Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
Today's thesis explores and expands upon the truism that the quarterback is the most important player in college football.
Considering the responsibilities and freedoms given to most quarterbacks in this age of the spread offense, focusing attention and value on the position isn't necessarily ground breaking. Unless Your Favorite Team uses a variation of the WildHog offense, the quarterback handles the ball on every non-kicking play from scrimmage.
But here's an update on the theory that quarterback is king. Not only does the QB control the destiny of his team's offense, his leadership, demeanor and play-making can seep into his defense and the entire depth chart.
Unless you've spent the last few months in the International Space Station, you should know that this is The Year Of The Quarterback in the Big 12. Winning the Heisman Trophy might be easier than being selected as the conference's first-team QB.
"That's what makes the conference you're in so unique. You have so many quarterbacks who are the best player or one of the four or five best players on their team," Kansas State coach Ron Prince said. "The players understand you're never out of it, no matter what the score is. They know their guy will give 'em a chance to pull it out."
When Kansas trudged to the locker room at Iowa State Saturday, the Jayhawks trailed 20-0. But all it took was a few second-half plays by quarterback Todd Reesing - three touchdown passes, a key scramble to set up a score - to spark a game-winning rally.
"If your quarterback is making plays, moving the chains, getting points, showing leadership, it rubs off on the entire team," Kansas coach Mark Magino said. "The quarterback is the center of attention on most teams. He has the ball in his hands every snap so he has to be a guy you can trust."
Missouri's defense spends over 36 minutes a game on the field and it's not because the Tigers' offense is inept. On the contrary, Mizzou scores at such a fast pace that the defense never rests ... physically. Mentally, Missouri defenders understand the offense led by Chase Daniel can score bunches in seconds.
Iowa State coach Gene Chizik was the defensive coordinator at Texas in 2005 when Vince Young led the Longhorns to the national championship.
"It's huge, it filters throughout your whole team," Chizik said when asked about how a quarterback can lift an entire team. You want to have hope. For a defense, having an offense that can score provides hope. The quarterback typically is the heartbeat on offense. If you've got a guy who's a great leader, exudes confidence, I think you have a confident team.
"Teams that aren't sure about their quarterback, don't have a lot of confidence, I think that creates emotional swings. When something bad happens, the first reaction is, 'Can we recover from this?'"
How important is quarterback play? Ten of the top 20 quarterbacks in passing efficiency are on undefeated teams and those 20 teams with the top QBs have a combined winning percentage of .840. Only five of the top 20 rushers are playing for undefeated teams and the teams with the 20 top rushers have a combined winning percentage of .702.
It's not surprising that the two Big 12 games Saturday that match 5-0 teams involve four of the top five quarterbacks in passing efficiency.
The Red River Rivalry collision between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas features Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford (second in passing efficiency) against the Longhorns' Colt McCoy (fourth). No. 17 Oklahoma State at No. 2 Missouri matches the Cowboys' Zac Robinson (third) against the Tigers' Chase Daniel (fifth).
"It rubs off on everyone when you've got a great player, great leader at quarterback," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Anytime you're performing well it energizes everybody."
Don't forget this one
A national television audience and the focus of the sport will be on the Oklahoma-Texas game Saturday in Dallas' Cotton Bowl. With both teams undefeated (5-0), the Sooners ranked No. 1 and the Longhorns No. 5, the attention is justified.
While the UT-OU game could wind up a classic in Red River Rivalry history, there's another Big 12 game that is just as intriguing and might wind up just as riveting.
No. 17 Oklahoma State visits second-ranked Missouri Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2). The Cowboys are sixth in total offense, third in scoring while the Tigers are third in total offense, second in scoring. Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin are play makers as receivers and return men. The scoreboard operator and statisticians are on high alert.
But with all the yards and points expected, time of possession could be the stat worth tracking. Missouri, with its quick-strike offense, is next to last in time of possession. The Cowboys are second nationally in rushing yardage and they could control the football with the running game.
"What they want to do is get out there and run the football," said coach Gary Pinkel, whose team is second in the Big 12 in rushing defense. "Their rushing yards are phenomenal ... They run the football as well as anyone in the country. We'll be tested, we'll find out how strong we are against the run."
So much for the theory that when conference play starts, offenses get more conservative and defenses become stingy.
In non-conference play, the average score in a Big 12 game was 40-19. In the six conference games played Saturday, the average score was 48-23; three of the winners scored 50 or more points.
"Everybody is scoring so many points," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We used to think 50s were a blowout. Now, in the Big 12, it looks like people are getting 50 every week.
"I think our offenses are probably the best in the country. It's putting a tremendous amount of pressure on all of our defenses."
Giving 100 percent
Oklahoma middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds had 14 tackles against Baylor. When Sooners defensive coordinator Brent Venables broke down the game film, he tried his best to avoid giving Reynolds a perfect grade.
“He graded out at 100 percent. I don’t know that I’ve ever had that before,” Venables said. “I tried to be very nit-picky."
Here's how Venables explained the grading process: "It's lining up correctly. No mental errors. No loafs. Playing with great technique every snap. If you're supposed to (get) the curl (route), you cover the curl. If you're supposed to (get) the hook (route), cover the hook. If you're supposed to take your guy man-to-man, you take him. If you're supposed to make certain checks in certain situations, then you do it. And you can't miss tackles when given the opportunity."
This is for the stat geeks and the number nerds. There have been 256 scoring drives by Big 12 teams and 118 of those (46 percent) have taken two minutes or less. The average length of those 118 drives is 52 yards and the average number of plays is 3.5.
4: Big 12 teams in the top six in total offense.
5: Big 12 teams with undefeated records, more than any other conference. There are 11 other undefeated teams in the 10 Division I-A conferences.
6: Big 12 teams in the top nine in scoring offense.
144: Consecutive passes without an interception by Texas Tech's Graham Harrell.
.817: The combined winning percentage of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and Mack Brown at Texas. In his 10th season, Stoops is 102-22; Brown is 108-25 in his 11th season.
"If he does anything good his teammates start screaming, 'Hale storm!' So we were happy for Hale to finally do some skill things."
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after junior Ryan Hale, a converted linebacker who is the Red Raiders' "blocking back" scored his first touchdown on a four-yard reception against Kansas State.
"It just goes to show, if we play a full game like we did in the first half, we can beat anybody. That's the kind of mentality this team has."
-Iowa State offensive guard Ben Lamaak on the Cyclones leading Kansas 20-0 at halftime but losing 35-33 Saturday.
“We’re usually both undefeated or close to it. There’s always that national perspective that if you don’t win this one it gets real tough on you. That’s the best part about the rivalry; it’s two teams that are always good.”
- Oklahoma defensive end Auston English on the annual Red River Rivalry game with Texas.
Five for five
Missouri has scored a touchdown on its opening drive in each game. Here's the breakdown: