Five Finalists Named For Johnny Unitas Award

From Andrew Luck and John Elway (Stanford), to Carson Palmer (USC), Aaron Rodgers (Cal), Drew Bledsoe (Washington State), Troy Aikman (UCLA), and many more, the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) conference has been notorious for producing high quality quarterbacks.

With an all-star alumni lineup like that, it was no surprise that the Pac-12 had three finalists named for the Johnny Unitas Award this year, which is an annual award given to the nation’s best quarterback in their senior, of fourth year. The finalists are as follows: Brett Hundley (UCLA), Cody Kessler (USC), Marcus Mariota (Oregon) — all from the Pac-12, followed by Bryce Petty (Baylor – Big XII), and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State – SEC).

In no particular order, here are a few quick facts about the finalists:

UCLA’s Brett Hundley: Through 10 weeks, the Chandler, Ariz. native has completed 220 passes of 305 attempts for a total of 2,254-yards. He’s had 17 touchdown passes with just four interceptions for a quarterback rating of 158.1. Hundley’s signature win this season was at hostile Arizona State, where the Bruins beat the Sun Devils 62-27. Hundley had four touchdowns in the air, and one rushing touchdown.

USC’s Cody Kessler: Matt Barkley’s successor has completed 207/298 passes for 2,548-yards so far this season, averaging 8.58 yards per pass attempt. He’s thrown 25 touchdown passes, and just two interceptions for a total QBR of 168.2. Kessler’s season high came on Oct. 18 against Colorado, where he threw seven touchdown passes to set a school record.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota: Mariota has thrived since former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly departed for the NFL, and is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy this season. As the quarterback of such a powerful, high-octane offense, Mariota has completed 186 passes of 277 attempts, and has thrown for 2,780-yards and 29 touchdowns, with just two interceptions for a QBR of 184.6.

Baylor’s Bryce Petty: The senior and Texas native has helped lead his team to a shared second place standing in the Big XII conference through nine games this season, as the Bears are currently 8-1 overall, and 5-1 in-conference. So far, Petty is 164/283 for 2,421-yards, 21 touchdowns, and three interceptions for a QBR of 152.2. His signature win this season was against second-year Big XII member, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. Baylor won 61-58 on account of Petty throwing for 510-yards and six touchdowns.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott: Alabama head coach Nick Saban compared Prescott to Tebow recently (likely due to his 11 rushing touchdowns this season), but gave the most credit to his production in passing. Prescott, the quarterback of the undefeated Bulldogs, is 143/239 for 2,231-yards this season, with 18 touchdowns passing, seven interceptions, and a QBR of 158.5. Mississippi State’s key wins this season so far, have been against LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn, but they take on Alabama this weekend at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The winner of the prestigious award will be announced on Dec. 8, and presented in Baltimore, MD on Dec. 12.

*Section Photo credit to Bob Levey, Getty Images; Featured Photo credit to Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports. 

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