Quarterback play is usually an annual strength in the Big 12, and the 2020 crop of signal-callers features some of college football's top options. Texas' Sam Ehlinger leads the way in the 2020 quarterback rankings, but Iowa State's Brock Purdy, Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler and Baylor's Charlie Brewer aren't far behind. The next tier features Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders, Texas Tech's Alan Bowman and Kansas State's Skylar Thompson. West Virginia's Jarret Doege could have a breakout year in his first full season under center for coach Neal Brown.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2020. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors — pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2020 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) — were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2020.
Ranking Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2020
10. Thomas MacVittie, Kansas
The Jayhawks showed some signs of life on offense once Brent Dearmon took over as the team’s play-caller last season. Carter Stanley’s 24 touchdown passes in 2019 was the first time a Kansas quarterback had eclipsed more than 20 scores through the air since ’09. MacVittie started his career at Pitt and received playing time on special teams in three games in 2017. The Ohio native transferred to Mesa (Ariz.) Community College for one year (2018) and returned to the FBS level by joining the roster in Lawrence. MacVittie played in two contests last fall and misfired on his only pass attempt.
9. Matthew Downing, TCU
With Max Duggan out indefinitely due to a heart issue discovered this offseason during testing, Downing and junior college recruit Stephon Brown are slated to handle the quarterback duties for TCU. Downing – a former walk-on at Georgia – arrived in Fort Worth in 2019 and did not see any action last year. However, as a freshman with the Bulldogs in 2018, Downing connected on eight of 10 passes for 88 yards in four appearances. Brown started his career at Appalachian State and played one season at Independence (Kan.) Community College. He ranked as the No. 162 overall JUCO prospect by the 247Sports Composite.
8. Jarret Doege, West Virginia
Doege provided a spark to West Virginia’s offense over the last three games of 2019. The Bowling Green transfer played extensively off the bench in a road defeat at Texas Tech but proceeded to finish 2-1 as the starter, guiding the program to road wins over Kansas State and TCU. Doege connected on 65.8 percent of his throws in his four appearances and threw for 818 yards and seven touchdowns to just three picks. Additionally, outside of the season finale at TCU, Doege posted at least seven yards per attempt in the other three contests for the Mountaineers. Of West Virginia’s 20 completions of 30 or more yards, six came under Doege’s watch in the final four games. Austin Kendall is back to battle for the job, but Doege should be the starter.
7. Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
Thompson is coming off his best season in a K-State uniform. After throwing for 13 touchdowns and 2,080 yards in his first two years on campus, Thompson threw for 12 and 2,315 yards overall last fall. He also posted single-season highs in rushing yards (405) and touchdowns (11). Although Thompson will be working behind a revamped offensive line, the Missouri native seems poised to take another step forward as a senior.
6. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
Sanders’ freshman season was derailed in mid-November due to a thumb injury, as he missed the final two contests and saw just a couple of snaps in the Texas Bowl loss to Texas A&M. But prior to the injury, Sanders flashed his potential by throwing for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns and running for 628 yards and two scores on the ground. The Texas native earned Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors, and his 2,065 passing yards were the most by a freshman in school history. Sanders did throw 11 interceptions but seven of those came in three games. His yards per attempt finished at a healthy 8.4, while the completion percentage ended at 62.8. Sanders is a rising star, and with receiver Tylan Wallace back from injury on the outside, the sophomore should be even better in 2020.
5. Alan Bowman, Texas Tech
Talent isn’t an issue with Bowman, but injuries have limited him to just 11 games over the last two years. When healthy, Bowman has been very effective in directing the Red Raiders’ high-powered attack. In 2018 as a true freshman, Bowman threw for 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns over eight games. He was off to a fast start under new coach Matt Wells last year, connecting on 101 of 154 passes for 1,020 yards and six scores to just three picks. Bowman has attempted 481 passes in his career and connected on 68 percent of those throws. The Big 12 is deep at quarterback, but if he can avoid the injury bug from the last two years, Bowman has a good chance to move up this list by December.
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2020
4. Charlie Brewer, Baylor
Brewer’s No. 4 ranking among Big 12 passers shows just how deep the Big 12 is at quarterback for 2020. And while Baylor is reloading a bit on defense and needs to improve up front on offense, Brewer’s return should be enough to keep this program in contention for a trip to the Big 12 title game under new coach Dave Aranda. After passing for 1,562 yards and 11 scores as a freshman in 2017, Brewer took those totals a level higher in ’18 by tossing 19 touchdowns and 3,019 yards. The Texas native was even better last season, connecting on 251 passes for 3,161 yards and 21 touchdowns. Over the last three years, Brewer has passed for 7,742 yards and 51 scores and added another 885 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground.
3. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Rattler has yet to make a start in his Oklahoma career but this ranking might already be too low. In his three years as head coach, two of Lincoln Riley’s quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) won the Heisman Trophy, and the other (Jalen Hurts) finished second. Considering the track record, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rattler end 2020 as the top quarterback in the Big 12. The Arizona native came to Norman as a five-star recruit in the 2019 class. Rattler played in three contests and connected on seven of his 11 throws for 81 yards and a touchdown. Even though his next start will be his first, the track record of Riley’s quarterbacks is enough to put Rattler already among the best in the nation.
2. Brock Purdy, Iowa State
With Purdy at the controls, it’s no surprise Iowa State’s offense set its share of records last season and posted the second-best scoring average (32.2 ppg) in school history. The Arizona native started in all 13 games for the Cyclones and threw for 3,982 yards and 27 touchdowns to just nine picks. Purdy showcased his accuracy (65.7 percent) and big-time arm (8.4 yards per attempt). He led Big 12 quarterbacks in passing yards per game (306.3) and connected on six throws of 60 yards or more. Purdy ran for 249 yards and eight scores on the ground. Purdy had a breakout performance as a freshman in 2018 by throwing for 318 yards and four scores at Oklahoma State. In 23 career appearances, Purdy is averaging nine yards a pass and has already accumulated 6,232 yards through the air.
1. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Ehlinger is coming off the best statistical season of his career in Austin. Over 13 starts, Ehlinger posted career highs in passing yards (3,663), touchdowns (32), yards per attempt (8.1), and rushing yards (663). Ehlinger’s rushing touchdowns dipped from 16 in 2018 to seven last fall, but his yards per carry increased from 2.9 to 4.1. Coach Tom Herman hired Mike Yurcich to work as offensive coordinator and handle play-calling duties, and while there’s a change in who calls the plays, the shift in responsibilities won’t result in drastic changes to Ehlinger’s production. The senior won’t have go-to receivers Collin Johnson or Devin Duvernay anymore, but Ehlinger’s accuracy and playmaking ability will once again be on display for the Longhorns.
Podcast: Breaking Down College Football's QB Rankings for 2020