STILLWATER — As colleague Berry Tramel wrote in Monday's Oklahoman, the mass exit of seasoned quarterbacks from the pass-happy Big 12 is great news for the conference's defenses.
But the school that could benefit the most from the league's overall quarterback landscape for 2013?
The Cowboys return production — and options — at quarterback, as Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt all won a conference game and combined to throw for more than 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2012. On the other side of the ball, a much-maligned OSU secondary never has to see Landry Jones, Nick Florence, Collin Klein, Geno Smith or Seth Doege again.
Those are two big reasons why, despite a ton of turnover on the coaching staff and Joseph Randle bolting for the NFL, the Cowboys are still an early favorite to win the Big 12 in 2013.
Seriously, if ballots were cast right now, who would be the quarterback on the preseason All-Big 12 team?
Texas' David Ash is, suddenly, the veteran of the group, but his inconsistent play in Austin is well-documented. TCU's Casey Pachall has an argument, but he only played in one Big 12 game this past season (against Kansas) and has been away from football for months. Maybe Oklahoma's Blake Bell shows by season's end that he can throw as well as Belldoze over defenders, but he's never been a collegiate starter.
So Chelf might be the guy for that distinction. And while the starting job for 2013 is now probably his to lose, Lunt and Walsh will continue to push for that spot.
Whoever Mike Gundy brings in at offensive coordinator is sure to be encouraged by OSU's quarterback situation. But the Cowboy defensive backs might be even more encouraged by the rest of the conference's quarterback situation.
OSU's pass defense was one of the nation's worst in 2012 and was particularly torched by Oklahoma in late November, giving up 512 yards through the air.
The 10-yard cushion the cornerbacks consistently gave receivers deserves plenty of blame for the poor play, and must change in 2013. But with more inexperience at quarterback across the Big 12, it's likely there will be more inaccurate throws and more mistakes.
Which means Justin Gilbert's chances of intercepting a pass in 2013 are already better.
Spring practice will again be a fascinating time to track the Cowboy quarterback battle. Last year, it pegged three guys with little-to-no college experience against each other. Now, it matches up three guys who all led their team to at least one conference victory.
Maybe Chelf, Walsh and Lunt won't all still be at OSU by the time September rolls around. Maybe they will be.
But right now, the best three quarterbacks in the Big 12 could all reside in Stillwater. And that might be the No. 1 reason why the Cowboys are the team to beat in the conference in 2013.