Pac-12 QB Power Rankings entering Week 7: Another week, another new No. 1
Another week, another new No. 1 takes over atop our Pac-12 QB Power Rankings. 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
Colorado was on its bye this past weekend. With offensive coordinator Mike Sanford taking over for Karl Dorrell as the interim head coach, I wonder how things change on offense from a personnel standpoint. Colorado is entering the “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” phase of the season. McCown has shown he’s the man to roll with going forward; can he and Sanford build any kind of momentum coming out of the bye week? Get him some easy early throws against a Cal defense that allows a pretty decent completion percentage against but also has multiple interceptions in three of its five games so far.
11. Chance Nolan/Ben Gulbranson, Oregon State
Prev. rank: 11
Nolan didn’t play against Stanford. In his place, Gulbranson drew the start and led Oregon State to a dramatic late win. Gulbranson connected with Tre’Shaun Harrison with 13 seconds on the clock for a game-winning 56-yard touchdown. He completed 20 of his 28 pass attempts for 250 yards, two scores, and no interceptions. The Beavers outscored the Cardinal 18-3 in the fourth and averaged a touch over 8 yards per play in the second half. Stanford’s defense is objectively broken, and it wasn’t clear which Oregon State quarterback was going to play until a day before the game, so I’m withholding judgment here until we see more.
10. Tanner McKee, Stanford
Prev. rank: 10
McKee went 20-for-33 for 269 yards, two scores, and an interception against Oregon State. The Cardinal lost at the end in excruciating fashion, something McKee couldn’t help. But It goes on his résumé nonetheless. When Stanford scored on its opening possession of the game, it marked the first time since Oct. 30, 2021 against Washington that Stanford led a game at any point against an FBS opponent. The Cardinal had gone seven full games and 431 minutes, 44 seconds of game action between leads. They finally had a halftime lead in last Saturday’s battle, and then they averaged less than 5 yards a play in the second half. On the season, McKee has one of the Pac-12’s worst adjusted completion percentages, per Pro Football Focus, and he’s not testing deep. The turnover-worthy plays are mostly gone from his game (15 last year, just three so far) but there’s just so much talent here that it feels like we should be seeing more out of the pass game.
9. Jack Plummer, Cal
Prev. rank: 8
Cal was on its bye week over the weekend, so not much new to add. Plummer’s game so far is pretty dependent on things going right around him. He’s putting up counting stats but ranks 58th nationally in expected points added.
8. Emory Jones/Trenton Bourguet, Arizona State
Prev. rank: 9
Another spot where I’m sort of in wait-and-see mode. Bourguet took over for Jones after he was knocked out of the game in the first half. Bourguet looked perfectly comfortable orchestrating the offense once he took over, throwing for 182 yards on 15-of-21 passing with three touchdowns. He hit Elijhah Badger for two of those, including a 2-yarder in the fourth quarter to put the Sun Devils up 45-38. Timing and anticipation on a few of his throws were impressive. Washington’s secondary is ravaged by injuries at this point in the season and, again, it was a sudden-change kind of scenario from the defense’s perspective. Arizona State is certainly trending up, though.
7. Jayden de Laura, Arizona
Prev. rank: 6
De Laura threw for 241 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while completing 57% of his passes. There may not be another hot-and-cold kind of thrower in the league right now. Week 1, de Laura completed over 60% of his passes for 299 yards and four scores. A week later he was sub-60 with three interceptions. Then he was over 70% with two scores and no turnovers. Then he was right at 60% with two turnovers. Against Colorado, he completed 72% for 484 yards, six scores, and no turnovers. And then there was the Oregon game. So, what that tells us is Washington is about to get shredded.
6. Cameron Ward, Washington State
Prev. rank: 7
Ward had one of the week’s lowest pass grades from Pro Football Focus and one of the lowest QBR scores from ESPN. He completed 19 of his 32 pass attempts for 172 yards and two scores. His turnover-prone tendencies were a major talking point coming into the game, and he never put the ball in danger. He also didn’t really attack the USC secondary, but that was largely a function of a swiss cheese offensive line that let the Trojans sack him five times. Washington State fell into the kind of game that allows the USC defense to excel.
5. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Prev. rank: 5
For the first time this season, Penix was held without a touchdown pass. He completed 33 of his 53 throws for 311 yards. He had his first rushing score of the season. He also threw his third interception in the last two games after having just one in the first four weeks. One thing to keep an eye on. Are teams starting to get a better read on what the Huskies want to do? That’s back-to-back losses where after the winning team talked about seeing exactly what it expected from UW.
4. Caleb Williams, USC
Prev. rank: 3
Williams completed 15 of his 29 pass attempts for 188 yards and two scores. Nearly every pass attempt was beyond 10 yards. Travis Dye has been reliable on the ground, going over 100 yards for the fourth time in his last five games, and his consistency in this particular game opened things up a bit for Williams to take a couple more shots. He found Mario Williams for a few explosives, but the connection with Jordan Addison wasn’t there. It seems almost like the pass game is idling a bit for USC, and the inconsistency with which USC has been able to feature Addison has been curious. The Biletnikoff winner has a couple of 100-yard outings but also a couple of duds.
3. Bo Nix, Oregon
Prev. rank: 2
Bo Nix’s last five games: 74% completion rate, 1,647 total yards of offense, 9.1 yards per play, 20 total touchdowns, one turnover, and a 5-0 record. Since the season-opening loss to Georgia, Nix has been fantastic. In the win over Arizona, Nix was fantastic. He completed 20 of his 25 passes for 265 yards and scored another three rushing touchdowns. Six games in, the Pac-12’s leader in rushing touchdowns is Nix. Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is finding ways to bring out the best in Nix’s game.
2. Cameron Rising, Utah
Prev. rank: 1
Rising had an early interception that sparked UCLA and he had a late fumble that snuffed out Utah’s hopes, but I’m just not going to knock him for being one of the only players on the field for Utah last Saturday who gave them a chance. Rising’s individual efforts kept a 42-32 loss from looking like a 42-12 loss; He completed 23 of his 32 pass attempts for 287 yards, he ran for another 59, and provided a pair of touchdowns. Eight different players caught a pass as Rising adjusts to life without his favorite target, Brant Kuithe. Utah’s defense simply could not slow UCLA’s offense. Rising did all he could. Even with the two turnovers, he was still the highest-graded Pac-12 quarterback of the week by PFF and scored the fourth-best QBR — which means he remains the highest-graded QB in the Pac-12 for the year by PFF and the second-best by QBR.
1. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
Prev. rank: 4
There is no player in the Pac-12 right now who is hotter than DTR. He threw for 299 yards and put up five touchdowns. I don’t care about the random interception at the end of the game. Thompson-Robinson is the league leader in completion percentage, he’s the top quarterback in the Pac-12 by QBR (with three straight weeks of 90-plus scores). He looks exactly how you hoped he would as a fifth-year senior; he’s not forcing the issue and he’s not looking to play outside the system.