Pac-12 QB Power Rankings entering Week 6: No shortage of options at No. 1
The quarterbacking at the top of the Pac-12 is awesome right now. I’d just like to take a minute to acknowledge that. The Pac-12 has four guys who are in the Top 13 of ESPN’s Total QBR for the season, and a fifth sitting at No. 21. In my estimation, there are six guys who could have slotted at No. 1 in this week’s power ranking. Six!
As always, this is not an exercise wherein we rank the most talented players. Who’s playing the best? Let’s get to it.
12. Owen McCown, Colorado
Now that Colorado has officially closed the book on the Karl Dorrell chapter, we’ll see if an offense that had been suffocating to begin the season can start to find itself. There are some interesting pieces to work with, and McCown has provided glimpses of a capable quarterback in his true freshman season. He threw for 186 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, but completed less than 50% of his passes.
11. Chance Nolan, Oregon State
Prev. rank: 7
The junior has thrown six interceptions in his last 30-something pass attempts. The Beavers lost to USC by three points while Nolan gave the ball away four times, then got the doors blown off by Utah as he threw two more interceptions in his first seven passes. Not good. The flip from very good quarterback play — which he was exhibiting through the first three weeks — to very poor quarterback play over the last two weeks has been pretty aggressive. After sustaining a neck injury that ultimately knocked him out of the game after the first quarter, you’re hoping Nolan can return to 100% quickly. But it might give coach Jonathan Smith the opening needed to both try something new at quarterback and let Nolan sit and process for a beat.
10. Tanner McKee, Stanford
Prev. rank: 10
Again, if this were just based on talent, McKee would be much higher. But the play has not in any way lived up through the Cardinal’s first four games. In its two previous conference games, Stanford was outscored 52-21 in the first half. McKee was picked off three times. Against Oregon over the weekend, Stanford was outscored 31-3 in the first half while McKee completed seven of his 14 passes for only 45 yards. Can’t keep happening.
9. Emory Jones, Arizona State
Prev. rank: 11
Jones found his legs against USC in the first half, when he was able to move the offense as effectively as we’ve seen for ASU at any point since the opener. They were completely shut down in the second half — eight points and 113 total yards.
8. Jack Plummer, Cal
Prev. rank: 9
I thought Plummer had a fine but ultimately forgettable week. Not great, but not poor either. He had the ninth-best weekly QBR among Pac-12 quarterbacks and the fifth-best grade from Pro Football Focus. Plummer hit on 23 of his 33 passes for 273 yards and pretty much threw everything at or beyond 10 yards. He was also sacked four times and was saddled with an ineffective run game (a surprise to Cal given recent success but not so much so considering the opponent). Plummer also had to be replaced late in the Bears’ 28-9 loss to Washington State because of an apparent leg injury, but coach Justin Wilcox said this week it doesn’t appear to be serious. Cal is on a bye, so it’s as good of timing as you can get with such things.
7. Cameron Ward, Washington State
Prev. rank: 6
Another fine but forgettable week. Ward had a couple big plays, but also a couple of interceptions. If not for Nolan forgetting which color jerseys his receivers wear, Ward would be leading the Pac-12 in turnovers. He has seven interceptions in five games, including two each in three of the last four weeks. That’s something that has to get cleaned up.
6. Jayden de Laura, Arizona
Prev. rank: 8
Arizona’s wildly entertaining gunslinger threw for 484 yards and six touchdowns in Arizona’s 43-20 win. He completed 33 of his 46 passes. In his first year with the Wildcats — meaning his first year in a completely different offense from the one he began his college career in — de Laura is second in the Pac-12 in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. He’s put up awesome numbers the last two weeks and is trending toward a top-five spot here. He also has put up those numbers in an 18-point loss to Cal and a win over a Colorado team that fired its head coach a day later. There is a massive opportunity ahead of de Laura this week against Oregon.
5. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Prev. rank: 1
Washington’s laudable lefty showed he is human after all. Penix was picked off twice by the Bruins in a 40-32 Friday night loss. At the end of the third quarter, Washington trailed 40-16. Penix was 23-for-37 for 232 yards, two scores, and two interceptions at that point. In the fourth quarter, he was nearly flawless — 10-for-12, 113 yards, two scores. This feels like way too big a drop given the performance, but I’m a little boxed in here.
4. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
Prev. rank: 5
DTR played the kind of football game you see in cartoons, exaggerated feats of brilliance, hurdling and haunting defenders with his athletic ability. He made two Huskies hug in the endzone as he skipped away. He’s in his bag right now, and we all need to enjoy this more devilsh DTR while we have him. He has back-to-back weeks with a 90-plus QBR score. Like Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier this week, he’s playing the best football we’ve ever seen from him.
3. Caleb Williams, USC
Prev. rank: 4
Something about the L.A. quarterbacks having a flair for the dramatic. Caleb Williams had to run around all over the field in USC’s 42-25 win over Arizona State. The result was a dizzying display of his improvisational magic. Williams threw for 348 yards and three scores while running for another 44 yards and a fourth touchdown. All the freaking out over his Week 4 performance was (thankfully) silenced with the Week 5 one. If USC had any other guy back there playing quarterback, things might have looked a lot different. On the flip side, Williams had some reckless moments that, if repeated against better competition, are going to cost the Trojans. You admire the trust in his receivers, but lobbing the ball into the air to avoid a safety isn’t safe. And the interception was a rookie mistake.
2. Bo Nix, Oregon
Prev. rank: 2
At this point, I’ve sold my car, my house, all my tech, my white Pit Crew Jordan 3s, and one of my kidneys to go absolutely all in on the Bo Nix Oregon experience. I am fully prepared to potentially crash in spectacular fashion, but I’m also optimistic that this thing could end up in a pretty special place. Cut off the Georgia game (which I know we can’t actually do) and Nix has 17 touchdowns against one turnover, a 73% completion rate, and an 8.9 yards-per-play clip. Against Stanford? Four more touchdowns. He’s legitimately having the type of season that, if sustained, would put him in the Offensive Player of the Year conversation in the Pac-12.
1. Cameron Rising, Utah
Prev. rank: 3
Utah’s most popular thicc boi has had the best QBR in the Pac-12 now two weeks in a row. A year after finishing with the sixth-best season-long QBR in the country, Rising is currently sitting with the… you guessed it… sixth-best QBR in the country. Against Oregon State, in his first game without his favorite target, he completed 19 of his 25 passes — with completions to eight different players — for 199 yards and three scores. He also led the team in rushing, with 73 yards and another touchdown on seven carries. If Rising has 100 supporters, I am one of them. If Rising has 10 supporters, I am one of them. If Rising has one supporter, I am proudly standing alone. If Rising has no supporters, it’s because he stiff-armed me into an early grave.