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PAC-12 Preview: Conference of Quarterbacks

Around the country I have seen several list and articles of top quarterbacks (QB) in college football for 2023, however, this upcoming week I am set to preview the PAC-12 conference on College SportsCast and there is no better place to start in the PAC-12 than with the QB’s. Last season the PAC-12 conference tied their own 2014 record with eight QB’s who threw for over 3000 passing yards on the season within a single conference. Six of those eight return in 2023.

Caleb Williams - Southern California (USC)

Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy last season becoming the third quarterback under Lincoln Riley to pull off this feat. Williams was second in the PAC-12 in passing yards with over 4500 yards but first in touchdowns with 42 on only five interceptions. The Trojans are in good hands with the Williams and Riley combination. He will be the favorite to repeat as the Heisman winner and the likely No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft.

Michael Penix Jr - Washington Huskies

Penix Jr had a massive season for the Washington Huskies, and it was capped off by a win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. He racked up over 4600 yards on the season to lead the PAC-12 in passing yards and his return in 2023 has Washington among the favorites to challenge Utah for the conference title. The matchups against Oregon, USC, and Utah will tell us if they are contenders or pretenders.

Cam Rising - Utah Utes

Cam "Bad Moon" Rising has been a key component for the Utah Utes in the past two seasons helping lead the team to back-to-back PAC-12 Titles and Rose Bowl appearances. Rising has a chance to make it three in a row for the Utes in 2023, something that has never happened in the PAC-12 era before. The Utes do have a tough schedule to get through having to play Baylor, USC, Oregon State, and Washington on the road while also hosting Florida and Oregon at home.

Bo Nix - Oregon Ducks

Nix took what was once a meme and made it a reality in 2022 with Oregon, he was having fun and he was a Heisman Trophy dark horse. After the season in which he put up 4,139 yards of offense and 44 total touchdowns (29 passing and 15 rushing), he will be among the favorites for the prestigious trophy in ’23. His play-caller left for the head coaching position at Arizona State, so it will be interesting to see how he meshes with former UTSA co-OC Will Stein.

Jayden De Laura - Arizona

If there was a major positive from Arizona’s 5-7 season in 2022, it was the play of quarterback Jayden De Laura. He finished third in the PAC-12 in passing yards with nearly 3700 yards. The 2021 PAC-12 Freshman of the Year at Washington State is headed into his second year with the Wildcats. If he can limit his turnovers in 2023 from 13 interceptions, the Wildcats could have a shot at getting into bowl eligibility.

Cameron Ward - Washington State

Ward was the hot name in the transfer portal following the 2021 season and ultimately chose to follow his coach Eric Morris, who came over as Offensive Coordinator for 2022, and is now the head coach at North Texas. There is still a lot of buzz revolving around Ward who threw for over 3200 yards last season. If they can give him time to throw, the Cougars could be fun to watch with him under center.

Transfers and Highly Rated In-coming Freshman

Shedeur Sanders transferred into Colorado to play for his father, first year Head Coach Deion Sanders. At Jackson State last season he threw for over 3600 yds and 40 touchdowns. Expect to see a much-improved high-powered offense in Boulder, Colorado in 2023. DJ Uiagalelei comes to Oregon State this season from Clemson and threw for over 2500 yds in 2022. The former five-star recruit is a major upgrade for the Beavers who went 10-3 last season with a lot of talent from last season returning. Sam Jackson transfers to the California Bears from TCU and is a former four-star recruit from the suburban Chicago area to help ignite their resurgence.

Former five-star recruit Dante Moore for Chip Kelly and UCLA and top 100 recruit Jaden Rashada for Arizona State could possibly win the starters role for their teams as well. Rashada was in a highly publicized NIL split with Florida this past recruiting cycle. Myles Jackson, a former 2024 four-star recruit, will be on campus this fall for the Stanford Cardinals and could have a chance at some point to take over in replacing long-time starter Tanner McKee.

As you can see there is massive talent in the PAC-12 at the quarterback position. Having multiple Heisman trophy contenders, the PAC-12 is set to possibly break or match their own record for the total number of 3000-yard passers in a season for a conference. Expect to see high-powered, fun offenses to be entertained by in the "conference of champions" this season. Or maybe we should give the PAC-12 a new nickname of "conference of quarterbacks".


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