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Come Saturday, the best quarterback on the field at the Cotton Bowl will be David Ash.
Uncle Rico may have the experience, but David Ash is better right now.
Things can change a lot in a year. On the morning of October 12, 2011, the Oklahoma Sooners put a beatdown on the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl that resonated for weeks, led by a Heisman Trophy candidate and a defense that made the two Texas quarterbacks look like they belonged back in high school.
Now the tables have turned.
After deciding to come back for his senior season, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones isn't even an afterthought in the Heisman Trophy discussion, he's not even a thought at all.
After a rocky true freshman season that saw more interceptions thrown than touchdown passes, Texas quarterback David Ash is now large and in charge in the Texas backfield.
Even a month ago, making the argument that Ash is a better quarterback than the experienced Jones would sound ludicrous even to the most Kool-Aid buzzed Orangeblood.
Now? Not so much.
The stats making a compelling argument by themselves -- Ash has an astronomically better quarterback rating that has him ranked 52 spots ahead of Jones nationally. Just let that sink in for a minute before we move on here...
Sufficiently marinated? Good.
Even beyond quarterback rating, Ash dominates with a completion percentage that is 15 ticks higher, four more touchdown passes, one fewer interception, and two more yards gained for every attempted pass.
As good as Ash has been, the biggest surprise may be the lack of production by the Oklahoma offense, and Jones in particular. Overall, it ranks in the 80s in S&P+, while the passing game sits at 36th in the country in yards per game. The latter a raw stat, sure, but an area in which the Sooners have excelled in the last few years, with 2007 the last time that they finished outside the top 11 in that category.
Take Ryan Broyles away, and suddenly Jones is quite pedestrian in an offense that was once highly productive.
In fact, some Oklahoma fans want their former Heisman candidate benched, a shocking turn of events for a player who has achieved his level of production. A Facebook page cries, "BENCH LANDRY JONES" in all caps for emphasis. One poster favors Blake Bell because he has "white boy swag."
Apparently Jones does not, even though he rocked the Uncle Rico 'stache. Wait, I just associated white boy swag with an Uncle Rico 'stache. I think my brain just broke.
Another message board thread claims to be the official thread for benching Jones (with only a handful of responses, it should be noted), where one poster calls him Shaky Jones because of his poor pocket presence, claiming that he's afraid of his own shadow.
The meme isn't just a fringe movement for the hardcore Sooner loonies (redundant statement?), it was an actual thing with the local media asking if Stoops would bench Jones after the two turnovers against Kansas State.
Jones himself was stark in his assessment of his own play against the Wildcats:
I played pretty terrible. We played really dumb football, especially me. This one is on me.
The impetus for the "bench Landry Jones" movement (maybe BENCH LANDRY JONES is better) is the fact that these problems are seen to be a recurring theme. Bad decisions, bad footwork, bad feel for the pocket, all this despite working hard during the spring to correct the latter two issues.
Plus, Blake Bell just has that white boy swag, which is the only argument that ever needs to be made about Bell over Jones.
A month into the season, would anyone have expected that Texas would be secure in their choice of quarterback, while Oklahoma fans questioned theirs?
Meanwhile, Ash went into Stillwater and won on the road by making two incredible passes on the final Texas drive to win the game, both of which were all-time classic efforts. Onions, imo.
Not only that, but if Ash's trademark play was an interception last season, he's now thrown 161 passes in his last six starts with only that one blemish from the Oklahoma State game. Even RGIII threw a pick once every 68 passes last season.
If Jones is still defined by his poor decisions, by his shortcomings that he's not been able to address despite his best efforts, Ash has shown incredible improvement in the last year in that regard. Where once it appeared that Ash was a chronically poor decision-maker, it's now clear that he was simply being over-aggressive trying to hit small throwing windows.
The numbers say it, the perception of among both fanbases back it up, and the career trajectories of both players provide further evidence -- Ash is simply a better quarterback right now.
Ol' Uncle Rico may believe that he can throw a football over those mountains over there, but David Ash really can.