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Cody Kessler returns to USC, will battle Jared Goff for best Pac-12 quarterback title

This is going to be a fun one.

Harry How/Getty Images

Marcus Mariota has two more college football games to play before he's off to the NFL and the terrible fate of having to resurrect a moribund franchise like the Jets or Bucs or Titans. Brett Hundley will almost certainly be on his way too. Also departing from the Pac-12 will be Taylor Kelly, Connor Halliday, and Sean Mannion. That's a lot of quarterback talent departing!

That leaves the conference of quarterbacks a bit deprived on talent compared to previous seasons, but it does leave us with two clear frontrunners for top dog (pun intended, mmmm calabrese) status.

Cody Kessler announced after the Holiday Bowl that he will be returning to USC. Kessler had a low-key outstanding season for the Trojans, throwing 39 touchdowns with only five interceptions this year. Kessler also completed nearly 70% of his passes for over 3800 passing yards. He is going to be a Heisman Trophy contender for sure, especially if USC wins the Pac-12 or gets in the mix. But it's clear that without a great season by Kessler, USC probably doesn't graduate up to nine wins.

Does that mean I'd take Kessler over Jared Goff as the best Pac-12 quarterback going into next season?


First of all, like almost every USC quarterback of the past decade, Kessler is surrounded by supreme talent. Kessler has probably one of the top three offensive lines in the conference and some of the most spectacular skill players in Nelson Agholor, JuJu Smith and Buck Allen out there (and Adoree' Jackson looks ready to join the mix after a spectacular Holiday Bowl).

Cal has a decent group of players, and we've already discussed how we'd put up their wide receiving groups against any other corps. But their offensive line is still haphazard, the run game isn't quite as potent, the abhorrent defense forced Cal to constantly throw the football, and despite all that, Goff put up similar passing numbers comparable to Kessler.

  • Goff: 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 62.1% completion percentage, 147.6 passer rating, 7.8 yards per attempt, 331.1 yards per game
  • Kessler: 39 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 69.7% completion percentage, 167.1 passer rating, 8.5 yards per attempt, 294.3 yards per game

So that's pretty awesome. Cal could have the best quarterback in the Pac-12 next year! That's a realistic thing that could happen, which would be the first time that's happened in over a decade.

Cal fans, will Jared Goff be the best quarterback in the Pac-12 next season? And how will Kessler's return impact USC?