Pac-12 QB Power Rankings entering Week 8: Michael Penix Jr. has one hand on the Heisman Trophy
Michael Penix Jr., the stage is yours.
In the best game of the season, Washington’s quarterback was receiving IVs on the sideline and dropping touchdown dimes on the field to lead the Huskies to a massive win over Oregon. He jumped to the front of the line for the Heisman Trophy and jumped to the top of this ranking.
But his performance wasn’t the only quarterback storyline of the week.
Here’s Saturday Out West’s Pac-12 quarterback power rankings entering Week 8. These will be updated weekly throughout the season.
12. Trenton Bourguet, Arizona State
Arizona State was off last week, so this section is taking a week off as well.
11. Fernando Mendoza, Cal
Last week: 10
Cal’s offense is still below where it needs to be and the Bears started the wrong quarterback to begin the season, and then replaced that guy with another wrong option. Mendoza should have been the guy all along. That much is clear. Mendoza averaged 8.8 yards per pass against Utah in Salt Lake City — a pretty good showing — and was responsible for both of Cal’s touchdowns. The 14 points and general inconsistency from drive to drive were more a result of failures around Mendoza, not from him. Sacks, pressure, drops, and penalties. Those aren’t Mendoza issues.
10. Ashton Daniels, Stanford
Last week: 12
In Stanford’s two wins, Daniels has 644 yards on 81 passes, a 64.2% completion rate, six touchdowns, and no interceptions. In Stanford’s four losses, Daniels has 44 combined pass attempts. Justin Lamson — who has the worst total QBR in the league this year — has been the more featured quarterback in both of Stanford’s blowout losses to Oregon and USC. He barely played against Arizona and the Cardinal lost by one. We should not see anyone other than Daniels at quarterback for Stanford going forward.
9. Dante Moore, UCLA
Last week: 8
Here’s what I wrote in the league Power Rankings this week:
“Dante Moore has thrown pick-sixes in three consecutive games. He was picked off three times and sacked five times in a 36-24 loss to Oregon State. The Bruins simply cannot withstand that kind of harmful quarterback play.”
Since posting a 97.6 QBR in the Week 3 win, Moore has three consecutive weeks with sub-30 QBRs. During that time, he has six interceptions and 16 sacks against only three touchdowns while completing 45.5% of his passes. It’s rough in Westwood right now.
8. Bryson Barnes, Utah
Last week: 9
Barnes didn’t make any critical mistakes in Utah’s 34-14 win over Cal. The Utes handed the football off 53 times and only passed it 22, so it’s not like there was any kind of playmaking burden on Barnes’ shoulders.
7. Cameron Ward, Washington State
Last week: 6
Through Wazzu’s first four games, Ward had 1,390 yards, 13 touchdowns, no interceptions, a 74.6% completion rate, and an average of 9.8 yards per pass. Over the last two, he has one touchdown and three interceptions, his completion rate has dropped 15 percentage points, and his per-pass clip has plummeted to 5.6 yards. The lack of a run game is really, really hurting Ward, but he’s also struggling right now in ways he wasn’t early.
6. Jayden de Laura/Noah Fifita, Arizona
Last week: 7
The best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Week 7, according to QBR, was Fifita. The diminutive passer from Servite is the man for this job and I’ll go back to what coach Jedd Fisch said earlier in the year. When de Laura was sputtering, Fisch told reporters he was trying to play like Superman when all he needed to do was be Batman and use his tools. Fifita is the 1990s cartoon Batman, which is to say he’s the perfect version of what Arizona needs from its quarterback. He’s playing at a high level, not forcing mistakes, and letting his playmakers work. This is not an easy decision Fisch has to make — going from de Laura to Fifita — and that should be appreciated, but it’s the correct decision given where Arizona is at.
5. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
Last week: 5
The overtime interception from Sanders in Colorado’s shocking 46-43 loss was inexcusable. Still, he finished with 400 yards passing and five touchdowns. When your quarterback is your leading rusher, and your quarterback is a non-runner, it’s going to be hard to maintain a big lead. Colorado’s issues aren’t on Sanders, but he made the most visible mistake in the loss.
4. DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State
Last week: 4
Across the entire season, Uiagalelei has the second-best total QBR. He only trails the guy currently leading the Heisman race. In recent weeks, I have picked against Oregon State in spots where the Beavs have faced good defenses because I was anticipating Clemson DJ U showing up. That guy is gone.
3. Bo Nix, Oregon
Last week: 3
I was tempted to bump Bo Nix above Caleb Williams this week. Thought long and hard about it. Another poor showing from the USC man and I’ll do it. For now, though, Nix stays where he was after a good-not-great game for the Ducks in a loss. Nix threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns. He hit some big throws, and he missed a couple of plays I know he’ll want back. On a third down right before halftime, he missed a touchdown throw he normally hits. The completion to Troy Franklin on the drive that attempted to put the game to bed was just trust in his guy in a one-on-one and excellent ball placement. I don’t know what was supposed to happen on the fourth-and-3 throw; were Nix and Tez Johnson not on the same page? Did Johnson expect to be able to sit more on the route and Nix threw an out? I don’t love the decision to roll the play to one side of the field (on either of those fourth-down throws), but there was still a window for Johnson to make a play and the ball that was thrown didn’t give him a chance. A game of margins. All that being said, Nix still finished with the third-best QBR of the week in the Pac-12.
2. Caleb Williams, USC
Last week: 1
Williams had his first truly bad game of the season and it ended up becoming the worst game of his career. He was picked off three times (a career-high), sacked six times (one shy of a career-high), pressured more than in any other game in his career, and was held under 250 pass yards for the second consecutive game — the first time that’s happened since he left Oklahoma. The pressure he faced, and the lack of poise he showed against it, has led many to jump off the bandwagon this week. Williams holds the ball too long, he makes bad decisions, he does this, he does that, and he’s no longer worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. That feels like an overreaction. A coach I know would often say it’s never as bad as it seems and never as great as it seems. One bad game. Don’t make it two.
1. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Last week: 2
Give him the Heisman. I don’t care that it’s October. The most exciting player in college football plays quarterback for the Washington Huskies. He has the numbers to back it up — 2,301 yards, 20 touchdowns, just three picks — and now has a game-winning touchdown throw in his team’s biggest game of the season. If Washington hits 10 wins this season, the Heisman Trophy belongs to Michael Penix Jr.