19 Oct

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The Rise of the Big 12 Quarterback in the NFL

Through the years, the Big 12 has built a reputation as a conference filled with record-setting passing quarterbacks. The University of Texas has had their fair share of them in the past decade in Heisman contenders Colt McCoy and Vince Young, and even David Ash has been putting up impressive number lately (We'll disregard the game against Oklahoma). But anyone spectating the Big 12 at large knows that aerial assaults aren't exclusive to UT. To the point, four Big 12 quarterbacks outside of Texas(West Virginia's Geno Smith, Texas Tech's Seth Doege, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Baylor's Nick Florence respectively) rank in the FBS Report's top 25 for quarterbacks. Even Garrett Gilbert, formerly of Texas (as if we had forgotten) is making some noise at SMU.

The stat makes an impression but for years those numbers haven't necessarily translated to the next and biggest stage of a player's potential career, the NFL. That fact isn't limited to the Big 12. Let's face it, there are plenty more players like Kliff Kingsbury, who fit into the right college system, than there are guys like Tom Brady. However, a closer look at the list of NFL quarterbacks and their college lineage indicates that, as the NFL shifts to a more passer friendly offensive format, the Big 12 quarterback is heavily factoring in the equation.

Horns Illustrated did a little stat crunching to give some insight into how each college conference ranks in terms of numbers of pro quarterbacks. If a quarterback's university exited or entered the Big 12 within the last two years, we accounted for the conference in which the quarterback played at the time of his college career.

Number of current starting NFL quarterbacks per conference

Big 12 - 7 Robert Griffin III, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Blaine Gabbert - Tannehill and Gabbert played in the Big 12 during their college career, so they are counted as Big 12 products

Pac 12 - 7 Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Jake Locker, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel

ACC - 6 Matt Ryan, Christian Ponder, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Matt Hasselbeck

SEC - 4 Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler

Big 10 - 3 Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson

MWC - 1 Andy Dalton - TCU was in the Mountain West Conference at the time

MAC - 1 Ben Roethlisberger

CAA- 1 Joe Flacco

Ohio Valley Conference - 1 Tony Romo

Ivy League - 1 Ryan Fitzpatrick

Conference USA - 1 Kevin Kolb

Out of all the conferences listed, the Big 12 is the only one on the list without a starting quarterback who has played over three seasons in the NFL. Two current Big 12 quarterbacks, Geno Smith and Landry Jones, project to land on NFL squads in 2013, so the trajectory of all the QB's would seem to be pointing upward. Of course, anyone who has seen Blaine Gabbert or Brandon Weeden play in the pros so far might argue otherwise, but it's reasonable to say the number of Big 12 quarterbacks starting will stay at least static, if you assume Geno Smith will be a starting QB in less than two seasons. He may actually end up replacing Gabbert or Weeden, given their team's projected draft position. Either way, it's clearly about time to give the conference its due as the quarterbacks are passing other conferences by in the NFL.