The Pac-12 quarterback power rankings: Welcome to the Heisman race
A month into the season, the hype of the Pac-12 has been backed up by the best quarterback play in the country.
If we’re being real, 2023 isn’t the first time the Pac-12 brought hype into a season. But a month in, what’s separated this Pac-12 season from many of the rest is the fact that Lucy has yet to pull the ball away from a charging Charlie Brown.
Six Pac-12 teams are ranked in the top 25, including a four-team pileup of Washington, USC, Oregon and Utah occupying spots 7 through 10. And to the surprise of no one, the Pac-12’s success has been paced by the play of its quarterbacks.
Currently, Vegas has Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., USC’s Caleb Williams and Oregon’s Bo Nix with three of the top four best odds to win this year’s Heisman race. And they’re not even unanimously the three best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 Conference.
For the rest of the season, we’re going to track the progress as the Pac-12 QBs air it out.
This is The I-5 Corridor’s Pac-12 Power Rankings (Week 5 edition)
1. Michael Penix Jr., Washington (4-0, 1-0)
Last week: 19 of 25, 304 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception in a 59-32 win over Cal.
Season stats: 103 of 138, 1,636 yards, 16 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 14 rushing yards
Why he’s No. 1: He’s leading the nation in passing yards per game (409), completing 75 percent of his throws and averaging an absurd 11.9 yards per attempt. His Huskies are No. 7 in the country and there appears to be no team in the conference that can hurt you deep better than the Northernmost program in the playoff race. Penix, in his sixth season of college football, is blowing his previous career averages out of the water and the Huskies are all the better because of it. He threw four touchdown passes in the first three quarters of UW’s 59-32 win over Cal and is sitting comfortably riding shotgun in the Heisman race.
Next up: Arizona
2. Caleb Williams, USC (4-0, 2-0)
Last week: 20 of 31, 322 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 14 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns in a 42-28 win over Arizona State.
Season stats: 75 of 101, 1,200 yards, 15 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 71 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
Why he’s No. 2: Because this has to be different than last year, right? Williams’ stats are as good as anyone in the country, he’s the reigning Heisman winner and he does a lot more with his feet than Penix does up in Seattle. USC’s start hasn’t been quite as convincing as Washington’s, but Williams has been every bit as good as he was when he was the best player in college football.
We just think Penix and Washington have been a little bit better.
Next up: Colorado
3. Cam Ward, Washington State (4-0, 1-0)
Last week: 28 of 34, 404 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 14 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown in a 38-35 win over Oregon State.
Season stats: 106 of 142, 1,390 yards, 13 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 109 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
Why he’s No. 3: If Cam Ward was on an Oregon or a Washington or a USC or, at this point, a Colorado, he’d likely be right in the thick of the Heisman race. But Ward is a man of the Palouse, and though he just led his undefeated Cougars to a convincing win over Oregon State at home, it’s going to be until he beats an Oregon or a Washington or a USC until he really steps onto the national scene.
While he’s good enough to be here, he’s going to have to force the nation to watch.
Next up: UCLA