There is a group of quarterbacks separating themselves from the rest of the pack early this season. Two of them are guys you’d expect to see. The other two have been pleasant surprises.

Week 2 throughout the Pac-12 featured a ton of blowouts in tilted affairs. What are we to take from those games, if anything?

As always, these will be updated every week. The goal here is to be reactive, not to rank the most talented players. Who’s playing the best? Let’s get to it.

12. JT Shrout, Colorado

Prev. rank: 12

Moving on…

11. Jack Plummer, Cal

Prev. rank: 11

The Golden Bears struggled to open against UC Davis and then struggled to put away UNLV. The quarterback has put up fine numbers so far, but nothing that little that has wowed.

10. Jayden de Laura, Arizona

Prev. rank: 3

As great as de Laura was in Week 1, he was just as poor in Week 2. The Wildcat quarterback pressed all game, seeking the home run play instead of taking what was presented to him; de Laura finished 22-for-45 for 220 yards, one score, and three interceptions. On several occasions, opportunities were there to run and pick up some yardage with his legs, or throw the ball away and live to fight another down. Instead, de Laura threw into danger or held on for a sack. Coach Jedd Fisch talked about both on Monday, saying over and over his quarterback has to know when to say when. He finished with a 23.1 QBR score for the week and a 46.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, both of which were only better among league starters than Shrout.

9. Emory Jones, Arizona State

Prev. rank: 9

A 50% completion game for Jones on the road against one of the best defenses he’ll face all year isn’t enough to move him much. Oklahoma State did well to take away Jones’ running ability. Confined to just a pure passer, the Arizona State quarterback didn’t have a single turnover-worthy play. In spite of the loss, Jones finished with the fifth-best QBR among Pac-12 quarterbacks for the week. Keep an eye on this one. Jones might have a big-play receiver emerging in Elijhah Badger. Couple that with Xazavian Valladay’s performance on the ground and there could be something brewing.

8. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

Prev. rank: 7

It’s tough to knock a quarterback after a quarter of work in a game his team dominated start to finish, but Thompson-Robinson’s efficiency numbers (completion percentage notwithstanding, which I’ll get to) haven’t been great to begin the year. So far this season, he has a lower grade than Colorado’s Brendon Lewis and his own backup, Ethan Garbers. Don’t take PFF grades as gospel, but it does sort of underscore what the games have felt like to this point — underwhelming. The UCLA quarterback has an average depth of target of 3.3 yards through two games and 55 attempts. Among P5 throwers with at least 20 dropbacks, that’s the second-lowest — only ahead of CU’s Lewis. DTR has taken one shot more than 20 yards downfield, an incompletion. He has only six attempts that traveled at least 10 yards downfield, three of them incompletions. Everything has been short. Because of the weird nature of these first two games, I have no idea what to make of that.

7. Bo Nix, Oregon

Prev. rank: 10

In Week 2, 19 qualified FBS quarterbacks got a 90 grade or better from PFF. Nine passers had a QBR score of 90 or higher. Nix belonged to both camps. He completed 27 of his 33 pass attempts for 277 yards and five scores. That performance, on the heels of a Week 1 debacle, lands him right back in the same spot he was in prior to Week 1, which is to say we’re still waiting to see if this Nix experience in Eugene will be different from the one in Auburn. Nix was poor against the good, and good against the poor. He didn’t attempt a single pass more than 20 yards downfield against Eastern Washington, with 24 of his 28 completions coming within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. Oregon’s coaching staff has said it wants to develop that vertical shot game. We didn’t see it against an inferior opponent. Will we against BYU?

6. Cameron Ward, Washington State

Prev. rank: 8

Ward finished 17-for-28 for 200 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The interceptions were forces, plays that will weed themselves from Ward’s game as he gets more comfortable at this level knowing what he can and can’t get away with. Ward opened the game 10-for-20 before completing seven straight pass attempts to close things out — including a 31-yard touchdown where he looked downfield, saw what he had, and then took his checkdown. Nakia Watson raced from the flats to the endzone to give Wazzu the go-ahead score that proved the difference. We’re getting there.

5. Tanner McKee, Stanford

Prev. rank: 4

The most frustrating player to place this week. You could tell me he should be four spots lower and I’d shrug and say, ‘OK,’ before sliding him down the board. McKee completed 20 of his 35 passes for 220 yards, a touchdown, and two picks. Through two weeks, he remains the highest-graded quarterback in the Pac-12 with the most big-time throws of any league guy. He also threw two interceptions in his first six passes against a pretty leaky USC defense. He had a couple of throws that spotlight the arm talent we all know he possesses.

4. Chance Nolan, Oregon State

Prev. rank: 5

Big Chance Nolan guy. Great first half against Boise State. He was a cool customer on the Beavers’ last drive against Fresno State, leading the team down to the 2-yard-line for Jack Colletto to punch in the game-winner as time expired. After two interceptions in the opener, Nolan missed some throws in Week 2 but was otherwise clean with the football. He’s had a long ball that has been pretty spotless through two weeks — 6-for-11 on passes traveling at least 20 yards, two touchdowns, seven big-time throws, no interceptions, no mistakes.

3. Cameron Rising, Utah

Prev. rank: 2

Moving down from No. 2 to No. 3 is more about the guy who took his spot and less about anything Rising did to lose the spot. Things opened up for the Utah quarterback in the second quarter against Southern Utah and, boy, was he on the money. Rising completed 10 of his last 11 pass attempts before exiting the game. His first seven completions went for 71 yards. In the last seven minutes of the second quarter, Rising had completions of 32, 17, 25, 37, 22, and 16 yards. Still good.

2. Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Prev. rank: 6

The Washington starter currently ranks first or second among all Pac-12 quarterbacks in passing yards, yards per pass attempt, touchdowns, and quarterback rating. He has six touchdowns against just one interception. He’s made some NFL-level throws through two weeks, putting balls on an absolute laser to his intended receiver. Sure, consider the opponent — Kent State and Portland State — but he has undoubtedly exceeded expectations to open the season. I was not a Penix believer in the preseason. I owe him an apology for that. I was wrong. Better to admit it now, I figure.

1. Caleb Williams, USC

Prev. rank: 1


A masterful performance in the first half against Stanford. Williams and USC, when pressing the issue, have been at a completely different level offensively through the first two weeks of the season. Williams is completing 80% of his passes with 12 yards per attempt. Both marks lead the Pac-12 and rank top-three nationally. We’ve yet to see USC face off against a good defense, but so far Williams has been flawless.