Iowa State has had 14 different starting quarterbacks since 2005.
This is a well-known fact often used to point to the hopeless state of the program (well, at least in the past) and a statistic that I’ve often thought about. The lack of consistency that the Quarterback’s room has shown over that span of time has been a major factor as to why this program has not had sustained success.
Case in point: Alabama has had 9 total starting QB’s since 2005. Ohio State has had 7. Oregon has had 7. Michigan (surprisingly) had 12. But the point still stands.
Consistent quarterback play matters in college football!
Crazy, I know.
I’m also not here to tell you that the teams I just mentioned have folding chairs playing in the trenches like Iowa State has had to deal with, at times. That stuff matters too, but elite, consistent quarterback play this year will no doubt help put Iowa State in position to make the final “push” towards a Big 12 title (and maybe beyond).
What History Tells Us
Iowa State’s less than stellar history at quarterback has not always been a direct indicator of wins and losses. Obviously, football is a team game, and though quarterback is the most important position on the field, an elite offensive line or a stout defense can solve a lot of problems. On the other hand, a well-rounded quarterback can often plug holes in an otherwise sinking offense.
This year, Iowa State’s offensive line returns 114 starts- pointing to 4 returning Senior starters and a redshirt Sophomore, and the defense should be one of the best in the country.
But Purdy is the key that unlocks the ability to not just compete, but to push this Iowa State team higher than any other Cyclone group has ever been.
So what does “elite” mean in a conference where the spectacular is often seen as mundane? Let’s look at past Big 12 Championship-winning Quarterbacks
The chart above shows the primary quarterback (Bryce Petty and Seth Russell’s passing efficiency rates were averaged) for each Big 12 Champion over the last 12 seasons. You’ll notice first and foremost that Oklahoma’s quarterback play the last few years has been about as good as it could possibly be. Second, while not included on here, the average Passer Efficiency Rating of the table is 166 (keep this in mind). Third, you’ll notice that Texas is only on here once. ALSO, the average finishing position of each of these QBs was 4th in Heisman voting (if we throw out Landry Jones’ and Brandon Weeden’s performances).
Now, if you’re following along with what I’m thinking, you’re probably asking yourself what Brock Purdy’s PER was last season. I’ll save you some time and just tell you it was 169.9 (nice). I’ll also save you some time and tell you that Iowa State was a game away from playing in the Big 12 Championship last year.
And so now we look back to the Iowa State juggernaut that was the mid-late 2010’s and find this:
A big ole heap of yikes. The highest PER the Cyclones have seen since 2014 was Kempt’s 145.9 in 2017, which is still 20 points lower than the average I referenced above, which, again, points to the level of QB Iowa State is used to seeing.
Back to Purdy
His 169 rating is higher than Seneca Wallace’s best season by almost 40 points and currently shows as having the 60th highest rate EVER. His 9 game stretch produced the 6th most single season passing touchdowns at 16, 4 off the record 20 that Todd Bandhauer threw in 1997 (that record is going down this year).
Purdy’s bag of tricks includes a lethal pump fake and the ability to extend plays all while keeping his eyes downfield. His ability to stand in the pocket and take hits combined with his elusiveness offer a lethal combo that has him poised to build on last year’s already dynamic season. On 104 pressured dropbacks last year, Brock led the nation in adjusted completion percentage at 71.9%. He was also the 2nd highest graded freshman QB trailing only... *double checks notes* *squints eyes* Trevor Lawrence!
Purdy will have to prove himself against elite level quarterback play at almost every turn. The title of “Best QB in the Big 12” has all but run through Norman, Oklahoma as of late, and former Alabama leader Jalen Hurts certainly won’t buck that trend. Hurts brings a wealth of experience and talent from the SEC to the nuclear submarine that is Lincoln Riley’s offensive scheme (their defense, on the other hand, is a paddle board in the middle of the Pacific). But Hurts isn’t the only player Purdy will be jostling with during the Big 12 regular season. If Texas wins 10-12 games, no doubt it will be because Sam Ehlinger pushed them over the edge and “back” to national relevancy. Charlie Brewer and Alan Bowman are also experienced returning starters hoping to carry Baylor and Texas Tech to “Tier 1” where Texas and Oklahoma await. Brewer and the Bears no doubt will put up a fight against the Clones as the first Big 12 test in what should be a brawl down in Waco.
No longer will Iowa State be playing spoiler, and no longer will Iowa State be overlooked. Teams will be prepared and fired up to take on a squad that returns a large majority of starters from last year’s 8 win season. Life at the top of the Big 12 requires perfection, and Purdy will be the difference between a “good” and “great” year for the Clones.