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Big 12 quarterbacks putting up big-time numbers

By Dave Skretta

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011 10:26 a.m. MDT

Kansas coach Turner Gill should be forgiven for reminiscing ever so slightly about his days in the Mid-American Conference.

Back when he was coaching Buffalo, he didn't have to figure out a way to slow three of the top quarterbacks in the country all year, much less three consecutive weeks.

The Jayhawks opened their Big 12 schedule by watching Texas Tech's Seth Doege slice up their defense. Last week it was Brandon Weeden leading an Oklahoma State offense that had 56 points by halftime. And on Saturday, it will be Oklahoma's Landry Jones winging the ball all over the field.

Throw in Baylor's Robert Griffin III and the Big 12 has four of the top six players in the nation in total offense, which makes a compelling argument the best QBs are playing in the Midwest.

"There's a lot of talented quarterbacks here and they're as good as anybody in the country," Gill said Monday. "It's good for the conference. For us at Kansas, we have to find a way to disrupt it. But those guys are very talented, they're well-coached and they make the throws they have to make."

If Gill wants some advice on slowing down Jones this weekend, perhaps he should ask Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team failed miserably in the Red River rivalry.

Jones trails only Houston's Case Keenum by accounting for more than 363 yards per game, and he was at his best against the Longhorns last Saturday.

Jones completed 31 of 55 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns against Texas.

"I've never seen Landry Jones any better," Brown said. "You have to disrupt a great quarterback like that to have a chance, and we didn't."

That was the same problem Gill ran into against Weeden, who is third nationally in total offense.

The Oklahoma State senior threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns before being pulled from the lopsided game at halftime. The Cowboys wound up with their highest scoring total from the last 94 years in a 70-28 victory over the Jayhawks.

Weeden has drawn plenty of comparisons to former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, who won the 2000 Heisman Trophy at age 28. Like Weinke, Weeden spent time playing professional baseball — he was the second-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2002. Weeden's baseball career was derailed because of an injury, but he's making a case for getting a shot at pro football.

He's already thrown for 1,592 yards and 10 touchdowns through five games.

"He's as good as anybody," Brown said. "He keeps his head, he's accurate, he's not going to get you beat. He manages the game so well, he's very hard to get to — and he's going to blister you."

Griffin threw for a season-low 212 yards in Baylor's 49-26 win over Iowa State on Saturday, but he also ran for a season-high 107 yards. He remains second in the nation in quarterback efficiency behind Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, one spot ahead of Stanford superstar Andrew Luck.

"I don't mind running," Griffin said afterward. "I don't mind putting my body on the line in the Big 12 competition because it's whatever we need to win."

It's hardly a surprise that Doege is among the nation's top quarterbacks.

The Texas Tech system, even after Tommy Tuberville replaced Mike Leach as coach, still generates offense at a mind-boggling rate. The junior QB accounts for nearly 360 yards per game.

The rest of the Big 12's quarterbacks aren't too shabby, either.

James Franklin of Missouri and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M are ranked in the top 20 nationally in total offense, the Cyclones' Steele Jantz comes in at No. 37, and the least-productive quarterback in the league is Kansas State's Collin Klein at No. 67.

All he's done is get the Wildcats off to its first 5-0 start since 2000.

The argument can be made that defense in the Big 12 — or a lack thereof — is a big reason why its quarterbacks have had such success. The Jayhawks have the nation's worst defense, and Oklahoma State has been little better, ranked 103rd out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

But the Pac-12 has lousy defenses, too — Arizona is ranked 115th. So does the SEC, where Auburn is ranked 105th, and the Big Ten, where Northwestern is 104th in total defense.

None of that does much to change the fact that Big 12 quarterbacks are putting up big numbers, and the result in most cases is a promising start for their teams.

"We've got three or four Heisman quarterbacks in the league this year," Brown said. "It's just unbelievable to see this."

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