Assessing The Quarterback Situations For All PAC-12 North Teams – Which Team Has The Edge?

The PAC-12 Conference is being touted as the richest quarterback land in America. That is a reputation that is well-deserved since it was the PAC-12 that produced last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, two other Heisman candidates, the nation’s leading passer, and the transfer-in of D. J. Uiagalelei, the highest-rated player in the 2019 recruiting class and the first college player in history to sign an agency deal and still retain eligibility for college sports.

Today, we’ll look at quarterback situations in the PAC-12 North. Keep in mind that these are not ratings of which quarterbacks are the best but rather projections by my SavvyGameLine rating system of the overall quarterback “room.”

Think of it as dumping your quarterbacks into one pot. Who will have the fullest pot? The higher the level, the more accurate game predictions are likely to be.

Assessing more than just the starting quarterback is a critical hedge against unforeseen injuries and accommodates backup quarterbacks who may be better than the initial starter.

This year’s PAC-12 situations are wonderfully geometric. The top three overall situations are in the PAC-12 North. The three worst are also in the PAC-12 North. Therefore, all six PAC-12 South programs are in the middle of the Conference. That may seem like a rebuff of Heisman winner Caleb Williams of USC, but it is actually a manifestation of their lack of experience behind him.

It’s also important to note that even though none of the PAC-12 South teams are in my system’s top three of the Conference, all six, including Colorado, are in the top half of the nation.

The factors that produce these ratings begin with whether or not teams return their starting quarterbacks and/or backups. From purely a quarterback standpoint and not considering returning offensive linemen, receivers, etc. — assessments that are made elsewhere — it is reliable to project a high quarterback situation if both the starter and backup return.

So let’s look at the PAC-12 North teams beginning with those at the bottom and working our way upward.

6. Stanford

Grade: D –

National rank: 120

There are two reasons that Cardinal fans can hope the quarterback situation is not as bad as Savvy Index says it is. There are two reasons they can hope:

1. New head coach Troy Taylor is a genius when it comes to resurrecting football programs.

2. There is a potential starter on this roster who may dramatically change expectations, but we simply cannot do so now, which we will discuss in a bit.

For now, we can only go on with the situation as it stands. That means we have a projected starter in Ari Patu and a projected backup in Ashton Daniels. Between the two of them, they hurled just 15 passes all of last year. In fact, Daniels appeared in 10 games but was trusted to pass just six times.

Patu has a strong arm and is fairly athletic but not much of a dual threat, which coach Taylor prefers. Daniels can run but as we’ve seen, there is not enough evidence to say he is an effective passer at a Power Five level.

Justin Lamson transferred in from Syracuse, but in three years with the Orangemen, he spent more time hobbled than suited up.

Freshman Myles Jackson will eventually win the starting job, but I don’t see that happening until mid-October. Jackson was a low-end four-star who won’t “wow!” coaches initially because he would lag behind the others in learning the system.

The biggest problem for Jackson is that he won’t arrive on campus until August. The easy part of Stanford’s schedule is its first five games, so it will be a while before there is enough desperation on The Farm to plug in a pure freshman starter.

My instincts tell me that Stanford’s quarterback room is not yet complete. I suspect a quarterback in the portal who has not yet been announced but may already be undergoing the rigors of qualifying for admission to Stanford. I don’t know anything, but experience tells me to keep checking back on the Cardinal.

5. Washington State

Grade: D +

National Rank: 93

I always pull for the boys in Pullman. I always want them to overcome the glitz of the metro teams and put those headliners in their proper places.

Yet, the Cougars haven’t measured up lately, and this year’s quarterback situation is not good. Other aspects of the WSU program are competitive, but the QB room falls a bit short.

Yes, starting quarterback Cameron Ward is back and has proven himself under fire, so WSU gets a significant bump-up in projections. If I could stop there, the Cougars would be in the top half of the nation for quarterback projections.

But the problems that surround Ward have to be taken into account.

For example: The projected backup for Ward is John Mateer, who appeared in just one game and threw just two passes all of last season as a freshman.

He put up big yardage numbers through the air and on the ground as a high school senior in Texas, but Mateer had only one other FBS offer out of high school, which was from New Mexico State.

There is also an offensive scheme change at Washington State, and with it comes peril for analysts trying to predict how the Cougars will do this year.

New offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle was hired from Western Kentucky to re-install the Air Raid offense. That change will put the ball in the air more. The more a team passes, the more often it will see blitzes, and that raises a huge red flag because the WSU offensive line ranked 125th last year for protecting the quarterback.

There is another part of the scheme change that bothers me as well.

Arbuckle loves the deep ball. The problem I see is that Ward is not a long-ball quarterback. He averaged just 6.5 yards per pass last year.

And there is the problem: the longer the passing scheme, the longer offensive linemen have to hold their blocks. If Cougar linemen can’t hold their blocks for a 6.5 yards-per-attempt passing attack, how will they do it when Arbuckle pushes things to eight ypa?

Arbuckle likes to say that when you pass long, “only good things can happen.” Three things can happen when you pass the ball, and, as Woody Hayes observed, two of them are bad.

There are other reasons to believe that Washington State will have a good season in 2023. Recruiting continues to rise, and the defense looks strong. But, the overall quarterback situation amid a long-ball scheme change is suspect.

4. California

Grade: C –

National Rank: 80

I’m surprised to see Savvy Index assign Cal a C- grade because the Bears have five quarterbacks, and not one was on the active roster last year. Four are transfers-in, while the fifth is red-shirted. That means that of those five quarterbacks, there is not a single passing attempt for the Bears in all of the 2022 season.

So why is Cal given a lofty grade in the “C”‘s?

Sam Jackson.

He is a transfer-in from TCU and a dual-threat quarterback who came out of high school as a four-star recruit holding offers from several Big-10 schools, plus Notre Dame and Oregon.

At 5’11”, he is considered under-sized as a quarterback, but his speed, quick-cut agility, and explosiveness are among the best in the nation. He rushed for over seven yards per attempt at TCU. That’s pretty easy to imagine when you consider that he runs the forty in 4.65 seconds. Having speed will be a blessing for Jackson because he will be playing behind an offensive line that isn’t going to handle blitzes very well.

Cal’s top two quarterbacks transferred out of the program since the end of last season, so the appearance of Jackson from TCU will probably save the Bear offense this year.

I am concerned that after losing its starter, Cal didn’t reel in a single high school quarterback in the 2022-2023 recruiting year, even after losing its starter.

3. Oregon

Grade:   A

National rank: 8

The Ducks just missed an A+ rating by the slimmest of margins.

Oregon has a new offensive coordinator, like all of the PAC-12 North teams we’ve covered. Changes in coordinators add flux to the norm and hamper the reliability of projections. However, the talent at Oregon appears to be enough to project another season of high octane offense.

Bo Nix returns as a dynamic dual-threat Heisman candidate. With the durability he displayed in his years of FBS experience, there is optimism that he will also endure the entire 2023 season.

If not, the Ducks will be in good hands with freshman Austin Novosad who seems primed to replace former five-star Ty Thompson as the second man in charge. Novosad proved in the Spring game that he can lead UO if needed.

Having a former five-star such as Thompson as your third-string quarterback tells you why the program deserves an “A” rating. Thompson has immense talent, although he has never ignited at Oregon. The talent is there if someone can find the right flint.

Also, consider former Division III star Matt Rush, who had 54 touchdowns against 10 interceptions at Washington College (Missouri) last year before transferring to Oregon. He has proven himself as a college quarterback, although not enough to yet qualify for a Duck scholarship.

No one questions that this is Bo Nix’s team. The lone question seems to be how long it will take to become Novosad’s team.

The Ducks are heavy favorites to win their first five games. What will be fun is the one that comes on September 9th when Oregon travels to Lubbock, Texas, to face former Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough.

2. Washington

Grade:   A +

National rank: 3

You know you were in good shape when your starting quarterback led the nation in passing last year, and your backup quarterback was an 11-game starter the year before.

Meet the Washington Huskies.

Michael Penix Jr. was phenomenal last year in leading the Huskies to an 11-2 record and a win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

There is speculation that Penix won’t lead the nation again this year and that Washington might fall short of eleven wins. Those doubts are attributed to UW’s tougher non-division schedule, which begins with Boise State and includes trips to Michigan State, and USC, followed by a home game against PAC-12 champion Utah.

Another home game against Arizona State might not seem threatening, but remember that ASU was one of only two teams to beat Washington last year.

Although offensive line projections are handled in a different rating module, it is essential to note that Washington only allowed seven sacks last year but has since lost its entire interior line.

The good news for UW fans, and especially Michael Penix, is that offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb turned down an opportunity to go to Alabama. Grubb is a hot commodity because he nearly doubled the Huskies’ points per game last year over the year before and because he has incredibly strong relationships with his players. If anyone can overcome UW’s challenges and keep Penix on top of the FBS passing world, it is Ryan Grubb.

Dylan Morris returns as the top backup for Penix. Although Morris considered entering the portal, he elected to return for his junior year at Washington. Washington’s quarterback situation grade would have dropped significantly had he moved on.

1. Oregon State

Grade:   A +

National rank: 1

Oregon State is the number one team in the nation in my Savvy Index assessment of quarterback situations.

Yup, and for good reason.

We all know that Clemson transfer D. J. Uiagalelei is now a Beaver and that in 2019, he was the number one high school prospect in the entire nation.

Let me see if I can anticipate your question. If he was so great, why was he rendered to the Clemson bench and replaced by Cade Klubnik?

Statistically, it makes no sense. He had a higher completion rate than Klubnik, 16 more touchdowns-to-interceptions rate, a higher passer rating, and more yards per rushing attempt.

Last year, DJ’s interception rate (ints/attempts) was a ridiculous .0189 compared to a national average of 2.5. Klubnik’s interception rate was exactly 3%.

From a character standpoint, you rarely find a quarterback who matches DJ regarding integrity and leadership.

Why Clemson coach Dabo Swinney put D. J. on the bench is an ongoing discussion in Tigerland; in Beaverland, the theme is — Tiger loss, Beaver gain.

Like the Washington Huskies, the Beavers have a starting quarterback as a backup. Ben Gulbranson put up strong numbers last year in leading OSU. Unlike the Husky backup Dylan Morris, Gulbranson led the Beavers to a bowl game with ten wins, a completion rate higher than normal, and an interception rate that was almost the national average.

Uiagalelei and Gulbranson are not enough to push Oregon State’s rating to the top spot in the nation for quarterback situations.

But when you add newcomer Aidan Chiles, you get to the top.

The pure freshman from Downey, California, awed fans at the Beaver Spring game and left analysts agreeing that it isn’t whether or not Aidan Chiles will become the OSU starting quarterback but rather — when?

Chiles is poised, dynamic, and confident. He is as athletic and explosive as Myles Jackson (TCU and now Cal), except Chiles is a much better passer.

Uiagalelei and Gulbranson are terrific, but Chiles may be better than both. That’s how strong the quarterback situation is at Oregon State.

The OSU offense put up 32 ppg last year en route to ten wins. With a quarterback room now bulging with talent, there seems to be no limit to what the Beaver offense will do this year.

You can see grades and rankings for quarterback situations for all FBS teams here.

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About Bobby Albrant 136 Articles
Bobby Albrant is a former journalism major at the University of Oregon, creator of for college football predictions and rankings, former analyst for Southern Mississippi football games, and twenty years coaching girls basketball for all ages through CIF high school. He has three grown children with his youngest daughter playing on the Ventura (Ca) High School basketball team that defeated Dom Lugo High School and was the last high school game ever played by Diana Taurasi. He can be reached at