There’s a new leader atop the Pac-12 QB Rankings as Michael Penix Jr. out-dueled Bo Nix and Caleb Williams faltered against Notre Dame. After the top three, however, the rest of the field is settling in.
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Pac-12 QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through seven weeks of the season.
2023 Pac-12 QB Rankings
As with all of our conference rankings and our national quarterback evaluations, the Pac-12 QB rankings below consider everything involved with quarterbacking at the major college football level.
While statistics will be mentioned, they were not the lone deciding factor in ranking the athletes. The list below prefers programs with a solidified quarterback situation and one signal-caller who plays significant snaps against top-tier competition. Two-quarterback systems will always be looked down upon, especially in those cases where an answer has not yet been provided for the long term.
Other factors in these rankings include but are not limited to game film, injury history, play-calling, offensive system knowledge and continuity, general quarterbacking mechanics, level of competition, the elevation of supporting casts, and several other influential factors.
All QB Rankings: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind.
Reminder – we also released our Midseason All-Pac-12 Team and Midseason All-Americans this past week.
Tier 1: The Elite Pac-12 QBs
1) Michael Penix Jr. | Washington
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (+1)
Yards: 2,301 | TDs: 20 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 72.1% | YPA: 10.7
The new leader in the clubhouse of our Pac-12 QB Rankings just so happens to also lead the Heisman Trophy shortlist as well. After fighting through injury and battling from behind, Michael Penix Jr. assumes the throne and has an inside track to the sport’s most prestigious award: The top rankings of our national quarterback list.
Sure, and the Heisman, too.
Penix was brilliant against Oregon, shaking off an errant throw and working his way against a stout defense. Injuries hampered the Ducks in the secondary, but Penix’s accuracy, touch, poise, precision, and decision-making were all on display in front of the national audience in Week 7.
2) Caleb Williams | USC
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (-1)
Yards: 2,021 | TDs: 23 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 70.0% | YPA: 10.0
With far too many “ugly” throws, Caleb Williams drops a spot here and in the race for the Heisman. He forced way too many throws against Notre Dame and was careless with the football. All too often, Williams has gotten away with some of those kinds of throws as his arm talent was too much for opposing defenses.
That was not the case against the Fighting Irish, who intercepted him three times and sacked him six more. He battled back and still had some moments that drop your jaw, and you can only wonder what Williams would look like in front of an NFL-caliber offensive line at every position (and with a good defense for the first time in his career).
3) Bo Nix | Oregon
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (no change)
Yards: 1,796 | TDs: 17 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 79.2% | YPA: 8.7
Sure, Bo Nix was outdueled by Penix; that happened. However, Nix was brilliant all afternoon long, and the game was ultimately his had it not been for an ill-fated fourth-down decision by the Ducks coaching staff.
Nix finally got in rhythm in the second half and, in doing so, flashed the potential that he has with his arm talent. It’s likely they rebound with how Nix played against Washington, but this loss will sting. It won’t drop him in our rankings, however. In fact, it only solidified his case as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Pac-12
4) Shedeur Sanders | Colorado
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (no change)
Yards: 2,420 | TDs: 21 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 72.3% | YPA: 8.0
For all the good that Shedeur Sanders has done this season, it’s been relatively undone by a few costly mistakes. The forced interception in the end zone during overtime against Stanford is the microcosm of that instance, as he threw for five touchdowns and 400 yards, but a costly mistake ultimately cost the game for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Sanders, still, has shown more than enough to warrant a discussion that he belongs in the top quarterback conversation in the country. Unless he cuts down on the forced throws and realizes that every defense in the Pac-12 is far faster than he thinks, he’ll stay on the fringe.
He’s got all the talent in the world, and Sanders has done more than enough to be classified as must-watch TV because of his talent on the field, not his persona off it (though that doesn’t hurt).
5) DJ Uiagalelei | Oregon State
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)
Yards: 1,573 | TDs: 15 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 60.2% | YPA: 8.9
The more you watch what Clemson’s offense is doing (and by extension, what Tony Elliott is doing at Virginia), the more you realize it wasn’t DJ Uiagalelei’s fault for all of their discrepancies during his time with the Tigers.
In Week 7, Uiagalelei flashed the talent that he has in his right arm with multiple throws, including some dominant downfield seam shots to his tight end Jack Velling. DJU was decisive and did a great job of working his progressions.
It’s a marked improvement from the previous version we saw of Uiagalelei, and in no shock to us, he’s doing so with the best offensive line he’s ever had in front of him.
Tier 3: Above-Average Pac-12 QBs
6) Jayden de Laura, Noah Fifita | Arizona
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (+3)
Yards: 946 | TDs: 8 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 75.2% | YPA: 7.6
This Arizona offense hasn’t skipped a beat with Noah Fifita taking over in the absence of Jayden de Laura. Fifita has played three straight, two close losses to Washington and USC, and a dominant showing over Washington State.
He’s thrown eight touchdowns against two interceptions but taken great care of the ball and moved the offense in the process. Fifita may be the future of this team with how he’s playing, or better yet, with the resurgence he’s given the Wildcats on offense, he may be the present.
7) Cam Rising, Nate Johnson, Bryson Barnes | Utah
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (+1)
Yards: 398 | TDs: 1 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 57.6% | YPA: 6.0
The Utah Utes offense needs little from their quarterbacks when they have a converted safety rushing like Sione Vaki did in Week 7. However, you have to think of how much better this team will be with a healthy Cam Rising.
Bryson Barnes did a great job of managing the game against Cal in Week 7, throwing for 128 yards on 71.4% completions and keeping the offense on schedule. Pressed into duty or to make throws, however, is where this offense still needs to figure out its passing game.
8) Cam Ward | Washington State
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (-3)
Yards: 1,779 | TDs: 14 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 69.7% | YPA: 8.7
Ball security issues have always plagued Cam Ward, dating back to his time at Incarnate Word and even in 2022 with Washington State. However, in two straight losses, it’s also been his decision-making that has dropped the Cougars the past two weeks.
Ward has plenty of talent and he showcased that with 13 touchdowns against zero interceptions over the first five outings, but it’s been a completely different story as the sledding’s gotten much tougher. Back to basics, simplifying the offense, and staying on schedule will be key to his development down the stretch.
Tier 4: Average Pac-12 QBs
9) Dante Moore | UCLA
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (-2)
Yards: 1,304 | TDs: 10 | INT: 7 | Comp. %: 50.9% | YPA: 8.0
The going has gotten incredibly tough for Dante Moore and UCLA. The Bruin’s young signal-caller may be better off for it — in years to come — but as it stands right now, it’s tough to watch this offense fold the way it has the past few weeks.
Moore is 1-2 in his past three starts and completed just 45.5% of his throws against three top-25 teams (Utah, Washington State, and Oregon State). The stout secondaries presented in the Pac-12 don’t get much better than Utah and Oregon State, and Moore was confounded in both outings.
Things may get uglier before they get better, but at least they get easier secondaries to throw on down the stretch.
10) Ashton Daniels | Stanford
Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (+2)
Yards: 957 | TDs: 7 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 60.0% | YPA: 7.7
After four touchdowns and a rallying performance of a lifetime, things are looking brighter at Stanford and for Ashton Daniels. We were very impressed with his performance against Hawaii to start the season and it looks like that version of him has returned, or at least it did against Colorado in the second half.
We’ll cautiously bring Daniels up in these QB rankings, but the scripted portion of this offense will have to get better under his leadership.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Pac-12 QBs
11) Sam Jackson, Ben Finley, Fernando Mendoza | Cal
Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (-1)
Yards: 356 | TDs: 3 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 62.0% | YPA: 7.1
There was some promise for Fernando Mendoza in his first major action back in Week 6. But running the gauntlet of Oregon State and Utah’s defenses will never look good for any offense, let alone a freshman QB with a lot to prove.
Mendoza has shown some flashes, but decision-making and lack of elite arm talent to every level of the field have proven ineffective enough to warrant movement up these rankings. The struggles will likely continue for Cal and their overall situation with an angry USC team and a trip to Oregon on the horizon.
12) Trenton Bourguet, Drew Pyne | Arizona State
Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (-1)
Yards: 726 | TDs: 1 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 65.3% | YPA: 7.4
A bye week for the Sun Devils leaves us with the same questions we had prior. And we likely won’t get many answers around the status of this quarterback situation and if we’ll see any improvements in the near future against Washington in Week 8.