Maybe, as the Pac-10 embarks on its final season before adding Utah and Colorado, the stereotype still fits.

This has always been a quarterback's league.

"Historically in the conference," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said, "the teams that have won the Pac-10 championship, or have been in the race at the end, have had veteran leadership at that position."

Seven Pac-10 teams state that claim today.

"Every team has a great quarterback in the Pac-10," Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles said.

Huskies senior Jake Locker could win the Heisman Trophy and be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft next April.

Stanford's Andrew Luck, only a sophomore, is receiving buzz as a first-rounder.

Cal's Kevin Riley led the conference in passing yards last year.

Foles and USC's Matt Barkley combined to toss 34 touchdowns last year; befitting the stereotype, they both have blond hair.

Add UCLA's Kevin Prince and Washington State's Jeff Tuel, and the Pac-10 boasts seven returning starters under center.

Last year alone, the seven threw for 16,285 yards - or 9.25 miles.

At the top of the list is Locker, who bypassed the NFL for one more college season. He will try to get the Huskies to a bowl for the first time since 2002 - a tall task given that UW hasn't won a conference road game in 12 tries.

"You have to find a way to win on the road," Sarkisian said. "We will have the advantage of having that senior quarterback who has been in that environment."

The league's quarterback cadre features a stunning four sophomores - Tuel, Prince, Barkley and Luck, perhaps the highest touted of the four.

The son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck ran for 354 yards last season, the most by a Cardinal quarterback since 1966.

"You wonder what makes a youngster that good," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "You know it has something to do with Mom, Dad, God - he has such talent. He has tremendous arm strength. He's as accurate as any quarterback I've seen.

"He's a brilliant kid - not just book-smart, but also with the football."

Rahim Moore, a UCLA safety who led the nation with 10 interceptions last year, called Washington and Arizona the best passing teams in the league.

"You see the points they put up," he said. "When you have a good quarterback like Jake Locker and Nick Foles … we are looking forward to it."

Oregon, last year's Rose Bowl participant and this year's favorite, is one of the three without an incumbent quarterback. Either Darron Thomas or Nate Costa will take over the league's most dangerous offense.

Arizona State could hand the keys to Steven Threet, a former Michigan starter, while Oregon State is training sophomore Ryan Katz.

Last year, half the Pac-10 won either four or five league games. This year, a strong quarterback will separate a league in which teams 1 through 9 are gathered tightly.

The inverse is true, too.

Despite the dominance of Oregon - and, to a lesser extent, OSU - there is no sure thing without a quarterback.

"Our challenge is to take that next step," Sarkisian said. "As we move toward the season and the Pac-10 Conference and the race for the roses, it's going to be an exciting time."