If you want to win big in college football, it’s no secret that you’re going to need some quality play out of the most important position on the field — quarterback. If there’s any doubt about it, just look up recent Heisman Trophy winners and note how tilted the list is toward the position.
Few conferences know good signal-callers as well as the Big 12. The league has churned out quality players at the position seemingly every year and some have helped re-write part of the NCAA record book. While last year produced the No. 1 overall pick in Baker Mayfield — and several others who were among the best in their respective school’s history — the Big 12 enters the 2018 season with only a handful of established veterans behind center and more than a few question marks.
Still, it could be yet another exciting year around the conference given how easy it is to throw it around. With that in mind, here are the top 10 matchups involving Big 12 quarterbacks.
1. Will Grier (West Virginia) vs. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) — Nov. 23 (Norman, Okla.)
Grier had an impressive debut campaign for the Mountaineers before a finger injury cut short his season and he enters 2018 as the unquestioned top signal-caller in the conference. Already on plenty of Heisman short lists, he’ll have his hands full in the Big 12 regular-season finale with the guy who’s replacing a Heisman winner in Murray, a transfer just like Grier who has an electric arm and is a great fit for Lincoln Riley’s system.
2. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) vs. Shawn Robinson (TCU) — Oct. 20 (Fort Worth, Texas)
If you like dual-threat quarterbacks who can launch it down the field just as well as they can take off and run, then make sure you tune in for this matchup that very well could be yet another Big 12 Championship Game preview. These two actually met back in the day when they were highly touted Texas high school quarterbacks, with Murray getting the upper hand. Both defenses will need to play their best trying to contain these two electric players when they’re on the field.
3. Will Grier (West Virginia) vs. Ryan Finley (NC State) — Sept. 15 (Raleigh, N.C.)
It’s a safe bet that scouts are already penciling in this game as a must-stop this fall as both quarterbacks are already on the radar of many at the next level for the 2019 NFL Draft. Both former transfers are accurate at all three levels and each managed to throw for more than 3,200 yards last season in breakout campaigns. This is a sneaky-good non-conference matchup and the quarterbacks running the show are a big reason why.
4. Skylar Thompson/Alex Delton (Kansas State) vs. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) — Sept. 8 (Manhattan, Kan.)
Bill Snyder will probably resort to using both Thompson and Delton at quarterback this season given what they showed last year and each adds a different dimension when running the football as well. Fitzgerald is one of the best and brightest at the position in the SEC and could take his skills to the next level under the tutelage of new head coach Joe Moorhead. If you want to see a signal-caller run over, around and through a few defenders, chances are high you’ll see it in this game given who’s taking snaps on both sides.
5. Shawn Robinson (TCU) vs. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) — Sept. 15 (Arlington, Texas)
The Buckeyes and Horned Frogs will meet at AT&T Stadium for yet another crucial early-season game that could well determine a spot in the College Football Playoff when all is said and done. We saw glimpses of both Robinson (in a lone start against Texas Tech) and Haskins (in a comeback victory over Michigan) last season, but this one will be a whole different ball game for two guys who can really spin it.
6. Sam Ehlinger (Texas) vs. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) — Oct. 6 (Dallas)
Murray used to play at Texas A&M before transferring to Norman so you know he’ll be excited to finally get on the field to try and beat the Longhorns and do so not too far from where he starred in high school. The Red River Rivalry has a little different feel to it without Baker Mayfield being involved but these two gunslingers are both from the Lone Star State. Ehlinger (above, right) nearly led an incredible comeback in last year’s edition and you can bet he’ll be looking to finish the Sooners off in the best rivalry game in the conference.
7. Charlie Brewer (Baylor) vs. Sam Ehlinger (Texas) — Oct. 13 (Austin, Texas)
These two Austin kids and high school rivals will take the field not too far from where they grew up as two of the budding young signal-callers in the Big 12. While Brewer seemed to take control of the job during last year’s meeting with Texas in Waco, Ehlinger missed the contest which means this early October meeting will be the first time these two tough QBs meets in college.
8. Kyle Kempt (Iowa State) vs. Will Grier (West Virginia) — Oct. 13 (Morgantown, W.Va.)
Kempt was a revelation last year for the Cyclones, engineering an upset of Oklahoma and finishing the season with a 15:3 TD-to-INT ratio as the team got a surprising eight wins. He’ll take on the league’s other established starter in Grier in what could be a back-and-forth type of game if each guy gets hot. Iowa State and West Virginia may not be what you think of for a Big 12 affair but thanks to the two quarterbacks, it is.
9. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) vs. De'Andre Johnson/Chris Robison (FAU) — Sept. 1 (Norman, Okla.)
Lane Kiffin and Lincoln Riley are two of the best play-callers in all of college football and both will clash with an interesting matchup of signal-callers in an opener that is far from your average Group of 5 program taking on a Power 5 team. Murray will be under the lights in his first big test taking over for his Heisman predecessor and could be going against either former Florida State/Last Chance U star Johnson or a former Sooner in Robison. No matter who is taking snaps, chances are points will come in bunches during this one.
10. Dru Brown (Oklahoma State) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) — Sept. 15 (Stillwater, Okla.)
Brown is presumably the guy taking over for Mason Rudolph after transferring to the Cowboys from Hawaii, where he threw for more than 2,700 yards and 18 scores last season. He actually played the Broncos two years ago in a Mountain West clash he’d rather forget as Boise won going away and Rypien threw for 338 yards and four scores. Hopefully for Mike Gundy’s mullet, things are much closer for Brown’s second chance.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.