Landry Jones might be the top quarterback in the league, but that isn't what sewed this spot up for the Sooners. No team in the league has Oklahoma's depth at the position, with Blake Bell coming off the bench. Bell only threw four passes, but he rushed for 13 touchdowns, emerging as a goal line threat later in the year. Still, this ranking is mostly about Jones, who heads into his senior season as Oklahoma's all-time passing leader with 12,379 yards, including 9,181 yards and 67 touchdowns to 27 interceptions the last two years. Jones did struggle a bit at times, so the next question is whether he can take that last step toward every-game consistency.
2) Kansas State
Everybody in the stadium knew that when Kansas State traveled to town last year, Collin Klein was going to carry the ball 25-plus times. But that didn't stop him from rushing for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns. And his 3.6 yards-per-carry average is skewed because K-State struggled so much to protect him. Despite not throwing the ball that much, Klein took 42 sacks last year. Remove those, and he rushed 275 times for 1,385 yards, a clip of 5.0 yards per carry. Klein wasn't the most efficient passer, but still threw for nearly 2,000 yards with a 13-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. And word out of Kansas State's spring camp was that Klein took steps forward as a thrower. That shouldn't be a shock … he was actually recruited to Kansas State as a pocket passer after completing almost 66 percent of his throws as a senior at Loveland (Colo.).
Is this too low for Geno Smith? Quite possibly. Smith was first-team All-Big East last year (as named by the coaches), and is coming off an MVP performance in the Orange Bowl. His 4,385 passing yards last year served as both a West Virginia and a Big East record, and he was first in the league in passing efficiency. Smith passed for 400-plus yards four times last year, and finished fifth in the country in passing average per game (337.31 yards). But I'll admit that I'm a bit hesitant to put him ahead of the two quarterbacks who proved themselves within the Big 12. Unfair? Probably so. But Jones/Klein/Smith could really have gone 1-2-3 in any order, and somebody had to be third. If Smith has another year like he did last year, he could easily top this chart in the postseason.
It says something about the strength of the quarterback position in the Big 12 that TCU, and its top signal-caller Casey Pachall, sits at No. 4. All the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Pachall did last year as a sophomore, his first as a starter, was set school records for completions, completion percentage and passing yards. And he ranked 12th nationally with a 157.98 passer rating. Pachall completed 66.5 percent of his throws for 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions including a monster 24-of-37 (64.9 percent) for 473 passing yards and five touchdowns at No. 5 Boise State. For that, he's been named to the Maxwell Award Watch List (a list targeting the top overall players in the country), and should certainly be one of the league's top quarterbacks as a junior.
5) Texas Tech
By now, we're so used to a Texas Tech quarterback lighting up the air that numbers like the ones Seth Doege put up in his first year as a starter fly under the radar. The now-senior threw for 333.7 yards per contest, completing 68.5 percent of his throws for 4,004 yards and 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. And it says something about the state of the Tech record books that none of those marks were that close to a record. But one thing Doege has, according to Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, is a terrifically accurate deep ball, one capable of punishing defenses jumping the quick routes the Red Raiders often run.
Best of the Rest
6) Kansas — The transfer of former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist gives the Jayhawks a former five-star prospect and legitimate front-line starter. Crist started for the Irish and did well at times before blowing out both knees. If he can stay healthy, watch out.
7) Texas — Count on David Ash winning the job here, though Case McCoy would give the Longhorns a backup who won three road games against BCS opponents last year. If Ash can take a leap — not unreasonable, considering he was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman — the Texas offense could improve by leaps and bounds.
8) Baylor — It's impossible to replace RG3, one of the most dynamic and deadly offensive threats in Big 12 history. But having Nick Florence isn't quite like starting over. He started seven games when RG3 was injured three season ago, then relieved the Heisman winner last yea against Texas Tech, completing 9-of-12 passes for 151 yards and three combined passing and rushing touchdowns. He should hit the ground running.
9) Iowa State — The Cyclones are the one team on this list that appears to have a legitimate quarterback competition between Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett. Both led the Cyclones to wins a year ago. And both have had their struggles, including the recent spring game, where they combined to throw three interceptions to no touchdowns. Neither is an especially great or accurate passer, and both are threats with their legs.
10) Oklahoma State — Barring injuries, the Cowboys will be the only team in the Big 12 to roll out a true freshman starter on opening day, with early enrollee Wes Lunt holding off Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh in the spring. Lunt led Rochester (Ill.) to two state championships, throwing for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions as a senior, despite missing the first part of the year to injury.