The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Ranking Pac-12 QBs 2023 performances

Bo Nix leads way; Ward finishes fourth
Cam+Ward+has+a+wide+open+pocket+as+he+looks+for+a+deep+receiver%2C+Nov.+17%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+
BRANDON WILLMAN
Cam Ward has a wide open pocket as he looks for a deep receiver, Nov. 17, in Pullman, Wash.

In the final season of the Pac-12, fans were blessed with good QB play from top to relative bottom. Two Heisman finalists are from the Conference and the middle ground of QB play was still very strong, making the Pac-12 one of the most entertaining Conferences in the nation. 

In remembrance of the Pac-12, the 2023 QB rankings: 

1. Bo Nix (Oregon Ducks) 

BRANDON WILLMAN
Bo Nix scrambles to get away from a WSU defensive lineman, Oct. 21, in Eugene, Oregon.

Nix led the Ducks to an 11-1 regular season finish and a Pac-12 Championship Game berth. Oregon will face the Huskies, the one blemish on their record in 2023. Nix will either finish as the winner of the Heisman or in second place to LSU’s Jayden Daniels. 

In 2023, he finished second in the nation with a 91.1 QBR, thanks largely to his elite 78.6% completion rate. He will break 4,000 yards during the Pac-12 Championship, as through the regular season, he finished with 3,906 yards, 37 TDs and just two interceptions.

While not the same as the 15 rushing TDs he put up last season, Nix had six additional scores on the ground in 2023, bringing his season total to 43 at the end of the regular season. 

From the start of the season through the end, he played consistently elite ball, helping him finish as the best QB in the Conference at the end of the season. 

2. Michael Penix Jr. (Washington Huskies) 

BRANDON WILLMAN
Michael Penix Jr. drops back as he looked down the field for an open receiver, Nov. 25, in Seattle, Wash.

Through most of the early stages of the season, there was no choice for the Heisman more popular than Penix Jr. Deservingly so, as the lefty started on an absolute tear, but he has fallen off a little bit since then. 

He finished the regular season completing 65.6% of his passes and throwing for 3,899 yards, 32 TDs and eight interceptions. Perhaps it was an injury or perhaps it was defenses figuring him out, but he has had two different seasons. 

Games 1–6: 155-215 (72.1%), 2,301 yards, 20 TD, 3 INT 

Games 7–12: 125-212 (59%), 1,598 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT

If the season ended after six weeks, he would be in the No. 1 spot. But the season is a full 12 games and he did not perform at a high enough level to close out the season. Even despite his struggles, UW is 12-0 and controls its own destiny to make the College Football Playoff. 

3. Caleb Williams (USC Trojans) 

The Trojans struggled mightily throughout the season, but that is not due to Williams’ play. The reigning Heisman winner played very well, but a 7-5 finish was disappointing for a preseason contender. 

His 2023 performance was worse than 2022’s, but that was expected, given how well he performed last year. In 12 games in 2023, he completed 64.5% of his passes, throwing for 3,633 yards, 30 TDs and five interceptions. 

It is clear that he struggled against some of the better competition, but he also had performances like his 312-yard, three-TD outing in USC’s loss to Washington. 

4. Cam Ward (Washington State Cougars) 

BRANDON WILLMAN
Cam Ward runs at the 10-yard line as he looks to score on the ground, Nov. 17, in Pullman, Wash.

As WSU heads toward uncertainty, Ward will be a hot commodity if he enters the transfer portal, for good reason. His improvement from 2022 has been immense and his increased maturity has paid dividends.

Ward led the Cougs to wins over ranked opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon State and, for the most part, was not to blame for the shortcomings in the 5-7 season. While not perfect, he stayed as a bright spot on the offense throughout the entire season.

Over the course of the regular season, he completed 67% of his passes for 3,732 yards, 25 TDs and seven interceptions, adding eight scores on the ground. Through the Cougs’ 4-0 start, he had not thrown a single interception, a streak of over 140 attempts straight without giving the ball away, but then he had two multi-interception games in the final eight games.

He also had a five-game stretch where he threw only four TDs, but in three of those games, he completed at least 70% of his passes and in two, threw for over 300 yards. 

5. Noah Fifita (Arizona Wildcats)

If Arizona took the gamble and started Fifita from the opener, they may have an even better record than their already overachieving 9-3 finish. That is how good he has been. Despite his small stature, standing at just 5-foot-11, he carries a cannon for an arm.

Completing 74% of his passes, he threw for 2,515 yards, 23 TDs and had just five interceptions. While other QBs had 400+ attempts, he threw just 295 passes in 2023, completing 217 of them. 

Fifita would have been a top-two returning QB if the Pac-12 was staying intact, but regardless, has led the Arizona Wildcats from a middling team to a young, promising unit. 

6. Shedeur Sanders (Colorado Buffaloes) 

BRANDON WILLMAN
Shedeur Sanders comes out with his personal social media team, Nov. 17, in Pullman, Wash.

Sanders missed the season finale with a fracture in his back, and he likely was secretly harboring injuries during much of the 2023 season, hoping that the Buffaloes could find the momentum they had to start the season. 

Even with some struggles, Sanders’ first (and only) season in the Pac-12 was generally successful. 

Sanders plays a highly efficient brand of QB, completing 69% of his passes and limiting turnovers, but that can come back to bite Colorado in certain situations. Still, he finished 2023 throwing for 3,230 yards with 27 TDs to just three interceptions. 

7. DJ Uiagalelei (Oregon State Beavers) 

BRANDON WILLMAN
QB DJ Uiagalelei jumps to make a throw over the Cougs defensive line, Sept. 23, in Pullman, Wash.

Uiagalelei has successfully saved his reputation. After many wrote him off as a bust when he decided to transfer out of Clemson, he came to Oregon State and made his mark. He only threw the ball 315 times, thanks in large part to the offensive scheme prioritizing the dominant running backs the Beavers employ, but he still made his mark.

He finished the season with 2,638 yards, 21 TDs and seven interceptions. While not making jaw-dropping throws like some of his counterparts, he ran the offense well and made throws when he needed to. 

8. Fernando Mendoza (Cal Golden Bears) 

Many of the rest of the QBs did not play full seasons, and while Fifita dominated in his short time, the rest of the QBs played to expectations. Mendoza played in eight of the Golden Bears’ games, being the primary QB of seven of them.

Over 210 attempts in 2023, he finished with 1,447 yards, 13 TDs and seven interceptions while completing 62% of his passes. 

The lower-level Pac-12 QBs are not game-changers, and Mendoza is exactly that. He is serviceable but is not going to be the difference between a close loss and a win.

9. Ashton Daniels (Stanford Cardinal)

BRANDON WILLMAN
Ashton Daniels sets his feet to make a throw down the field, Nov. 4, in Pullman, Wash.

Daniels had a similar season to Mendoza, completing 59% of his passes, throwing for 2,247 yards, putting up 11 TDs and throwing eight interceptions. The Cardinal finished 3-9, with Daniels leaving much to be desired. 

10. Ethan Garbers (UCLA Bruins)

The Bruins had several different QBs, never seeming to figure out who their starter would be and who would bring the team the most success. For this piece, Garbers gets the nod for UCLA, playing the best ball behind the center.

In 10 games, he threw the ball 134 times, completing 89 of those passes for 984 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions. With a larger sample size, he could easily have reached the middle of the pack, but then again, he could have slipped even further down the list. 

11. Bryson Barnes (Utah Utes) 

If the Utes had Cam Rising, they could have made some noise in the Pac-12, but they had Barnes, who struggled to lead the offense. Barnes played in 10 games, completing just 59% of his passes while throwing for 1,519 yards, 12 TDs and nine interceptions. 

12. Arizona State Sun Devils Committee 

Arizona State had four QBs throw at least 38 passes, with only one of them throwing more TDs than interceptions. Trenton Bourguet had the ball the most, throwing for 1,486 yards, but he threw just one TD pass and had four interceptions. 

The Sun Devils do not have a competent QB on their roster, rightfully earning the last place spot in the Pac-12 hierarchy.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.