Newcomers West Virginia and TCU are fitting in nicely to the pass-crazy Big 12.
The Mountaineers’ Geno Smith and the Horned Frogs’ Casey Pachall have helped elevate the conference’s stock of talented quarterbacks following the departures to the NFL of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden.
Smith is among the national leaders in passing yards and is tied for the FBS lead with 12 touchdown passes. Pachall leads the country in passing efficiency with six other Big 12 quarterbacks among the top 20.
Five of the top 10 scoring teams in the country are from the Big 12, so it helps to have a quarterback up to the challenge of a frenetic offensive pace.
Last year the Big 12 had four 4,000-yard passers. Despite the losses of Weeden, Griffin and Ryan Tannehill of now-former Big 12 member Texas A&M, “the Big 12 is just going through the roof again with offensive numbers,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “So, it’s going to be fun to watch this thing.”
Smith and Griffin’s successor, Nick Florence, go head-to-head when No. 9 West Virginia (3-0) makes its Big 12 debut at home against No. 25 Baylor (3-0).
Smith thrust himself into the national conversation in West Virginia’s Orange Bowl whipping of Clemson and hasn’t stopped since. He’s thrown for 1,072 yards and 12 TDs with no interceptions this season.
Florence and Smith are 1-2 nationally in total offense at 388 and 380 yards per game, respectively.
Florence has gotten up to speed on the Baylor starting job. Because he was Griffin’s backup a year ago, Florence didn’t throw a pass until late November.
He’s coming off a 351-yard, four-TD performance in a comeback win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Pachall, who set school records for passing yards (2,921) and completions (228) as a sophomore last season, has kept up the pace this season and is the first Horned Frogs quarterback in 11 years with consecutive 300-yard passing games.
Let’s not forget about Big 12 veterans like Texas Tech’s Seth Doege, Iowa State’s Steele Jantz, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Texas’ David Ash.
Doege, coming off a 4,000-yard season a year ago, threw for six touchdowns in his last game against New Mexico. Both Doege and Jantz are averaging 25 completions per game, which is second in the league to Smith’s 32.
Then there’s the scrappy Klein, who may not have the gaudy numbers of other quarterbacks but has No. 7 Kansas State at its highest ranking in nine years.
And despite No. 16 Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State last week, Jones moved into ninth place in FBS history with 13,511 passing yards.
Ash is the only other Big 12 starter besides Smith without an interception.