College Football
Is the Pac-12 the deepest conference in college football this season?
College Football

Is the Pac-12 the deepest conference in college football this season?

Updated Sep. 7, 2023 1:07 p.m. ET

Heading into this year’s college football season, I made a bold proclamation that the Pac-12 could be one of, if not the deepest conference in the country.

I listed five teams from the Pac-12 in the top 15 of my preseason rankings: Washington, USC, Utah, Oregon and Oregon State.

After a thrilling Week 1 slate that saw the Pac-12 go a perfect 12-0, I’d like to make an addendum to my preseason proclamation.

The Pac-12 IS the deepest conference in the country, and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it.


Following Oregon State’s 42-17 victory over San Jose State on Sunday night, the Pac-12 had done something that hadn’t been accomplished in 91 years. Yes, you’d have to rewind all the way back to 1932 to find the last time every team from the Pac-12 won their opener.

The conference’s perfect 13-0 start, which includes USC's 56-28 win over San Jose State in Week 0, marked the highest win total by an FBS conference to start a season since at least 1980.

The depth of the Pac-12 is simply unmatched, and college football fans got a taste of that in an impressive Week 1 showing. And as good as the likes of Utah, Colorado, Washington and others looked this past weekend, there is one area that stands about above the rest: quarterback play.

Is the Pac-12 the deepest conference in college football?

Joel Klatt discussed the depth of the Pac-12 conference after Week 1.

There are at least six QBs in this conference that could start for just about any team in college football when you look at Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix, Shedeur Sanders, Cam Rising and DJ Uiagalelei.

If you take a look at the numbers five of those signal-callers put up in Week 1 (Rising did not play due to injury) and take the average stat line, here’s what you’re looking at: 78.5% completion percentage, 361 yards, four passing touchdowns.

Think about being an opposing defensive coordinator and having to prepare, week after week, to go up against these quarterbacks? That must be a nightmare for opposing DCs.

Now, the one downfall to being such a deep conference with so many good, talented QBs is that they could all ultimately beat up on each other and cannibalize their College Football Playoff chances, which would be a shame, because the champion coming out of the Pac-12 absolutely deserves a shot to play in this year’s CFP.

One would have to go back to 2016 to find the last time a team from the Pac-12 Conference appeared in the CFP. That was when Jake Browning led the Washington Huskies to college football’s biggest stage. Outside of that, Oregon is the only other Pac-12 program to appear in the CFP, which occurred back in 2014, the first year of the CFP’s existence.

That should change this year, as the conference has already notched several impressive victories, highlighted by Colorado’s memorable 45-42 upset win over TCU in Coach Prime’s debut.

Joel Klatt compares Deion Sanders to Nick Saban after Colorado win

Joel Klatt joins Colin Cowherd to talk about a packed weekend of College Football, including the biggest headline: Colorado's upset win over TCU.

The Pac-12 will have another shot at a big weekend coming up as Utah travels to Baylor, Colorado hosts Nebraska (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), Oregon heads to Texas Tech and Washington State welcomes Wisconsin.

These are all winnable games, and if Pac-12 teams are able to continue playing at a high level and securing more and more victories over good Power 5 programs, the conference should be able to look up at the end of the year and make a clear argument that it deserves to have a representative in the College Football Playoff.

And yes, quarterback play will be a big reason why.

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports’ lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast "The Joel Klatt Show." Follow him on Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the "Joel Klatt Show" on YouTube.


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