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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Why experienced quarterbacking is so underrated

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I haven't had a mailbag in a couple of weeks because of some outstanding assignments. The letters have kept coming in, including some questions that were interesting. I thought this thought-provoking query from a reader in Nebraska merited its own answer in a separate post, along with a chart that explains my answer.

So here's the bonus question and watch Friday for a usual mailbag coming. It will have a lot of topical questions and answers about Big 12 football.

Jack Nelson from Lincoln, Neb.: Hey Tim, love your blog. But I've got one question after reading your post about Colorado the other day. How can you discount Nebraska's returning talent when you compare them against the Buffaloes or anybody else in the North. Any reasons that you think the Buffaloes stack up better than the Cornhuskers?

Griffin: Jack, thanks for the compliment and also know that I thought only that Colorado could be competitive in the North because of an experienced, deep running game, along with a strong returning offensive line.

But the major reason I might discount the Cornhuskers is because of the lack of experience at quarterback. In the history of the Big 12, only one championship quarterback has been able to win a championship in the same season he made his first collegiate start.

That would be Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2007. And Bradford had a pretty strong supporting case around him on that 2007 team -- certainly better than any team in the Big 12 North this season.

My experienced quarterback theory will be tested this season as three of the five teams that shared part of the division championships last season -- Missouri, Nebraska and Texas Tech - all will be starting quarterbacks with no previous experience as a collegian.

Missouri likely will be looking to Blaine Gabbert as its starter. Texas Tech will likely have Taylor Potts. And Nebraska likely will be looking to Zac Lee manning the starting quarterback slot.

All are untested. And the North Division particularly could be an area where a team with an experienced quarterback could have an edge with either Todd Reesing at Kansas or Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins at Colorado all having an experience edge with previous starts coming into the season.

I just think that previous starting experience is critical in college football. And it will take a special kind of quarterback to be able to win a title without previous college starting experience at the position.

Here's a look at the Big 12 championship teams over the years, who they had playing quarterback and their previous starting experience.

Those trends make the odds daunting that the Cornhuskers, Tigers, Red Raiders or Kansas State will be able to claim the Big 12 title this season.

It's even more likely that the championship team could come from a group of three teams with the most experience at quarterback -- Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.