Pac-12 QB Power Rankings entering Week 8: Some stasis at the top
Not much changes atop our Pac-12 QB Power Rankings this week. There’s some shuffling at the bottom, though. And perhaps this is just the calm before the storm of a Week 8 with the potential to shake up the top of the board. 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
McCown left Saturday’s win over Cal with just over a minute to play in the third quarter and CU trailing 7-3. JT Shrout came in to replace the freshman and helped engineer a 20-13 overtime win for the Buffaloes’ first victory of the season. The quick switch at quarterback led to some speculation about whether it was health- or performance-related, but after the game and then into Sunday’s media availability interim coach Mike Sanford said McCown had just taken some hits that added up and the move was about health. McCown remains the starting quarterback.
11. Jack Plummer, Cal
Prev. rank: 9
I really wanted to believe, but I’m out. Plummer had several very poor throws, just flat missing his targets. He was picked off on the opening drive of the game and finished 29-for-52 passing for 262 yards and one touchdown. Cal averaged 4 yards a play against the worst team in the Pac-12 and didn’t score its first points until the 5:49 mark of the third quarter. There’s enough talent at the skill positions. Jaydn Ott in the backfield is great. Jeremiah Hunter and J.Michael Sturdivant are quality receivers. Cal just can’t seem to put the pieces together. Plummer finished with the worst QBR of any Pac-12 quarterback in Week 7 (27.7), which leaves him sitting 10th in the Pac-12 for the season.
10. Tanner McKee, Stanford
Prev. rank: 10
I think a 16-14 win over Notre Dame said more about how bad the Fighting Irish are. I could be wrong, and Stanford could use its first win over an FBS opponent in over a calendar year as a springboard, but there are some things in the game that leave me a bit uneasy going forward. Stanford was outgained on a per-play basis (5.1 to 4.8) which usually means you’re going to lose. Stanford also found the endzone on its first possession — the scripted part of the game — and couldn’t string together a drive longer than 54 yards the rest of the way. Three field goals from Joshua Karty helped give Stanford a two-point win. Given all the pub about Stanford having a first-round NFL Draft pick at quarterback, the offense is surprisingly bottled up. McKee isn’t looking downfield with regularity — 7.7-yard average depth of target, 11th among 14 qualified throwers — and his adjusted completion percentage isn’t close to the other two guys playing it safe around the sticks.
9. Chance Nolan/Ben Gulbranson, Oregon State
Prev. rank: 11
Gulbranson started in place of Nolan again and helped Oregon State to a 24-10 win over Washington State. The Beavers are 5-2, surprisingly so after looking almost left for dead late against Stanford a few weeks back. The Wazzu win was about Oregon State controlling the line of scrimmage. The Beavers ran for 212 yards (adjusted for sacks) at nearly 5 yards a carry and they sacked WSU’s Cameron Ward six times. Gulbranson completed 12 of his 24 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Nothing fancy, and an early turnover sandwiched between scoring drives.
8. Emory Jones/Trenton Bourguet, Arizona State
Prev. rank: 8
Another spot where an injury started up some quarterback competition talk, but similar to Colorado, Arizona State’s interim head coach says there’s no controversy here. Emory Jones has cleared concussion protocol and will start against Stanford after being knocked out of ASU’s Week 6 win over Washington. The Sun Devils were off this past weekend, giving Jones plenty of time to get right. Bourguet took over for Jones with ASU trailing Washington 10-3 and led a 45-38 win. ASU is playing better; I’m curious to see what they look like coming off a bye.
7. Cameron Ward, Washington State
Prev. rank: 6
Washington State couldn’t protect Ward, who was harassed all day. His receivers dropped passes and his run game was non-existent. Ward completed 25 of his 54 pass attempts for 345 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The interception came on fourth-and-11 from the Beaver 38 early in the fourth, effectively serving as a 12-yard punt. It’s possible I’m just too invested in the Ward experience to see the forest through the trees but I maintain he’s a top-half-of-the-league quarterback given his tools. Ward was pressured the most of any Pac-12 quarterback in Week 7, something that has been a constant problem. No Pac-12 quarterback has been pressured more than Ward has this season, and the Cougars rank 95th nationally in sack rate.
6. Jayden de Laura, Arizona
Prev. rank: 7
Jedd Fisch said it on Monday, Arizona has a very capable offense. De Laura completed 25 of his 34 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He added 41 rushing yards and didn’t turn the football over. As a team, Arizona put up 526 yards of offense and 39 points on the road against a Pac-12 opponent. De Laura can’t play defense, but if he could, maybe he’d provide a boost. They can’t stop a soul on the other side of the football, and that means de Laura has to press constantly. I thought he played really well down the stretch against Washington, avoiding the mistakes that have popped up in similar spots elsewhere this season.
5. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Prev. rank: 5
Penix broke a Washington program record with 516 passing yards in UW’s win. The former Indiana quarterback is on pace to reach 4,000 passing yards in his first season with the Huskies, what would be just the second time in program history a Husky quarterback cleared 4,000. Assuming the 5-2 Huskies earn a bowl bid and Penix is able to play every game, he’s on pace to take the program’s single-season yardage record, too.
4. Caleb Williams, USC
Prev. rank: 4
Williams threw for five touchdowns, put up over 400 yards of offense, and didn’t turn the football over. I was somewhat surprised USC wasn’t able to get into scoring position on its final drive after taking over with 39 seconds, down just one point, but Williams did almost all that was asked of him. USC scored touchdowns on six of its 10 drives. (I’m not counting a 24-second possession that killed the end of the first half.) Utah’s Cameron Rising made one more play. So it goes sometimes.
3. Bo Nix, Oregon
Prev. rank: 3
Not much to add here on Nix as the Ducks were enjoying their bye during Week 7’s action. Nix has a major opportunity ahead of him in Week 8. All eyes will be on Eugene for a top-10 matchup against a UCLA squad that has a very strong defense. Nix has been remarkable since a season-opening loss to Georgia, but the naysayers are quick to point out he’s been beating up on lesser teams. UCLA gives him a potential statement game.
2. Cameron Rising, Utah
Prev. rank: 2
A fumble from Micah Bernard at the USC 3-yard-line kept Utah from scoring touchdowns on each of its final six drives against USC in a 43-42 win that was as entertaining as any college football game this season. Rising was, for a second straight week, wonderful. He completed 67% of his passes for 415 yards, ran for another 60 yards, and found the endzone five times. He’s up to fourth nationally in Total QBR after leading the Pac-12 in the metric for the third time in the last four weeks. He ranks third in expected points added, and that’s as good a number to indicate the success he’s having as we can find. Rising played well enough to win at UCLA. His defense didn’t. A week later, Rising took his play a step further and literally put the game on his back. A rushing score on fourth-and-goal from the USC 1 and then a two-point conversion to put the Utes ahead were made possible by Rising. He won’t get into the Heisman discussion because he doesn’t have the counting stats, but he’s as good a quarterback as there is in college football right now.
1. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
Prev. rank: 1
UCLA had a bye week to prepare for Oregon. Dorian Thompson-Robinson sits fifth nationally in QBR, right behind Rising. That line just now about Rising? That can also apply to DTR.