dont really bring something different than the other guy, nor do we have to tone some things down in regard to either guy. Thats the beauty of the thing, they both in spring practice and fall camp basically shared the turns for two years. We just run our offense.
On the other side, Maynard also was iffy for Cal. If he couldnt go, Allan Bridgford gets the start for the Golden Bears.
Hirschman didnt play, so Colorado (1-10, 1-7) started Wood against Washington (7-4, 5-3) in Saturdays 38-3 loss, then turned back to Webb.
Washington State (2-9, 0-8) coach Mike Leach, who has plenty of other issues to worry about this week, lost 46-7 behind both Halliday and Tuel on Saturday at Arizona State (6-5, 4-4).
Scott, spelled by B.J. Denker during his injury, ended up starting for the Wildcats (6-4, 3-4) late Saturday night at Utah (4-6, 2-5).
There still are a handful of lucky teams in the league, quarterback-wise. Two of them are in Los Angeles and faced off this weekend in a battle for the Pac-12 South.
Senior Matt Barkley hasnt lived up to some expectations this season but still ranked 14th in the nation with an average of just more than 297 yards passing per game for the No. 21 Trojans (7-4, 5-4). He entered Saturdays 38-28 loss leading the conference with 33 touchdowns, but hes also thrown a league-high 13 interceptions.
UCLA freshman Brett Hundley is not far behind Barkley with an average before Saturdays win of 274 yards passing per game for the Bruins (9-2, 6-2).
The other stalwarts among the leagues quarterbacks this season are steady Washington junior Keith Price, who threw for five touchdowns against CU; Arizona State sophomore Taylor Kelly; and Oregons undefeated redshirt freshman, Marcus Mariota, who is hearing Heisman whispers.