The state of college football — and indeed the world — looks a lot different now than it did a year ago heading into the start of a new season. As a result of the COIVD-19 pandemic, we don't really know what to expect on the gridiron this fall nor how, exactly, things might play out both between the lines and outside of them.
Given such uncertainty surrounding the upcoming campaign, it will be more important than ever for teams to have a quarterback they can rely on to deliver the big play and secure those crucial wins. There's no position more important on the field and a good signal-caller can certainly be the difference between a conference title and trip to the playoff or being on the wrong end of an upset.
Few leagues have such an association with good QB play than the Big 12, which will sport one of the best groups in the country — one that is capable of going up against anybody on any given Saturday. With some big names involved, here are the best matchups involving Big 12 quarterbacks in 2020:
Note: Given recent decisions by the Big Ten and Pac-12 to play conference-only opponents this fall, it's entirely possible that the Big 12 will either modify its schedule or be impacted by another conference taking similar action. Matchups listed below reflect games that are still currently scheduled.
1. Brock Purdy (Iowa State) at Sam Ehlinger (Texas) — Nov. 21
These two have split their two meetings in recent years and this late-November tilt could have some serious Big 12 title game implications by the time it rolls around for the rubber match. Ehlinger is perhaps the best senior QB in the country and will be looking to put together a campaign much like the one two seasons ago when he led the Longhorns to a Sugar Bowl win. Purdy has played a significant role in elevating the Cyclones nationally and has all the pieces in place to lead an assault on the conference crown in 2020.
2. Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) vs. Sam Ehlinger (Texas) — Oct. 10 (Dallas)
We might not get the traditional 50/50 split of fans at the Cotton Bowl this year but the game remains one of the biggest on the calendar nationally and in the Big 12. Rattler is the presumed heir apparent to the long line of Heisman-caliber QBs in Norman while Ehlinger is the established veteran in the Lone Star State. Who will don the golden hat at the end of the game? Whichever of this pair puts up the biggest numbers is always a good bet as the rivalry enters a new phase.
3. Sam Ehlinger (Texas) at Myles Brennan (LSU) — Sept. 12
LSU’s magical national title run was sparked in large part because of their win in Austin a year ago. That played a big role in Brennan’s predecessor Joe Burrow cobbling together one of the (or is it simply the) best seasons a quarterback has ever put together. So no pressure for the return outing in Death Valley for the presumed successor to the offense to follow, eh? Looking to make sure the tables are turned, Ehlinger no doubt will be looking to go into Tiger Stadium and notch the win he came close to in last year’s duel.
4. Charlie Brewer (Baylor) at Sam Ehlinger (Texas) — Oct. 31
Brewer and Ehlinger’s history facing off against each other dates well before they were rivals up I-35. Both starred for Austin-area high schools as youngsters and each has some impressive wins and numbers over the others since then. This final meeting in the college ranks will once again carry Big 12 title implications for both sides and also should showcase two of the best the Lone Star State has to offer behind center.
5. Charlie Brewer (Baylor) vs. John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss) — Sept. 6 (Houston)
These two hard-nosed dual-threats facing off against each other adds to the chess match that is sure to develop between their new head coaches in Houston. Plumlee certainly made teams pay if they left a running lane open but he did well to launch a few bombs over the top too last year. Add in Lane Kiffin’s offensive system and there should be plenty of fireworks for the Rebels moving forward this year. Seeing what that pair can come up against in Houston against Brewer and defensive mastermind Dave Aranda only adds to a fun non-conference game on Labor Day weekend.
6. Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) at Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) — Oct. 24
Bedlam will be a battle between Spencers who love to throw the ball around and produce the big play. Sanders has more game experience under his belt and gets the benefit of playing alongside one of the sport’s best receivers and running backs. Still, we’ve all see what kind of video game numbers the Sooners put up in Lincoln Riley’s system and Rattler is the next in line at the trigger in this Big 12 tilt.
7. Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) at Brock Purdy (Iowa State) — Oct. 17
The OU-ISU series has been strikingly competitive since Matt Campbell’s arrival in Ames and a lot of that has to do with the quarterback play. Purdy nearly pulled off the upset of the College Football Playoff-bound Sooners, falling just short on a two-point conversion with less than 30 seconds left after a furious second-half rally. Rattler will have to avoid taking his foot off of the gas as this one could easily develop into another shootout with massive conference title game implications.
8. Sam Ehlinger (Texas) at Alan Bowman (Texas Tech) — Oct. 24
Bowman hasn’t yet played the Longhorns thanks to injuries but hopefully he’ll get his shot this October. A prolific signal-caller when healthy, he is capable of making life miserable for opposing defenses. Ehlinger has scored eight TDs against Tech and will be looking to make sure to extend that number while notching a third win over the fellow Big 12 product at the same time.
9. Brock Purdy (Iowa State) at Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) — Oct. 10
Sanders didn’t look like a freshman when he went into Ames and powered a surprising upset of a ranked team. Purdy didn’t play anywhere close to his best, which means a bit of revenge will be on his mind for the go-around in Stillwater this October. Expect plenty of points and yards aplenty in this one as both signal-callers have that knack for scoring touchdowns out of nowhere.
10. Charlie Brewer (Baylor) at Brock Purdy (Iowa State) — Nov. 14
These two took turns making a flair for the dramatic in a wild game that swung in all sorts of directions as the clock wound down. Purdy came up just short of a key early victory despite rallying to the tune of three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Brewer saved his best for last in driving down the field for the winning field goal, setting up what should be an equally interesting rematch in Ames.
Best of the rest:
- Seth Doege (West Virginia) vs. James Blackman (Florida State) — Sept. 5 (Atlanta)
- Alan Bowman (Texas Tech) at Brock Purdy (Iowa State) — Sept. 26
- Max Duggan (TCU) at Shane Buechele (SMU) — Sept. 26
- Charlie Brewer (Baylor) at Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) — Oct. 3
- Alan Bowman (Texas Tech) at Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) — Oct. 31
- Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) at Skylar Thompson (Kansas State) — Nov. 21
- Sam Ehlinger (Texas) at Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) — Nov. 27
- Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) at Alan Bowman (Texas Tech) — Nov. 28
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.