College football is in full swing, and this year is making out to be one of the most crazy years in recent memory with ranked teams dropping like flies, and unranked teams emerging from the shadows.
The Big 12 likely has been the most surprising conference through the first four weeks, as the two preseason favorites, Oklahoma and Iowa Sate, have both been major disappointments. The Sooners may be the least convincing 4-0 team in the nation, while the Cyclones already have two losses on the season.
Schools like Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and even Kansas State have all looked much more impressive than the aforementioned preseason favorites. One of the main reasons for Oklahoma and Iowa State’s troubles is the poor performance from their star quarterbacks, Spencer Rattler and Brock Purdy.
The Big 12 is home to some of the best passers in the nation, typically stemming from Oklahoma, but this year there has showcased solid quarterback play from others not donning an Oklahoma jersey.
It is time for some early season report cards. First, I’ll grade each of the quarterbacks in the Big 12 and how they have performed through Week 4. Keep in mind that this is not a ranking of who is the most talented quarterback, but rather who has been playing the best football to start the season.
Will Howard, Kansas State
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Will Howard is the low man on the totem poll in terms of grades. He is a backup, so I never expected for him to be lighting up the scoreboard and tossing for 500 yards a game otherwise he likely would be the full-time starter.
He did well when he started against Nevada, who were favored to beat the Wildcats in Manhattan, and showed signs that he was not the frantic freshman quarterback we saw last season. However, Howard has proven so far that he is a semi-capable game manager at best. The Wildcats had Big 12 championship aspirations, but until Skylar Thompson gets back from injury, they may as well put those hopes to rest.
Howard has been extremely ineffective throwing the ball, completing just 48% of his passes and has compiled a QBR of 25.8. He is a very good runner, but got injured against Oklahoma State which might cause him to rely more on his arm, and he has not shown he can will the team to victory with. Howard has potential to be decent, but has yet to display his growth against Big 12 opponents.
Jason Bean, Kansas
Kansas Jayhawks redshirt junior quarterback Jason Bean (17) winds up a pass in the first half of Saturday’s game against the Baylor Bears at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
In his defense, Jason Bean is not working with the easiest of circumstances, but he has still been somewhat inconsistent. For Kansas to have any chance to win games, Bean will have to have spectacular performances through the air and on the ground and that still might not be enough.
While he seems to be the ultimate competitor, Bean has only completed 60% of his passes one time this season, which was against FCS school South Dakota. He did fairly well against Costal Carolina, but was unable to finish the job as a few missed throws and empty possessions ended Kansas’ hopes of competing. Against Baylor, Bean was horrendous, completing just eight passes for 57 yards. While Bean is a decent quarterback with no help, his performance through the first four weeks have been subpar, which in the case of Kansas is not as bad as you would think.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
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Again, this is not a ranking of how the best quarterbacks in the conference, it is an evaluation of how they have done through the first four weeks. Brock Purdy was viewed as a dark horse Heisman candidate a month ago, but has taken a major fall from grace.
He was benched in Iowa State’s loss to Iowa, and had not accounted for a rushing or passing touchdown until Week 3 against one of the worst college football teams in the nation in UNLV. The Cyclones have been a major disappointment so far, and that is very much due to the uninspiring performances Purdy has put together each week.
If it were not for a cupcake game against UNLV, Purdy would have just one touchdown on the season while having no games with a QBR greater than 65. As as senior quarterback who is as experienced as he is, the way he has preformed so far has been disastrous. He is on pace to throw a career high in interceptions, averaging one per game, and is on pace for a career low in touchdown passes and passing yards. While many thought the first few games on the Cyclones schedule would display how good the team was on a national scale, it has done the opposite for the team, and especially Purdy.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
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The literal Heisman frontrunner at the beginning of the season, Spencer Rattler happens to be much like Purdy with a hard fall from grace. Oklahoma’s very own fans booed Rattler and chanted for his backup in their most recent game against West Virginia.
Oklahoma has yet to play a team that should give them trouble, and outside of their victory against West Carolina, Rattler has looked extremely flawed. His completion percentage is skewed as although it is in the 70% range, he has been benefiting from a ton of short completions. In the three games outside of the West Carolina game, Rattler has thrown for three touchdowns and three interceptions, and likely could have more interceptions had defenses caught all of them.
His decision making has been terrible, and the team is hurting because of it. Again not counting the 76-point victory over West Carolina, Oklahoma won their other three games by a total of 15 points against very inferior competition. Rattler’s performances so far have him plummeting out of the first round of mock drafts, which do not mean much, but he is looking more and more like someone who will either get benched or lead Oklahoma to their worst season in over a decade.
Tyler Shough, Texas Tech
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Although he just went down with an injury, Tyler Shough still played the majority of the first four weeks so he will be getting a grade here rather than backup Henry Colombi.
Shough came in to reinvent himself, while also save Matt Wells’ job. He was doing a pretty good job, except for the little he played against Texas before breaking his collarbone. Shough had led Texas Tech to a 3-0 start, and although they were never going to contend for the Big 12 or a playoff spot, the team had looked worlds better compared to last season.
Shough is currently fourth in the Big 12 in passing yards without even making it to the second half of the Texas game. While he was healthy, the Red Raiders would often start slow, then erupt and score half of their points in one quarter. He had his breakout game a week before the Texas game against FIU, and it was going to be really interesting to see if he could sustain that success. We will not see him for at the least another six weeks, but I do think he was performing pretty well through the first three weeks and a half, once he finally found his rhythm in each of the games.
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
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A quarterback who many once viewed as having the potential to be the best in the conference, Spencer Sanders has proven to be too inconsistent to be in that discussion, but he’s still had bright moments.
He has always been plagued by injuries, which is unfortunate because that has been holding him back seemingly every season and that’s again how he started this season. It had been hard to tell if the injury has been affecting him, or if he has just been flat out struggling. Outside of the most recent win over Kansas State, Sanders did not perform that well against Boise State, and was very underwhelming against Tulsa.
Now it could be because he lost his three best weapons in Tylan Wallace, Chuba Hubbard, and Dylan Stoner, but Spencer Sanders and Oklahoma State have been a very misleading team. I do not feel comfortable putting him above this grade, because he has really had one great game and a couple other average to below average games, but he also has led the Cowboys to an undefeated record so far.
Sanders is someone to watch as his grade will either increase in the next coming weeks, or collapse. His completion percentage is at 59%, but he has yet to surpass 62% in his career, and he has been very effective with his legs rushing for two touchdowns so far. When the Cowboys start getting into the thick of Big 12 play, it will be easier to understand if Sanders will play like the Kansas State game or if that was a fluke.
Jarret Doege, West Virginia
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Jarret Doege was someone who really needed to thrive and make major improvement in order for West Virginia to take that next step. He hasn’t been great by any means, but he also has not been bad. He has performed at a very average rate.
After struggling against Maryland, he performed well when he led the Mountaineers over a ranked Virginia Tech, but followed that up with a quiet game against Oklahoma. He is one of the harder quarterbacks to grade thus far, because he doesn’t do anything special but also has not had games where he looks like the worst quarterback in the world as they have lost their two games by a combined nine points.
If he could have made a couple more plays in both the Oklahoma and Maryland matchup, this West Virginia team would be ranked in the Top 15 by now. He is someone that has a very good chance of stringing together a couple games and giving the team momentum they need. Up to this point, he has thrown for the second most passing yards in the conference and is looking like he can help this program find some success if he does improve a tad more.
Max Duggan, TCU
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Max Duggan has shown signs of improvements that TCU was needing and expecting from him this season. Through the first three games, he is completing 60% of his passes, and has thrown for seven touchdowns to just two interceptions.
The Horned Frogs did just drop a game against SMU, but Duggan has shown great improvements as a thrower compared to his previous two seasons. He is averaging a career high 9.2 yards per completion, and has effectively used his legs. The TCU defense has not been as good as we have grown accustom to, as they have given up multiple 400 yard games, so Duggan will likely have to continue his much improved passing in order to help soften the blow of not having a lock down defense.
Duggan still has room for improvement efficiency wise, but considering the start he has gotten off to while playing against Cal and a very good SMU team, it is safe to assume he will continue to improve. This week against Texas will be a huge test of how much his passing has improved.
Gerry Bohanan, Baylor
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The Bears have taken major strides from being towards the bottom of the Big 12 last season, to being one of the better teams in the conference this season. Quarterback Gerry Bohanan is a main reason for this growth.
While the Bears are very much a run first team, Bohanan has played exceptionally well and has made little to no mistakes to prevent the Bears from winning. He has one turnover on the year, after fumbling against Iowa State, but that has been his lone costly mistake. He has thrown for 823 yards and seven touchdowns, while also using his legs top run for four touchdowns.
Being a dual-threat has only helped Baylor, as they have displayed one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, and having a quarterback who can contribute only opens that up for them. Bohanan already led Baylor past No. 14 Iowa State, outplaying Brock Purdy, and he will be tested again this week when they take on No. 19 Oklahoma State.
Bohanan has been better than Spencer Sanders up this point and will look to consistently improve after getting off to a bit of a slow start against Texas State. Bohanan’s improvements have him performing like one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, and if it were not for the slow start against Texas State, he would get a solid A.
Casey Thompson, Texas
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After not being named the starter for the first two games, Casey Thompson has taken the job and ran with it while leading the Longhorns to a couple blowout wins in the process.
The Texas offense is just looking otherworldly with Thompson behind center, as he has led the Longhorns on scoring drives on almost every drive, 18 out of 20 to be exact. The junior quarterback has played like he has been a four-year starter, and is currently completing 77.8% of his passes and averaging 10.5 yards per completion. He currently holds the highest QBR in the nation with a rating of 95. 1, and has accounted for a total of 11 touchdowns on the season.
He has only started two games, one of those being against Rice, but other quarterbacks within the conference have played against lesser opponents and not done as well. Thompson will face a great test against TCU, who has consistently given the Longhorns difficulties. If he can make smart throws like he has been making, this should be no problem for Texas, but if he gets rattled by the Horned Frogs it could be a tough one.