Grading The Pacific Northwest Pac-12 Quarterbacks

With spring football pacing around the corner, it’s time to put our compression shorts back on and break down the Pacific Northwest Pac-12 quarterbacks. We’ll look at the starting signal at each respective PNW school and compile a list with our favorites. Even though “The Conference of Champions” has lost relevancy on a national stage, the group of quarterbacks in this region is arguably amongst the best in the country. From No. 4 to No. 1, each candidate can lead a winning team in a major conference. Let’s get it. 

4. Cam Ward (Washington State)

Grade: B

Many analysts would disagree with this pick, likely placing Cam Ward in the No. 3 spot; there’s an argument to be made. 

The reason Ward finds himself in last place is that he lacks consistency. It felt like Washington State’s offense was Icy Hot last season. 

The Cougars had three separate losses against USC, Fresno State, and OSU, in which WSU didn’t score more than 14 points. 

Their offense finished 80th in the nation averaging 26.1 PPG.

But he’s still a heck of a player. 

He made a splash in the early season with an upset victory over Wisconsin in Madison and nearly backed it up with a win against Oregon two weeks later.

He has a unique elusiveness in the pocket and the ability to play backyard football always.

If he continues to develop, he’ll likely prove an All-Pac-12 First Team selection by the end of his career. 

Last season he threw for 3,231 yards, 23 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. 

3. Ben Gulbranson (Oregon State)

Grade: B

Ben Gulbranson may have had the ugliest quarterback campaign in a ten-win season in college football history. 

When Gulbranson first stepped on the green, no one knew exactly what to expect. He was a fill-in for injured starter Chance Nolan and had only played in one game in his prior two seasons. 

At first, it felt rocky, but he continued to fight. No matter how much he struggled, he continued to put the Beavers in a competitive position. 

In wins against Washington State, California, and Oregon, he respectively threw for 141, 137, and 60 yards. But they were victories.

And that’s precisely why he took the No. 3 spot on this list. He’s not flashy, but he’s a winner. 

In 2022 he finished with a 7-1 record as a starter. He also won the SRS Distribution Bowl Most Valuable Player, which could bolster his confidence entering next season. 

He finished throwing for 1,455 yards, nine touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also added five touchdowns on the ground. 

But the stat that matters is the ten wins, including dubs over Oregon and Florida. 

2. Bo Nix (Oregon)

Grade: A-

Bo Nix came in with a lot of hype, but the Ducks still finished with a similar record in years prior. 

Nix’s first season included losses to Washington, Auburn, and Oregon State. That’s not getting it done in Eugene.

And while football takes eleven, he didn’t come to Oregon to lose to the Huskies and Beavers. 

Returning this season will allow him to rewrite his legacy and improve his draft stock. 

Losses aside, he’s a tut machine. 

UO’s offense ranked 10th in the nation last year, averaging 38.8 PPG. He was the leader of this unit. 

In a year with a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and signal caller, he found a way to guide the Ducks to ten wins. Dude had every reason to quit after the first game, but he kept fighting.

His spirit could take Oregon places in 2023. 

He was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention after throwing for 3,593 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also added 510 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. 

1. Michael Penix Jr. – (Washington)

Grade: A

Outside of mid-season slip-ups against UCLA and Arizona State, Michael Penix Jr. was the man last year.

Penix Jr. changed the face of Washington’s program in one season and put UW back on the maps. 

In terms of weaknesses, they weren’t any. 

He led the Huskies to an eleven-win campaign, including victories over Oregon, Texas, and Oregon State.

By year’s end, he’d broken what felt like every Husky passing record, including the most passing yards in a season by a UW quarterback.

He also led the nation in passing yards per game, averaging 357. 

His season stats read 4,641 throwing yards, 31 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also added four touchdowns on the ground. 

The Associated Press named him the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year, and was also an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection.

He was so good we’re all allowed to say “Big Penix Energy.”

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About Nick Bartlett 212 Articles
My name is Nick Bartlett, and I am a Senior Writer at as well as a Senior Writer here at OregonSportsNews. My work has been featured in the Seattle PI, OregonLive, and various other publications. I've also served as a guest on Sirius XM radio as a "Pac-12 Football Insider" For business inquiries, you can reach me at - Email: Phone Number: 425-366-9711