The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel.
Here's how Athlon ranks the 10 quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2012
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (SR)
Passing Stats: 4,385 yards, 31 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.8%
Rushing Stats: 56 att., -33 yds., 2 TDs
Dana Holgorsen’s new pass-first attack didn’t disappoint the fans in Morgantown last season. The offense had a few ups and downs and struggled to run the ball at times, but Smith finished with 4,385 yards and 31 scores and tossed only seven picks. Smith capped off a solid regular season with a huge performance in the bowl rout over Clemson, gashing the Tigers’ secondary for 407 yards and six touchdowns. With another offseason to pickup Holgorsen’s offense, look for Smith to be even better in 2012. The Mountaineers are also loaded with options at receiver, and the offensive line should show some improvement. With plenty of suspect defensive backfields awaiting in Big 12 play, Smith could easily improve upon last season’s totals.
2. Collin Klein, Kansas State (SR)
Passing Stats: 1,918 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT, 57.3%
Rushing Stats: 317 att., 1,141 yards, 27 TD
Fans likely didn’t know how special CK-7 was all until Week 3. On the road against Miami, Klein rushed 22 times for 93 yards and a touchdown to go with an efficient 12-of-18 passing effort (133 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) in the upset win over the Canes. He went on to account for 40 touchdowns, including tying an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single-season, and led the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. Only Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish (1,379 yards) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (1,379) had more rushing yards by a quarterback last season and Klein finished fifth in the Big 12 in rushing and led the league in scoring (12.5 ppg). The workhorse quarterback carried 317 times, third nationally behind only Bobby Rainey (369) amd Robbie Rouse (329). With a rebuilt offensive line in front of him, the sledding will undoubtedly be tougher in 2012, but Klein is still the unquestioned heart and soul of Wildcat football.
3. Landy Jones, Oklahoma (SR)
Passing Stats: 4,463 yards, 29 TD, 15 INT, 63.1%
Rushing Stats: 32 att., -24 yards, 2 TD
Not many players enter their senior season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones. The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories (63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT). Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish in 2011, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless. With a full spring and summer to break in the semi-new receiving corps, there is no reason to think Jones won't bounce back as a senior and become the unquestioned leader of Crimson and Cream nation.
4. Casey Pachall, TCU (JR)
Passing Stats: 2,911 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT, 66.5%
Rushing Stats: 68 att., 51 yards, 2 TD
Pachall had the unenviable task of following arguably the greatest quarterback in TCU history, Andy Dalton, last fall and performed brilliantly. His 157.98 passer efficiency trailed only the legendary Kellen Moore in the Mountain West ranks — and Moore certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of what happened in their head-to-head meeting. Pachall passed for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in the road win over the Broncos. TCU’s signal caller has all of the physical tools of an elite Big 12 quarterback, but making the week-in, week-out adjustment to “big-time” college football will be a test for the junior. With stellar wide receivers and an extremely deep running back group behind him, though, the Horned Frogs should have little trouble adapting to life in the Big 12.
5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (SR)
Passing Stats: 4,004 yards, 28 TD, 10 INT, 68.5%
Rushing Stats: 54 att., 46 yards, 4 TD
This Texas Tech quarterback very quietly accounted for 32 touchdowns, topped 4,000 yards of total offense and completed nearly 70% of his passes. So it wasn’t really Doege’s fault that Texas Tech lost seven of its last eight games in 2011. That distinguished honor belongs to the defense. That said, six of his 10 interceptions came over the five-game losing streak that ended the season while only six of his 28 touchdown passes came during that span. If Doege can play like he did in the first seven games — where he posted a 5-2 record with six 300-yard games and 22 touchdowns — Tech has a chance to return to the postseason.
6. Nick Florence, Baylor (SR)
Passing Stats: 151 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 75%
Rushing Stats: 7 att., 14 yards, 1 TD
Florence might have one of the toughest jobs in college football next season. Replacing Robert Griffin’s production is difficult enough, but Florence has to find a way to keep Baylor in the Big 12 title mix, while replicating last season’s 10 wins. Although the senior may not be able to match Griffin’s physical ability or his production, he should be able to keep Baylor in the mix for eight or nine wins. After Griffin went down with an ACL tear in 2009, Florence started seven games and finished with 1,786 yards and six touchdowns. He also made one appearance last year, completing 9 of 12 passes for 151 yards and two scores. Florence has plenty of weapons at his disposal and all signs point to a standout senior year.
7. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State (JR)
Passing Stats: 307 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 66.7%
Rushing Stats: 3 att., -14 yards
As of early April, it was anyone’s guess which quarterback will start for Oklahoma State in the season opener. Chelf has the most experience on the roster, completing 34 of 49 career passes for 520 yards and five touchdowns. However, the junior has yet to play any meaningful snaps and is locked in a tight battle with freshman Wes Lunt and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh this spring. It’s a lot to ask for a true freshman to come in and win the starting quarterback job in a semester, so the battle to replace Brandon Weeden will likely come down to Walsh and Chelf. Walsh brings a little more mobility to the table, but doesn’t have the experience. Although Weeden was one of the top quarterbacks in college football last season, expect whichever player wins the job to have a successful season.
8. David Ash, Texas (SO)
Passing Stats: 1,068 yards, 4 TDs, 8 INTs, 56.6%
Rushing Stats: 73 car., 103 yards, 1 TD
If Texas wants to win the Big 12 title in 2012, it’s all about the quarterback play. The Longhorns improved their win total by three games from 2010 to 2011, but need better play from under center to take the next step. Ash seems to have wrestled control of the starting position from Case McCoy, especially after he threw for 142 yards and a score in the Holiday Bowl. The sophomore also has good mobility, but had only one game over 25 rushing yards last season. Ash is only a sophomore, so he should improve with more playing time. The offense also figures to be in better shape in 2012, especially with another offseason to pickup coordinator Bryan Harsin’s scheme.
9. Dayne Crist, Kansas (SR)
Passing Stats: 164 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 62.5%
Rushing Stats: 5 att., -16 yards
Only Terrelle Pryor was ranked higher than Crist when he signed with Notre Dame out of high school in 2008. And with Brian Kelly coming to town, he appeared to be only one letter away from savior status. After a strong start to the 2010 season — 2,033 yards, 15 TD in eight games — a torn knee ended his season for the second straight year. He returned in 2011 with eyes on the Irish starting job, but after a poor showing, Crist was benched for Tommy Rees in Week 1. Originally recruited by Charlie Weis to South Bend, Crist decided to transfer to Kansas for his final season. Reunited with his former coach, and eligible to play right away having already graduated, Crist enters his final collegiate season with one more short at redemption.
10. Jared Barnett, Iowa State (SO)
Passing Stats: 1,201 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 50%
Rushing Stats: 104 att., 437 yards, 1 TD
Steele Jantz began last season as Iowa State’s No. 1 quarterback, but an injury and turnover issues opened the door for Barnett to emerge as the starter. Barnett finished the year with 1,201 yards and six passing touchdowns, but also added 437 yards and one score on the ground. The sophomore also led Iowa State to its biggest win of the season, a 37-31 overtime upset over Oklahoma State in Ames. Although Barnett had a terrific performance against the Cowboys (376 yards, three touchdowns), he did not top 200 passing yards in any other game. The Cyclones have a new offensive coordinator and will miss All-Big 12 left tackle Kelechi Osemele. Although both of those are negatives for Barnett, he should be better with more snaps under his belt.
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