The Pac-12 news of the weekend is that Cal has named a starting quarterback for 2011 — Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard.
And that means that UW is likely to go into the season with a quarterback with the least Division-I starting experience of any team in the Pac-12 (unless UCLA goes with true freshman Brett Hundley.
As noted in the story, Maynard started the 2009 season at Buffalo, including throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns against Pittsburgh. And as also detailed, he’s a dual-threat type, leading to lots of speculation about how much Cal may be changing its offense.
UW fans will get an early look as the Bears will play at UW on Sept. 24 in what is the Pac-12 opener for both teams (Cal’s game at Colorado a couple weeks earlier is not a conference game). Just about any conference game looms large, but openers against beatable teams may hold just a little more importance, and the Cal-UW game seems pretty critical for both teams. UW has won three of the last four against Cal, including two of its best performances in recent seasons — a 37-23 win at Husky Stadium in 2007 and 42-10 in 2009. Cal hasn’t won at Husky Stadium since the second game of the Tyrone Willingham era in 2005.
That game will come a week after UW plays at Nebraska, a contest the Huskies won’t be favored to win. UW will be favored to beat Cal, however. If UW does, it could be 3-1 at worst heading to a game at Utah on Oct. 1. But a loss against Cal and the Huskies obviously would then have to win at Utah to avoid an 0-2 conference start heading then into a bye week.
Cal’s naming of Maynard leaves UCLA as the only conference team with some real uncertainty at QB heading into the fall.
Here’s a quick look at each Pac-12 QB situation:
ARIZONA — Wildcats have Nick Foles back for his third year leading a passing attack that should be among the best in the conference, assuming he gets enough time to throw.
ARIZONA STATE — Sun Devils are going with junior Brock Osweiler, who has just two career starts. But he threw five touchdowns and no interceptions in leading the Devils to late-season wins over UCLA and Arizona.
CAL — Bears going with Maynard.
COLORADO — Buffs going with Tyler Hansen, the starter in much of 2009 and 2010 when healthy.
OREGON — Darron Thomas back for his junior season after leading Ducks to national title game last year.
OREGON STATE — Ryan Katz is back for his junior season after starting every game a year ago.
STANFORD — Andrew Luck gives the Cardinal the best returning QB in the country.
UCLA — Bruins will enter the fall with a three-man battle at QB among veterans Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut and the aforementioned true frosh Hundley. Rick Neuheisel obviously has a lot riding on making the right call there.
USC — Matt Barkley is back for his junior year.
UTAH — Utes have junior Jordan Wynn, already a two-year starter.
WASHINGTON — Keith Price the starter heading into fall camp with the expectation he will be the starter for the season opener against Eastern Washington on Sept. 3.
WASHINGTON STATE — Junior Jeff Tuel, a starter since midway through the 2009 season, is back making this one position the Cougars can feel good about.
By any objective measure, owing in large part to Price’s lack of on-field experience, the Huskies are going to rank near the bottom in pre-season conference QB rankings. Dates like Sept. 24 will tell the real tale.