AMES, Iowa (AP) — Nearly all the so-called surprise teams in the Big 12 in recent years were led by big-time quarterbacks who put their programs over the top.
Can Iowa State sophomore Sam Richardson be the next unknown to emerge as a star?
The Cyclones believe so — even though he's only thrown 79 career passes.
Iowa State thinks they've finally found a dual-threat playmaker in Richardson, a sophomore who will get his third career start on Saturday against Northern Iowa.
Of course, no one is ready to declare Richardson a program-changing talent along the lines of Robert Griffin III or Kansas State's Collin Klein just yet. But the Cyclones can't stop raving about their promising quarterback.
"The best quality that Sam is that he's always composed, he knows what's going on and he's aware," Iowa State senior running back Jeff Woody said. "He's got a good arm, and (the) dude can run. But the best thing Sam has got is between his ears, and that's something that instills confidence in the team because we know exactly what's going on."
Richardson's resume is limited to a three-game stretch that was both brilliant and inconclusive.
But that brief look at the end of 2012 was enough to convince coach Paul Rhoads and his staff that Richardson could be something special.
Richardson was buried on the depth chart nearly all season as the third-stringer. He only got a shot in mid-November because the coaching staff had become completely exasperated with co-starters Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz.
Richardson was put in during the third series against Kansas with bowl eligibility on the line. Richardson was a revelation, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns on 23 of 27 passing — albeit against one of the nation's worst defenses — in a 51-23 win.