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(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Leading the Pac: The Star-Studded Quarterbacks of the Pac 12

Across the country, many talented young quarterbacks have dazzled with impressive performances through the first few games of the college football season. This is most evident though in the Pac-12, as the conference has displayed its wide array of talent at the quarterback position.

So far, the household names have lived up to the hype. Caleb Williams of USC, Bo Nix at Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. in Washington are leading their teams to undefeated records behind stellar performances. The gunslingers have combined for just over 4,000 passing yards through four games and have picked apart defenses across the nation. 

Coming into the year, Williams was viewed as the Heisman favorite, yet through the first few games, Penix Jr. has dominated statistically. Leading the country in yards (1,636), quarterback rating (93.7), and passing touchdowns(16), the big lefty is giving the reigning Heisman winner in Williams all he can handle in the race to this point. With these talents, it is a growing possibility that the Heisman will be awarded to a quarterback from the Pac-12 come December. 

However, the most impressive aspect of the Pac-12 quarterback cast has been the conference’s depth. The conference boasts nine quarterbacks who have proven to be at least an above-average signal caller. This is an unprecedented amount of talent at the position in a single league, and the group has proven to be significantly better than any other conference in the country. 

In terms of newcomers who have crashed the party this season, the conversation starts with Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders. Sanders has been making national head waves with his impressive start to the season, in which he has totaled 11 touchdowns and 1,410 yards through the air. Through four games, Sanders play his propelled the Buff’s to a 3-1 record and a top 25 ranking. The buzz around Sanders has certainly been palpable, as he has thrust himself squarely into the mix among the best quarterbacks in the conference with his ability to play the position.

“Shedeur don’t wanna be a two to nobody,” said his father, Colorado head coach Deion Sanders. “People are projecting him behind Caleb Williams. And Caleb Willaims is phenomenal, but Shedeur ain’t no backseat rider.”

Additionally, true freshman Dante Moore has far surpassed expectations at UCLA and exhibited his impressive arm talent that led him to be a top recruit out of high school. His poise will be tested in his freshman year, but he projects to be a star in college football in the near future. 

Up north, the quarterback play has been exceptional, as in addition to Michal Penix and Bo Nix, two other quarterbacks have showcased their electrifying talent. Like their respective teams, Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and Washington State quarterback Cam Ward have quietly flown under the radar.

Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Uiagalelei is looking to rewrite the narrative of his career after a disappointing stint at Clemson. The transfer quarterback has the Beavers positioned at number 19 in the AP Top 25 and is averaging an impressive quarterback rating of 78.1. 

On the other hand, Cameron Ward has perhaps been arguably the most surprising quarterback in all of college football. Ward has already racked up 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also boasts an 86.4 QBR, which places him 10th in college football in this category. 

“I think Cam deserves to be mentioned to be mentioned with the best quarterback in the country, period,” said Washington State head coach Jake Dickert. “I think he continues to show that, and I think nationally we continue to undervalue him and what he’s doing.”

This past weekend, the two squared off in the matchup of the remaining teams in the Pac 12 going into 2024. Even after a late offensive storm from Oregon State, Cameron Ward was able to lead the Cougars past the Beavers by a final score of 38-35. Ward was able to plant his flag among the top quarterbacks in college football with 400 passing yards and four touchdowns. This matchup exemplified the depth of quarterback play in the conference and acted as a showcase for two of the most underrated players in the entire country. 

Due to all of the talent at the top of the conference, these quarterbacks will continue to be overlooked and could be a potential steal in the upcoming NFL draft. Even with these impressive performances, the narrative will continue to revolve around the Heisman candidates. However, it is vital to remember that the conference has a complete collection of quarterback talent from top to bottom.

This depth and talent in the conference should not be taken for granted, and with this being the last year that these same 12 teams are in the same conference college football fans must appreciate this final season of the Pac 12.

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