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Day 7: Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year

Will anyone dethrone USC’s Caleb Williams this season?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Tulane v USC Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

We are just one week away from the start of the Husky football season but there is a Pac-12 team playing today. That would be USC who begins their campaign against San Jose State. The Trojans happen to have at quarterback the reigning Offensive Player of the Year (and oh yeah, the Heisman winner). Do you think anyone will dethrone him? We’ll build the case for the major candidates in the conference of quarterbacks.

QB Caleb Williams, USC

334/502 (66.5%), 4,539 passing yds (9.0 YPA), 42 pass TDs, 5 INTs, 624 rush yds, 10 rush TDs

There’s a reason that Caleb Williams won the Heisman last year. The totality of the stats he put up were simply overwhelming. He led all FBS quarterbacks in passing touchdowns and was 7th in yards per pass attempt. On the ground Williams was 23rd among QBs in rushing yards and tied for 8th in rushing touchdowns. Like I said, good.

And it’s not as if the supporting cast will get much worse. The Trojans do lose WR Jordan Addison (1st round), RB Travis Dye, and 2 offensive linemen who made the Pac-12 all-conference team last year. That’s a lot. But they’re also bringing in through the portal several starting offensive linemen at other schools, a 1st team all-Pac-12 WR, and a former 5-star SEC running back. The argument against Williams really comes down to risk of injury and the idea that if it’s somewhat close that the voters will give someone else a chance rather than the repeat winner. Otherwise, I can’t make much of a compelling case against it.

QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington

362/558 (64.9%), 4,641 passing yds (8.3 YPA), 31 pass TDs, 8 INTs, 113 rush yds, 4 rush TDs

Washington tried to make a Heisman case for Penix late in the season and it ultimately proved way too late. They’ve been much more vocal about supporting Penix leading up to this year and we’ll see if that wave can carry him over the top of Williams within the conference. In 2022, Penix led the country in passing yards. That included beating Williams’ total despite playing in one fewer game.

In every other statistical category though Williams held the edge. Penix threw more interceptions with fewer touchdowns and isn’t nearly the same type of dual-threat option. What’s the case then? For starters, Washington ran religiously around the goal line. Cam Davis and Wayne Taulapapa combined for 24 rushing touchdowns. Let’s say Washington goes with more play action around the goal line and 10 of those turn into passes. Suddenly both the yardage and the touchdowns are about equal and if UW wins at USC it might be the tiebreaker needed to give Penix the edge.

QB Bo Nix, Oregon

293/408 (71.8%), 3,589 pass yds (8.8 YPA), 29 pass TDs, 7 INTs, 519 rush yds, 14 rush TDs

I have a feeling that for some strange reason Nix won’t get the proportion of votes he would if this were a more neutral audience. Weird. Going into last year’s game against Washington there were almost equal odds between Nix and Caleb Williams winning the Heisman. The injury suffered late against the Huskies hampered Nix for their last few games and took away his rushing threat. Still, the numbers were very impressive.

This year Nix will have to play in a new offense under former UTSA OC Will Stein. It seems hard to think that will be a better match than Kenny Dillingham’s system but there’s a chance it becomes a change for the better. Oregon’s receiver corps is even deeper this season after several trips to the portal shopping mart and the top-3 running backs all return. The weapons are in place for this Oregon offense to go supernova but will Nix be given enough opportunities to put up the overwhelming stats needed to top Williams?

RB Damien Martinez, Oregon State

161 attempts, 981 rush yards (6.1 YPC), 7 rush TDs, 4 catches, 61 receiving yards

I feel obligated to put at least one non-QB on this list and so this is my darkhorse choice. Last year Martinez burst onto the scene as a true freshman. He averaged better than 6 yards per carry playing for a team with Ben Gulbranson at quarterback and they kept winning. The Beavers had a superb offensive line last year and should be even better this season. If D.J Uiagelelei can live up to his pedigree at all under center then it should help keep defenses honest and open up lanes for Martinez.

Martinez was spectacular from weeks 6-13 once he became the clear starter and before they blew out Florida in the bowl game so badly from the jump he didn’t need to play. In those 6 conference games he had 742 yards and 5 TDs on 6.3 yards per carry. Multiply that by 2 for a full season and you get nearly 1,500 rushing yards. If Martinez eclipses that mark and the Beavers win 9+ games again then he’ll have a case.


Which player will win Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    QB Caleb Williams, USC
    (55 votes)
  • 52%
    QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington
    (86 votes)
  • 3%
    QB Bo Nix, Oregon
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    RB Damien Martinez, Oregon State
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (put name in comments)
    (4 votes)
164 votes total Vote Now

Honorable Mentions

WR Rome Odunze, Washington (Penix will get the hype with Odunze/McMillan splitting votes)

QB Cameron Rising, Utah (May not be ready week 1 coming off an ACL tear)

RB Bucky Irving, Oregon (Oregon likes to split their RB carries)

RB Jadyn Ott, California (Cal likely won’t see enough success)

WR Dorian Singer, USC (Williams will get the hype and too many other weapons to share time)