NCAA Football: The Top 15 QBs in Big 12 History
In the 15 seasons since the Big 12 Conference was born, there have already been a number of great quarterbacks.
Prior to the 1996 season, the University of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor played in the Southwestern Conference. Meanwhile, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa and Colorado belonged to the Big 8 Conference.
Since the schools joined forces, the Big 12 has won three National Champions, producing three quarterbacks who were also Heisman winners.
Here are the top 15 quarterbacks in Big 12 history.
15. Randy McCown, Texas A&M Aggies
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McCown had an injury-plagued career with Texas A&M, but he made the most of his limited playing time.
In 1998, Texas A&M went 11-3 and went to its only BCS game with McCown as the first string quarterback. However, McCown played in only seven games due a separated shoulder, causing him to miss the Big 12 Championship Game as well as the Nokia Sugar Bowl.
Yet during the 1999 season, McCown led the Aggies to an 8-4 record and another bowl appearance. McCown threw for 2374 yards that season, including three games in which he threw for over 300 yards.
In a game against Tulsa, McCown threw a 96-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Taylor, the longest play from scrimmage in school history.
While McCown threw just 22 touchdowns as an Aggie, he was a big part of two of the Aggies' most successful seasons—and will not soon be forgotten.
14. Zac Taylor, Nebraska Cornhuskers
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For a program known best for good defense and a strong running game, Zac Taylor had a great deal of success as a Nebraska passer.
During the 2005 season, Taylor threw for 2653 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in his first year with Nebraska. That season, he led Nebraska to an 8-4 record, including a victory over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.
Taylor had another impressive season throwing the football in 2006, racking up 3197 passing yards and 26 touchdown. Nebraska played two more games than the previous year but had similar results, going 9-5 for the season.
13. Joel Klatt, Colorado Buffaloes
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Although Klatt was not the starting quarterback until after two of the Colorado Buffaloes' best seasons, he made tremendous strides when he was put to work.
Colorado had a bit of a down year in 1997, Klatt's first year as a starter. The Huskies went just 5-7, but Klatt threw for an impressive 21 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions.
The following season, Klatt led Colorado to an 8-5 record, including a win over UTEP in the Houston Bowl.
During Klatt's senior year he played very well, leading Colorado to a second consecutive Big North title. (However, Colorado went on to lose to Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl.)
12. Major Applewhite, Texas Longhorns
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One of four Longhorns on this list, Applewhite was the first of many successful Texas quarterbacks under head coach Mack Brown.
Applewhite was 22-8 as a starter with Texas from 1998-2000. He was extremely consistent, throwing between 18 and 21 touchdowns each season, helping Texas win nine games in each of the three seasons.
Knee injuries eventually sidelined Applewhite during his senior season, opening the door for Chris Simms to become the next Texas quarterback.
11. Chris Simms, Texas Longhorns
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Although he never played in a BCS game, Simms had a very successful two-year run as the starting quarterback at Texas.
The son of NFL quarterback Phil Simms, Chris threw for 22 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions in 2001. Texas began that season 10-1, their only loss coming to Oklahoma, as the Red Raiders established themselves as one of the favorites to win the title. However, Texas lost a heartbreaking game to Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game, ending their title hopes.
In 2002, Simms improved slightly on the prior season, throwing for 3207 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. Texas began 9-1, their loss coming from Oklahoma—but eventually they went down to Texas Tech late in the season.
The Longhorns went on to beat Louisiana State in the Cotton Bowl, finishing the season 12-2 for the second year in a row.
10. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech Red Raiders
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Playing in a pass-heavy system under head coach Mike Leach, Harrell put up amazing statistics as the Texas Tech starting quarterback.
During the 2007 season, Harrell led Texas Tech to nine wins and threw 48 touchdowns. Harrell threw for 5705 yards on the season, the second highest total in NCAA football history.
Harrell had his best overall season in 2008, leading Texas Tech to an 11-2 record. That season, Harrell threw for 5,111 passing yards and 45 touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the Big 12 all-time greats.
9. Chase Daniel, Missouri Tigers
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Daniel had a fantastic college career and just might be the best Missouri quarterback ever.
In 2006 Daniel had a very solid season, throwing for 3527 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He led Missouri to eight wins, their most since 1998.
Daniel improved the following season by throwing for 4306 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. That season, Missouri began the year 11-1, their only loss coming to a very good Oklahoma team.
In the Big 12 Championship game, Missouri lost to Oklahoma once again, eventually costing them a BCS bowl appearance. The Tigers were instead selected to play in the Cotton Bowl, where they beat Arkansas 38-7. They finished the season 12-2.
Following extremely high expectations in 2008 Daniel had his best statistical season, but Missouri went 10-4—two wins less than the previous year. For the season, Daniel threw for 39 touchdowns and had an amazing completion percentage of 72.9 percent.
8. Jason White, Oklahoma Sooners
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White's college career got off to a late start, but he had great success with Oklahoma in 2003 and 2004.
After battling injuries throughout his first three seasons with Oklahoma, White finally became the regular starter in 2003 at 23 years old. Oklahoma started off the season 12-0 including seven 50-point games, arguably forming one of the best teams in college football history.
Ultimately, though, Oklahoma lost both the Big 12 Championship game (to Kansas State) and the National Championship Game (to LSU). Still, they finished the season 12-2, scoring the most points in the nation. For that season, White threw for 3846 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, earning Heisman Trophy honors.
Oklahoma's 2004 season began even hotter than the previous year, 13-0 and again in the BCS National Championship game. (However, there they were blown out by USC 55-19 in their second championship loss in as many seasons.)
7. Eric Crouch, Nebraska Cornhuskers
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Crouch does not have the same passing numbers as many of the other guys on this list, but he used a balanced attack that worked out well for Nebraska.
As a traditional game manager, Crouch averaged less than 15 passing attempts per game, but he kept the offense in check with great decision making.
In 1999, Crouch's first season as the starting quarterback for Nebraska, he led the team to a 12-1 record, including a victory over Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska's only loss that season came in Texas against a tough Longhorns team.
Crouch continued his success in his second season, leading Nebraska to ten wins, including a victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. During that season, Crouch threw for just 1101 passing yards, but ran for 971 yards and had 20 rushing touchdowns.
In Crouch's third season, he once again led Nebraska to double-digit wins. Nebraska won their first 11 games of the season but lost to Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game, and then lost again to a dominant Miami team in the BCS Championship.
Despite just 4481 passing yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons as the Nebraska's starting quarterback, Crouch won 31 games, a Cornhusker quarterback record.
6. Scott Frost, Nebraska Cornhuskers
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Nebraska had many great seasons during the final years of the Big 8 Conference and their dominance lasted through the start of the Big 12 Conference.
In 1996—Frost's first season as the quarterback of Nebraska—the Cornhuskers began the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. However, Nebraska lost their second game of the season 19-0 against Arizona State. Fans booed Frost for much of the season despite the fact that Nebraska finished the season with an 11-2 record and a victory in the Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech.
Frost began to gain the respect of Nebraska fans when the Cornhuskers got off to a hot start in 1997, including a victory at No. 2 ranked Washington. Frost and Nebraska finished the regular season 13-0 after defeating Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, earning a split National Championship with Michigan.
5. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma Sooners
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Prior to the 1999 season the Oklahoma Sooners struggled for many years. This began to change with the hiring of Bob Stoops as the head coach, along with the fantastic play of Josh Heupel at the quarterback position.
Oklahoma went 7-5 in 1999, their first winning season since 1993. Heupel enjoyed an impressive season offensively, throwing for 3850 passing yards and 33 touchdowns.
In 2000, Heupel led Oklahoma to a 13-0 record and a National Championship, beating Florida State 13-2 in the title game. Heupel won AP Player of the Year honors and finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Since 2000 Oklahoma has had many great seasons, but has yet to win another national championship.
4. Michael Bishop, Kansas State Wildcats
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In Bishop's two years at Kansas State, he was simply outstanding.
Bishop helped lead Kansas State to an 11-1 record, the only loss coming to the National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers. That season, Kansas State beat Syracuse 35-18 in the Fiesta Bowl. For the season, Bishop threw for 1557 passing yards and 13 touchdowns, earning him Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors.
In Bishop's second season he improved offensively, throwing for a school-record 2844 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. Bishop also led the team with 14 rushing touchdowns.
For the season, Kansas State went 11-1 before losing to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl. Bishop came up just short of Ricky Williams for Heisman Trophy Honors.
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma Sooners
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Bradford was outstanding during his time with Oklahoma and put up some of the most incredible passing statistics in NCAA football history.
In Bradford's first ever start, he threw for over 300 yards in the first half, breaking the Sooner record for most passing yards in a single half. That season, he led Oklahoma to an 11-3 record and threw for 36 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.
As amazing as Bradford was that season he managed to improve even further in his second season. Bradford put up 4720 passing yards and an NCAA-record 50 touchdowns, earning Heisman Trophy Honors. Oklahoma had a perfect regular season record, but lost to Florida in the BCS National Championship game.
Bradford was injured most of his senior season with Oklahoma, but had already established himself as one of the Big 12 all-time greats. Ultimately, he was selected No. 1 in the NFL Draft.
2. Colt McCoy, Texas Longhorns
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Despite having the tough task of following Vince Young's tenure, McCoy was simply sensational with Texas.
McCoy was the Longhorns starter every year from 2006-2009, playing remarkably in all four seasons. In each season, McCoy threw for at least 2500 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes, leading Texas to 10 wins or more.
McCoy also rushed for 1589 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns during his time with Texas.
Despite McCoy's amazing success, he never led Texas to a championship, coming closest in 2009. That season, McCoy led Texas to the BCS National Championship game, but he injured his right shoulder in the first half.
To date, McCoy's 45 wins as a starter is an all-time NCAA football record.
1. Vince Young, Texas Longhorns
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During Young's three seasons as the starter of Texas, he proved himself to be a winner.
While Young threw 44 touchdowns in two season with Texas, he did his most impressive damage on the ground. Young ran for over 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns—unbelievable numbers for a quarterback.
In 2004, Young was 11-1 as a starter and helped lead Texas to a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan. This helped put Young on the map and set him up for an incredible 2005 season that Longhorn fans still talk about.
That year Texas was 12-0 before meeting USC in the BCS National Championship game (once again played at the Rose Bowl.) At the time, USC was coming off of two consecutive national championships and was the favorite to win.
Against USC, Young not only threw for 267 yards, but also had 200 yards on the ground, including three rushing touchdowns. He received the MVP crystal, while finishing his Texas career with an incredible 35-2 record.