By fortune, happenstance or coaching skill, the Pac-12 has cornered the market on transfer quarterbacks.
The season opened with nine of the conference's 12 starting quarterbacks not initially signing with their respective schools. That 75% mark leads the Power Five. Depending on depth chart moves, 11 of this Saturday's 12 starters could be transfers.
What the heck happened to homegrown products? Or does anyone care in this transfer portal age?
Regardless, heading into college football biggest week of the 2023 season to date, the Pac-12's fate will clearly ride on those transfers. Yeah, we know this is the last season of the Pac-12 -- at least as currently constructed -- but can we rejoice for a second?
No. 5 USC's Caleb Williams is looking like he can back up that 2022 Heisman Trophy with another Stiff Arm. No. 8 Washington's Michael Penix Jr. is leading the nation in passing for the second straight season.
Six games between ranked teams highlight the national schedule. For the first time in its history, the Pac-12 will be involved in three of them. Consider the four transfer quarterbacks in those games:
- No. 19 Colorado's Shedeur Sanders (Jackson State) is second nationally to Penix in yards passing per game.
- No. 10 Oregon's Nix (Auburn) leads active quarterbacks with 50 career starts.
- No. 14 Oregon State's DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson) is off to the most productive scoring start of his career with 10 total touchdowns (four rushing) through three games.
- No. 21 Washington State's Cam Ward (Incarnate Word) is tied for third nationally for most touchdown passes without a pick (nine).
Slightly more than half of the remaining Power Five teams are starting quarterback transfers (53.5%, 30 of 56). The closest to the Pac-12 is the Big 12 where nine of 14 (64%) are transfers. Overall in the Power Five, the mark sits at 57% (39 of 68).
that showed, from 2002-21, 46% of top-five quarterback prospects transferred at least once in their careers.
Here's the why: The transfer portal debuted in October 2018. The one-time transfer rule started in August 2021.
Consider it a trend. As part of that research, CBS Sports studied the top-five quarterbacks rated by 247Sports from 2017-21. That's 25 total over five years. Twelve of them, 48%, transferred. Seven of those 12 either left the Pac-12 or transferred into it.
The additions -- all since 2019 -- include Williams, Uiagalelei, Nix and No. 11 Utah's leading rusher, Ja'Quinden Jackson. (Jackson has played running back, quarterback and special teams for the Utes.)
Remember when the Pac-12 used to be the conference of QBs? The league heads into Week 4 with arguably the top two Heisman frontrunners: Williams and Penix. Williams (at Arizona State) leads the nation in passer rating and has the most touchdowns passing without an interception (120). Penix, Sanders and Ward are the top three nationally in yards passing per game.
If they start, there would be 11 transfer quarterbacks starting for Pac-12 teams in the biggest week of the season.
Nothing weak about Week 4
Could both No. 13 Alabama and Clemson both be out of the College Football Playoff with second losses by Saturday night?
Slight lean to "likely" on this one.
In Clemson at No. 4 Florida State, the winner comes out as the dominant team in the ACC. That's especially juicy if it's FSU. Clemson hasn't taken the field unranked playing a top-five team since beating Florida State 20 years ago. Diminishing the hype: This could merely be a preview of the ACC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, Lane Kiffin is grabbing his popcorn. No. 15 Ole Miss' coach says he saw Alabama cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson calling plays last week instead of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. More to the point, someone please tell me how Jalen Milroe was absolutely the right choice to start against Ole Miss this week after not seeing the field against South Florida. Really to the point, whoever plays QB for Bama going forward has to deal with this reality: Alabama's much-questioned offensive line has given up 12 sacks. That's more across the first three games of a season than the Crimson Tide have seen in at least the last 15 years.
Nick Saban is 4-3 against former assistants since winning his first 24 matchups. Now, Kiffin could become the second former Saban assistant to beat the master in the last two weeks (Steve Sarkisian). The Tide are favored by 6.5 points, but would you be surprised if the Rebels were favored by the same number? This line seems way off.
Wake up, echoes: No. 6 Ohio State at No. 8 Notre Dame is the first top-10 matchup of the season in a true home game. (LSU and Florida State met in Orlando.) The loser has to face a critical fan base, while the winner is looking at realistic playoff chances.
This means much more for the Fighting Irish, who have two championship appearances in the BCS era (since 1998). They were blown out in both the 2012 BCS Championship Game and 2018 CFP semifinal. Meanwhile, Ohio State is used to it, having appeared in five of the nine CFPs.
To this point, Notre Dame seems to have the more complete team. While Sam Hartman ( ) has won only three of 11 career games against ranked opponents, this is Kyle McCord's first such encounter. Take the hostile crowd enabled by Notre Dame's crazy tailgate to rattle McCord.
First to 25: Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker's unit will keep the No. 24 Hawkeyes in it for at least a half before No. 7 Penn State pulls away. The defenses in this one have giving up a combined 72 points. Look for to continue as the Hawkeyes are once again done in by their punchless offense. Something has to give. James Franklin has lost six straight to ranked Big Ten foes. Iowa hasn't beaten a top 10 Big Ten team on the road since 2009.
Reality check for Colorado? For the second time this season, the Buffaloes are a three-touchdown underdog to a ranked team on the road. This time, it's Oregon. CU is set to face back-to-back top 10 opponents -- without star two-way player Travis Hunter -- as USC visits Boulder, Colorado, on Sept. 30. There are five currently-ranked Pac-12 foes remaining on the schedule.
Even without Hunter, give the Buffs a puncher's chase to win a shootout with Sanders. Credit CU offensive coordinator Sean Lewis for adapting on the fly last week against Colorado State. Without Hunter, Lewis switched from a four-receiver look to 11 personnel. Former walk-on receiver, now-tight end Michael Harrison, stepped in with a career-high seven catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus has Sanders as the highest-graded FBS passer. He'll have to be. CU has lost 31 in a row against opponents ranked in the top 15.
Your obligatory Coach Prime mention:
Meanwhile in the real world: Coaches can find motivation in a ham sandwich. It can be Harry High School and amateurish, but you can bet Deion Sanders has found his latest bit of an edge from Oregon coach Dan Lanning. Asked over the summer about the impact of losing CU to the Big 12, Lanning rhetorically asked, "Do you remember [Colorado] winning anything?" Lanning did his best to defuse the situation this week as the Buffs visit the Ducks. Clearly, this isn't the CU of the past. We'll see if a ham sandwich transmogrifies into 4-0 for Sanders.
Doggin' it: Pencil in Fresno State (3-0 vs. Kent State) as the Group of Five's New Year's Six frontrunner. The Bulldogs under Jeff Tedford have already beaten two Power Fives (Purdue, Arizona State). That's more such wins than 12 Big Ten teams have achieved already this season. Tedford overcame a health scare, retired in 2019 and is back rolling like he was at California and Fresno (108-71 from 2002-19). The Bulldogs are 13-4 with a Mountain West championship since his return.
You want more parity? The 39 unbeaten teams heading into Week 4 are tied for the most since 2004. The number could be as many as 31 coming out of the weekend. There are eight games between undefeated teams. This marks the first time since 2000 there are at least six games in one week between teams 3-0 or better.
No. 2 Michigan heads into the "hard" part of its schedule (Big Ten opener against Rutgers) having allowed one total touchdown in its first three games … after traveling to Stanford on Saturday, Arizona will play seven teams that are currently ranked … Cal and Colorado are the only Power Five teams with double-digit takeaways (10) … if Oregon State beats Washington State, the Beavers will have their longest winning streak (eight games) in 56 years … as a show of support in their search for a conference, the Cougars band will play the Beavers' fight song before the game. Oregon State isn't sending its band to Pullman, Washington … the schools will meet as ranked opponents for the first time in the 108-game history of the series … since finishing 2021 just 1 of 3 on field goal attempts, Stanford has made 25 in a row … the last true freshman quarterback to win a start at Utah was Oregon's Justin Herbert in 2016. Good luck No. 22 UCLA's Dante Moore … No. 16 Oklahoma (at Cincinnati) is the only team averaging at least 50 on offense and allowing less than 10 on defense … Oklahoma State (2-1 at Iowa State) is seemingly in danger of seeing the end of its streak of 17 consecutive bowl games. The Cowboys were pushed around in a 26-point loss at home to South Alabama while coach Mike Gundy can't decide on a quarterback