Iowa State Cyclones

Brock Purdy, Not Sam Ehlinger, is the Class of the Big 12 Quarterbacks

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Iowa State vs Washington State

Each preseason media outlet both major, and independent, release an All-Conference team, more or less putting respective votes of confidence for players going into the season. You can see our All-Big 12 Preseason team here.

For the Big 12, most media outlets, including this one, selected the experienced senior quarterback from Texas, Sam Ehlinger, as their preseason pick as the First-Team quarterback. But here’s the thing: all those media outlets, this one included, got it wrong. Iowa State’s Brock Purdy was the best option.

It’s no secret that each and every season the Big 12 tends to have excellent quarterback play and the 2020 edition is no different. We all expect nice seasons from Ehlinger, Purdy, and OU’s Spencer Rattler, but the depth at the position in this league is increidble. 


Lets get something out of the way before we continue: It is possible that Rattler or Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders could end the season as the league’s top QB. But a preseason pick is a mixture of projection, as well as past performances holding weight. It would be odd to pick someone like Rattler or Sanders given our limited exposure to both, and choosing either would be about 95% projection rather than picking someone we already know has the goods to deliver. This leaves us with three legitimate potential options: Baylor’s Charlie Brewer, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, and Texas’s Sam Ehlinger. Of the three, Brewer has been the most limited QB in terms of production by a considerable margin, and as such made this a two-man race.

Ehlinger’s biggest advantage in this race is his experience. He has played in 36 games in his collegiate career and has shown significant growth each season he has been in Austin. Ehlinger is a threat both as a passer, and runner. In 2018 Ehlinger logged 16 rushing touchdowns, while in 2019 he was able to carve teams through the air to the tune of 32 touchdowns, and over 3500 yards.  Ehlinger punishes tacklers at 6’3” and 225 pounds.

On the flip side Purdy has only played one full season at Iowa State, Purdy was thrust into a tough situation having to play as a freshman after only beginning as the third-string quarterback on the Cyclones depth chart entering the 2018 season. From a production standpoint, however, it is difficult to compare his progression when its not an apples to apples comparison. Purdy had over double the passing attempts in 2019, compared to 2018. Yet last season Purdy was the Big 12’s leader in passing yards with 306 yards per game. And while nobody would mistake the more slender 6’1”, 212-pound Purdy as a power runner, Purdy has shown off his athletic ability running for key first downs and rushing for eight touchdowns in 2019. 


While Purdy has had plenty of nice players around him, few would take Iowa State’s roster of offensive players over that of the University of Texas. Ehlinger has enjoyed the presence of individuals like Devon Duvernay, Collin Johnson, Brennan Eagles, and Lil Jordan Humphrey during his tenure with the Longhorns. Brock Purdy has done roughly the same with less talent around him. Plus, if you want to compare how they fared against the toughest Big 12 defenses, Purdy was the far more effective quarterback. Ehlinger logged four total touchdowns compared to five interceptions, while Purdy accounted for 12 scores, compared to only one interception. 

From a film perspective Purdy also shines when compared to Ehlinger,  showing more promise as a pro prospect, and a better knack for completing passes in tighter windows, and against better coverage.

There’s no question both are elite college football quarterbacks and most teams in the nation would be thrilled with either one, but when we discuss the class of the Big 12 Conference at the position, it’s Brock Purdy who comes away in the top spot.

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