Around the Pac-12: Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr. meet with Heisman dreams and playoff hopes at stake; recruiting rankings; NIL changes

Bo Nix returned to the Oregon Ducks for one more season because he didn’t want “to have any regrets.”
Michael Penix Jr. returned to the Washington Huskies for one more season because he had “unfinished business.”
And now, amid Heisman hype, a College Football Playoff chase and a “College GameDay” frenzy, the dynamic quarterbacks’ quest for redemption will collide when they meet Saturday in a marquee matchup at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
The High Noon (thirty) duel has all the makings of an instant classic and should feature plenty of fireworks. The Huskies (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) are ranked seventh. The Ducks (5-0, 2-0) are eighth. The offenses are the most prolific and explosive in the nation, thanks in large part to the quarterbacks, who sport the first- and third-best odds to win the Heisman Trophy (Penix is first; Nix is third according to Bet MGM).
If it’s anything like last year’s meeting, we’re in for a treat. Nix passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 55 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Penix — who passed for 408 yards and two touchdowns — that left with the November win. The Huskies edged the Ducks in a thriller at Autzen Stadium, stealing a 37-34 victory by scoring 10 points over the final three minutes, seven seconds of a dramatic fourth quarter that proved to be devastating for Nix and the Ducks.
The comeback included a 62-yard touchdown strike from Penix, a game-winning 43-yard field goal and a painful ankle injury for Nix, who never was quite right the rest of the season.
The defeat, coupled with a second-half collapse against rival Oregon State two weeks later, doomed the Ducks’ chances of playing for a Pac-12 championship and dashed Nix’s Heisman hopes.
“It’s definitely motivation,” Nix told reporters Tuesday, referring to the UW loss. “It can serve as a motivator or it can get you down. Obviously, it’s one that I’ve been looking forward to just because of last year and how it ended. I think there are a lot of games you look forward to and I know they’re looking forward to it as well.”
The motivations are different for Penix, who parlayed the Autzen comeback into his own Heisman campaign — and championship chase — this season. The gutsy victory was part of a season-ending seven-game winning streak for the Huskies that included an 18-point win in the Apple Cup and an Alamo Bowl triumph over Texas.
Penix and the Huskies haven’t looked back. He enters the weekend as college football’s most prolific passer and the Huskies feature the nation’s most accomplished passing offense. The details:
• Penix ranks first nationally in passing yards per game (399.8), second in total passing yards (1,999), tied for third in passing touchdowns (16), first in yards per attempt (11.23) and fifth in completion percentage (74.7%).
• Washington ranks first nationally in total offense (569.4 yards per game), first in passing offense (446.4 yards per game), second in points per play (.706) and third in scoring offense (46.0 points per game).
A win Saturday could catapult the Huskies into the top five, set them up for a run to the College Football Playoff and reinforce Penix’s case as the Heisman frontrunner (he’s a slight favorite over reigning winner Caleb Williams of USC).
The same could be said for Nix, however. He transferred from Auburn to resurrect his career and boost his NFL stock, and has done that — and more — in one-and-a-half seasons in Eugene. The Ducks’ offense is one of the most balanced and lethal in the nation, and Nix’s precision and polish are the main reasons why. Consider:
• Oregon ranks second nationally in total offense (555.8 yards per game), second in scoring offense (51.6 points per game), 10th in passing offense (330.6 yards per game), eighth in rushing offense (225.2 yards per game) and fourth in points per play (.641).
• Nix ranks first nationally in completion percentage (80.4%), fifth in passing efficiency (184.70), 14th in passing yards per game (291.8) and tied for eighth in passing touchdowns (15).
We could be looking at a shootout in Seattle and the outcome could come down to which Heisman candidate has the ball last.
Now, let’s take a spin Around the Pac-12:
• ESPN has an updated list of college football recruiting rankings and a local Pac-12 team ranks among the top five.
• Washington is pushing to dismiss Washington State and Oregon State’s lawsuit vs. the Pac-12. The Athletic has the details.
• ESPN takes us inside the Huskies’ high-powered offense.
• The Huskies will be a playoff team, according to ESPN’s most recent projections.
Travis Hunter, Colorado’s injured two-way star, appears to be on the verge of returning.
• The NCAA is planning to meet to discuss NIL changes that allow more school involvement, according to ESPN.
• Washington State’s recruiting has not suffered amid conference realignment, according to The Athletic.
• Arizona recently lost a big high school commitment.
• A look at the top NFL draft prospects, risers, buzz and notes from last week, courtesy of ESPN.
• Colorado coach Deion Sanders is ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Arizona State president and athletic director, writes Andscape.
• Washington has hired a new athletic director. A look at his fit and the challenges he faces, courtesy of The Seattle Times.
• The Cougars’ secondary keeps making plays, which has mostly been enough to win, writes The Spokesman-Review.
• What do USC and UCLA need to do to beat Notre Dame and Oregon State, respectively, this weekend? The Los Angeles Times has the answers.
• The Times also says the Bruins need to extend their new defensive coordinator, who has been fantastic in his first year at UCLA.
• Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s injury is a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in a knee brace, writes The Salt Lake Tribune. The Utes know whether Rising is playing this weekend, but they’re not saying.
• Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders know’s what time it is — his — writes the Denver Post.
• The Post says Shedeur’s father, coach Deion Sanders, isn’t just the best story in college football — he’s also the best bargain.
• Sanders says late college football kickoffs are the “dumbest thing ever,” according to USA Today.

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