Conference play is about to kickoff for six of the Big 12’s 10 teams this week.
And for the most part, the league has had exceptional quarterback play. Several new faces are making a name for themselves, and some are just cracking the surface to what they can accomplish in the Big 12 this fall. However, week four will start to seperate the contenders from the pretenders.
Here’s how the quarterbacks have panned out through three weeks of September.
10. Adrian Martinez, Kansas State: The Nebraska transfer hasn’t revealed much about his arm through three games. However, Kansas State currently ranks dead last in the Power Five in passing offense, and Tulane somewhat exposed Martinez’s confidence in the pocket. Although he rushed for a touchdown in each of the first two games, Martinez only threw for 53 yards against South Dakota, and 101 against Missouri. That’s because the offense has been riding All-American rusher Deuce Vaughn. He looked unstoppable through the first two contests, until the Green Wave’s defense slowed him down and forced Martinez to beat them with his arm, which he couldn’t. Martinez finally threw his first touchdown in game three. Still, Big 12 plays starts Saturday, and defenses are going to make him throw.
9. Hudson Card, Texas: He got inserted into the starting lineup after Quinn Ewers suffered an injury in the Alabama loss. Card is no stranger to leading the Longhorns’ offense though. The former four-star prospect started against Louisiana and Arkansas last year. Card filled in for Ewers against the Crimson Tide and finished with 158 yards through the air. The hometown kid followed up that performance with 161 passing yards and a touchdown in last week’s victory over UTSA. Ewers is expected to be out for a few more weeks, so Card will be making his first career start in Big 12 action, when Texas opens up conference play at Texas Tech this Saturday. Card has weapons in his arsenal in rusher Bijan Robinson and wideout Xavier Worthy. Steve Sarkisian must trust Card in order to open up the playbook.
8. Donovan Smith, Texas Tech: The gunslinger has held down Texas Tech’s offense after Tyler Shough suffered an injury. Through three games under first-year coach Joey McGuire, Smith has been solid. Smith threw for four touchdowns in the opening victory over Murray State. He followed up that performance with a season-high, 351 passing yards in the upset against Houston. Although Smith scored three touchdowns against the Cougars, he was picked off three times. Smith threw two more interceptions in the loss at NC State. He’ll have to stop turning the ball over if the Red Raiders are expecting any type of success in Big 12 play. Texas will be invading Jones AT&T Stadium this Saturday. However, Texas Tech has lost four-straight to Texas, and been outscored 223-149 in those meetings.
7. Blake Shapen, Baylor: He’s still one of the most underrated passers in the league. Although Shapen has looked promising in the pocket up to this point, Baylor prefers to run the ball. And the Bears are currently ranked 16th in the FBS in rush yards per game. Still, Shapen will have to air it out more as the reigning Big 12 champs open up conference play on the road at Iowa State this Saturday. His best game so far throwing the ball was in the opener against Albany. Shapen passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Great Danes. BYU’s defense limited Shapen to 137 yards through the air. Shapen didn’t have to do much in the victory over Texas State. Regardless, the Cyclones’ defense will present a different challenge for the signal-caller. After all, Iowa State currently has the Big 12’s best defense.
6. Max Duggan, TCU: The former four-star prospect is one of the most experienced players in the Big 12. Duggan was Gary Patterson’s starter for the past three seasons. Although first-year coach Sonny Dykes nabbed freshman Chandler Morris his starter in the opener against Colorado, he got injured in the second half. However, Duggan filled in nicely for Morris, and led the offense on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter as the Horned Frogs sealed the comfortable road victory. Duggan followed up that performance with 390 passing yards and a jaw-dropping, five touchdown tosses in the victory over Tarleton. TCU is coming off a bye-week and will travel on the road to play rival SMU. Duggan is no stranger to big games, but has yet to beat the Mustangs in his career with the Horned Frogs.
5. J.T. Daniels, West Virginia: The former USC and Georgia signal-caller has played solid through three games. Daniels has the experience, production and leadership to deliver Neal Brown and second winning season. However, he’ll need better play from the Mountaineers’ defense the rest of the way. Daniels threw for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Backyard Brawl loss. He had his best performance of the season in the overtime loss to Kansas. Daniels passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns against the Jayhawks, but threw a crucial interception. The former five-star prospect has scored seven total touchdowns. And his moxie in the pocket will be needed for the next two road games at Virginia Tech and Texas. Daniels will have opportunities to prove his worth in those clashes.
4. Hunter Dekkers, Iowa State: Life after Brock Purdy has been a smooth transition thus far for the Cyclones. After all, Iowa State is 3-0 for the first time since 2012. And a lot of the Cyclones’ success has come from the play of Dekkers. The Iowa native is currently No. 2 in the Big 12, with eight touchdown passes. Dekkers threw for a season-high, 293 yards and four scores in the victory over Southeast Missouri State. He followed up that performance with two interceptions at Iowa, but threw the go-ahead touchdown and secured Iowa State’s first victory in the rivalry since 2014. Not to mention Dekkers passed for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in last week’s win over Ohio. The Cyclones are looking like true Big 12 contenders, and Dekkers is blossoming before everyone’s eyes.
3. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma: The UCF transfer is making his mark with the blue blood program. Gabriel has played stellar through three games, and scored nine total touchdowns for the No. 6 Sooners. He’s been consistent with his accuracy and has yet to throw an interception with Oklahoma. Gabriel passed for 233 yards, two touchdowns, and added a rushing score in the opener against UTEP. The Hawaii native used Kent State’s defense for target practice, and passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns, which were both season-highs. Gabriel followed up that performance with an exceptional outing at Nebraska. Not only did he throw for 230 yards and two scores on the Blackshirts, but he also burned them for a 61-yard touchdown run. Now he needs to fasten the chin strap with Big 12 play starting Saturday.
2. Jalon Daniels, Kanas: So far he has been the biggest surprise of all the Big 12 quarterbacks in 2022. Not only has Daniels led the Jayhawks to their first 3-0 start since 2009, but he’s accomplished that on the road over the last two games. The former three-star prospect has been hurting defenses with his arm and legs. Daniels didn’t have to do much in the opener against Tennessee Tech. However, he threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns at West Virginia. Not to mention he rumbled for 85 yards on the ground against the Mountaineers. Daniels passed for three additional touchdowns, and went over the century mark in rushing yards in last week’s game at Houston. He has Kansas playing with extreme confidence, which is unheard of for a program that’s been a cellar dweller in the Big 12 for decades.
1. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: The signal-caller has been on a tear ever since his four-interception performance in last year’s Big 12 Championship game. Sanders led Oklahoma State to a comeback bowl victory over Notre Dame, and the rest has been history. He currently leads the Big 12, with 13 total touchdowns, including 10 passing. Not to mention Sanders is No. 1 in the league with 916 yards through the air. The 22-year old has scored a jaw-dropping, 73 total touchdowns in his career with the Pokes. Oklahoma State is currently ranked ninth in the AP Poll. And Sanders play on the gridiron has him looking like the Big 12’s best gunslinger. The Pokes will be on a bye in week four, but will open up conference play on the road against a team it came within an inch of beating for the Big 12 Title.