In my preseason rankings of the Big 12 quarterbacks, I mentioned sixteen different quarterbacks as potential starters for their respective teams. After eight weeks, arguably the two most promising young quarterbacks in the conference are players not even mentioned in that article. Both Alan Bowman and Brock Purdy entered fall camp as the third-string QBs of their respective teams, yet have emerged as the future stars of the Big 12. With the Big 12 race looking as wide open as ever at the end of October, these two quarterbacks could hold the keys to chaos in the conference. Prior to this week’s showdown with Iowa State, it seems necessary to take a look at how both quarterbacks got to where they are at this point in the season
For Alan Bowman, his first action came less than a quarter into his first collegiate game, as starter McLane Carter went down with an ankle injury. After a decent first game vs. Ole Miss, Bowman made his first start in a rout of Lamar, completing 22/25 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns in only one half. In his second start against Houston, Bowman set a Big 12 freshman record with 605 passing yards in a thrilling 63-49 win over Houston. A strong win at Oklahoma State got the quarterback even more attention, however, after a hard hit in the first half of the West Virginia game, Bowman suffered a collapsed lung, forcing him to be in the hospital for four days, and causing him to miss the TCU game. A surprise start over Kansas allowed Bowman to knock some rust off, and he was an impressive 36/46 for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns with only one interception on a deflected pass.
On the season, Bowman has completed 71% of his passes for 2,088 yards and 14 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He leads the Big 12 in passing yards despite only playing three full games this year (injured against West Virginia, came in on the fourth drive vs. Ole Miss, only played one half vs. Lamar, and missed the TCU game.) His adjusted QBR ranks 3rd in the conference among qualified quarterbacks, behind only Will Grier and Kyler Murray. When Bowman plays at least one half of football, the Red Raiders are 4-1, averaging 51.2 points per game.
Bowman has shown impressive poise for a true freshman this year, and if he can continue playing at a high level the Red Raiders will have a chance in every remaining game. His biggest challenge so far will come against an Iowa State defense that has looked dominant at times, including a great performance in only allowing 7 points to a top-tier WVU offense led by Will Grier.
Iowa State will also be led by a freshman sensation, with Brock Purdy slated to make his third consecutive start. After Kyle Kempt got hurt in the Cyclones’ 13-3 loss to Iowa, it seemed as if Iowa State was destined for another poor season. After Zeb Noland performed mediocre in the next three games (a win over Akron sandwiched between Oklahoma and TCU), Brock Purdy was next in line to start against Oklahoma State. Purdy made his first start extremely memorable, beating then #25 Oklahoma State 48-42 in Stillwater. Purdy threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns in that game.
The next week Purdy faced another huge test with #6 West Virginia coming to town. A solid performance by Purdy in that game led Io yet another strong win, as Iowa State shut down Will Grier in a 30-14 win. Through two starts, Purdy has thrown for 572 yards with 7 touchdowns and two interceptions, while also running for 123 yards and a score. His completion percentage of 75% is second in the country, and his yards per attempt average of 11.9 is only behind Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa.
Purdy has re-energized a previously stagnant Iowa State offense, which has now posted back-to-back 30 point games after going seven straight games without hitting that mark. If Purdy and the Iowa State offense can continue their improvement against a solid Texas Tech defense it would go a long way towards a quality win for the Cyclones.
It’s safe to say whichever player wins the battle of the freshmen will have a great chance at victory given how even the rest of these two teams look on paper. If the previous games this season are any indication of how this one plays out, we could be in for a show between two quarterbacks that could be battling it out for years to come. It should be a fun one in Ames at 11:00 on Saturday.