Yesterday, we here at the Big 12 blog wrote that the conference's national perception had taken a hit because of the familiarity—or, the lack thereof—with the league's quarterbacks.
One new face in the Big 12 this year is first-year JUCO transfer Jake Waters at Kansas State. Waters beat out sophomore Daniel Sams for the chance to succeed Collin Klein and keep the Wildcats' mojo going into 2013, though Sams will see playing time this year as well.
When Bill Snyder made the announcement Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference, he cited Waters' consistency and leadership as two primary reasons he received the first-team consideration. It might just be coach speak, though Snyder is relatively transparent when it comes to answering questions and doling out information, but that's high praise for a player who hasn't even been on campus for a year.
As our own Sean Frye notes in a previous article, Waters came to K-State with plenty of accolades from the JUCO ranks. Waters was named the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year after he threw for just over 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns, helping Iowa Western bring home a national title.
But can Waters sustain that kind of success with the Wildcats? His first start on Saturday will come against North Dakota State of the FCS level. The Bison aren't a complete pushover—they've won the past two NCAA Division I national titles—but this should play out as a good first effort for Waters.
The rest of Kansas State's non-conference slate is manageable and should help Waters continue to gain confidence and chemistry in the passing game, but the junior will have a pair of tough road games back-to-back against Texas (Sept. 21) and Oklahoma State (Oct. 5) to start Big 12 play.
That's when we'll get to see what Waters is really made of and how he handles potential adversity in road environments.
The good news for Waters is that he's not thrust into an offensive situation where he has to make all the plays by himself. Running back John Hubert is back after rushing for 947 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012. Waters will also have receiver Tyler Lockett at his disposal, though with the losses of fellow receiver Chris Harper and tight end Travis Tannahill, other names have to step up in the receiving unit.
Media members covering the Big 12 project K-State to finish sixth in the conference this year. A lot of that uncertainty likely rests on the fact no one knew who'd be taking over for Klein last month.
There's still a lot of uncertainty even with Waters. After all, he hasn't started a single game yet.
But remember that K-State was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 last year and ended up in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. Like smoking or grinding our teeth, underestimating Snyder and the Wildcats is a bad habit of ours in the Big 12 media. And quitting is harder than you might think.
Can K-State get back to the top of Big 12 again this year with Waters behind center? Absolutely, especially with some of the key offensive playmakers he has around him. Relevancy in the Big 12 is not an issue for the Wildcats.
Relevancy on the national scale, BCS bowl appearance and a Heisman Trophy finalist? That may be harder to come by in 2013.
Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.