It’s rare, but this year the conference has four legitimate quarterback contenders for college football’s biggest individual award.
Christine Brennan has been voting for Heisman Trophy winners for the past 35 years. This year’s race for the most coveted award in college football — if not all of sports — offers a returning winner in Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and a cadre of challengers, including four high-profile quarterbacks from the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 contingent — Washington’s Jake Browning, Washington State’s Luke Falk, USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen — isn’t unique due to its size, but the quality of the quartet has many thinking this group might be the most impressive to ever play in the conference.
“If it has happened before, it certainly hasn’t happened very often,” said Brennan, a USA Today sports columnist, when asked if it’s unusual to have four quarterbacks from the same conference compete for the sport’s highest individual prize.
“I can’t think of anything like this,” Brennan said. “I’m sure there’s been some great quarterbacks coming out of the same conference, but four in one year is pretty significant.
“You can make a strong case right now to keep an eye on all four of those players.”
Of course it’s early and the season promises many twists and turns before the Dec. 9 Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, but let’s make a case for each of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks, starting with the most likely to win.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook tabbed Darnold the preseason 5-to-1 favorite to hoist the 25-pound bronze trophy of the stiff-arming football player.
If so, he’ll be the third USC quarterback to win the award, the eighth Trojan and just the 12th player from the Pac-12.
After taking over the starting job in Week 4 last season, Darnold threw for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading USC to nine straight wins capped by a dramatic last-second Rose Bowl, in which he was the game’s MVP.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior from Capistrano Beach, Calif, began the year with an unspectacular performance (289 yards, 2 INTs and 0 TDs) during a harder-than-expected 49-31 win over Western Michigan.
But the odds say Darnold will rebound.
“I think Darnold will win it,” said KJR-AM radio host Dave Mahler, who coordinates the 10 Heisman Trophy voters in Washington state. “I think he makes it to New York. I think Baker Mayfield of…