Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Andrew Luck is 1A.

The Stanford quarterback, after the triple-overtime win at the L.A. Coliseum, remains on pace to win the Heisman Trophy, a national championship and to headline the Occupy NFL Draft movement.

Luck threw for 370 yards, three touchdowns and one interception during a 48-7 win over Colorado last month.

Jon Embree describes USC quarterback Matt Barkley -- who will be on display for the Denver Broncos and other NFL scouts Friday night at Folsom Field -- as "1B" compared to Luck from an NFL perspective and reminiscent of Mark Sanchez "with a bigger arm."

Next week the Buffs' schedule finally gets easier when Arizona comes to town. Except Nick Foles might be 1C.

"Nick Foles? You had to bring him up, too?" Embree said earlier this week when asked about the conveyor belt of pro-ready quarterbacks CU will face during the worst of times for a sickly secondary.

The scenery in the Pac-12 is better, but the new conference feels a lot like the days when Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Josh Freeman were breaking Big 12 huddles.

In five Pac-12 games, the Buffs have given up an average of 44.8 points and 523.8 yards.

Clearly, this was not a good season to lose Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown to the NFL. Crippling attrition (nine cornerbacks and both starting safeties have missed time due to various ailments or circumstances and leading tackler Douglas Rippy is out for the year with a torn up knee) also has taken a cruel toll on CU physically, emotionally and statistically.


In Pac-12 games only, CU ranks 12th in scoring defense (44.8 ppg), 12th in total defense (523.8 ypg), 12th in rushing defense (222.6 ypg) and 11th in passing defense (301.2).

Interestingly, USC is the defense which has allowed more passing yards (302 ypg) than the Buffs in conference games. Luck had 330 yards, three touchdowns and a pick-six during Stanford's dramatic 56-48 victory over the Trojans.

"This a quarterback-driven conference. There is no doubt, you have to have it," Embree said. "This conference is a lot like the league. If you don't have a good quarterback or good play at that position, you're playing uphill from an offensive standpoint."

Tyler Hansen is a good quarterback who needed to have an all-conference season for CU to have a chance. Due to a number of factors, including injuries on the offensive line and to Rodney Stewart and Paul Richardson, the senior signal caller has struggled to keep his offense up to speed.

Even though the Buffs usually fall behind by a large deficit early and are forced to abandon the run, Hansen only ranks ninth amongst his new Pac-12 peers in passing yardage (175.8 ypg) and 10th in passing efficiency (five touchdowns, five interceptions).

CU ranks 12th in scoring offense (14.8 ppg), 11th in total offense (304 ypg), 11th in rushing offense (92.8 ypg), and ninth in passing offense (211.2 ypg) in Pac-12 play.

This team also has struggled against conference opponents in the following categories:

Punt returns (11th), interceptions (12th), kickoff coverage (11th), field goals (tied 11th), sacks (ninth), sacks against (tied 11th), first downs (11th), opponents first downs (11th), third-down conversions (ninth), opponent third-down conversions (10th), turnover margin (11th), red zone offense (12th) and red zone defense (12th).

Other than that, the Buffs are enjoying the Pac-12.

"We are not playing well at all as a team," Embree said. "What I mean by that is when we do get stops, we're not doing well offensively. When we're doing well offensively, we can't get stops. We have to put ourselves in a position where we're all playing well in the same half. Let's just start with that, and then build it from there."

Go, fight, win the first quarter!

At this point, the blackout crowd at Folsom Field and ESPN executives would take that.

Sadly, even if the Trojans sleepwalk and shiver their way through this game, the end result will be the same.

USC 42, CU 14.

Hopefully, Connor Wood will be a 1A or 1B type of quarterback in the Pac-12.

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