Michael Penix Jr. ended the 2022 season — a breakout campaign in every respect — eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. Penix finished with nine first-place votes and 20 second-place votes. The nation’s leading in passing, Penix was the catalyst for a Washington team that went from 4-8 to 11-2.

Given who returns alongside him both in Seattle and around the rest of the Pac-12, it would come as no surprise whatsoever if the Heisman Trophy remained in the Pac-12 footprint next year.

The 2022 winner of the award returns at USC. Bo Nix and Cam Rising and Penix are all back hoping to lead title charges at their respective schools. The quarterback play throughout the league next season figures to be the best of any conference in the country.

If Penix builds on his 2022 success, he stands a good chance of making it to New York City as a Heisman finalist.

He was asked on Wednesday if he thinks about that.

“I think about winning the national championship,” Penix replied, per The Seattle Times’ Mike Vorel. “And whatever comes with that, comes with it.”

UW has not shied away from national title talk this offseason.

After Washington won the Alamo Bowl, Jalen McMillan expressed confidence the high-octane Huskies could win a championship. When Rome Odunze announced his return, he did so with a simple graphic: “I am back. We’re coming for a third.”

And when Penix himself announced his return, he hinted at the same.

“As I look back on this special season we had, I realize there are so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I know for sure there is so much out there for this team and the job is still not finished,” he said.

If not for an early-season stumble at Arizona State, Washington would have played for the Pac-12 title last year. It might have been in the College Football Playoff conversation as well. The Huskies finished in a three-way tie for second in the league; Utah got the nod and beat USC to repeat as league champions.

UW had to settle for an Apple Cup win, a win over Oregon, and an Alamo Bowl victory.

Not a bad first year for Kalen DeBoer. But with the pieces UW returns in 2023, the sky is truly the limit.