Top Big Ten QB's
July 30, 2014
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1. Braxton Miller - Ohio State
Miller was the class of the Big Ten last year, finishing with 2,094 pass yards (63.5%), 24 pass TD, and only 7 INT. He also rushed for 1,068 yards (6.2 YPC) and 12 TD. He would've been a top Heisman candidate if he hadn't missed the better part of two games early in the season with an injury. There is still quite a bit of unfinished business for the senior at OSU. Despite gaudy numbers and two undefeated regular seasons in a row, he has yet to lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title or a bowl win. Another year under Urban Meyer should prove beneficial for the dual-threat quarterback, as will having his top three receivers back from 2013. Ohio State will open the season as one of the favorites to advance to the new College Football Playoff, and Miller will be one of the top Heisman hopefuls. Expect a big season.
2. Christian Hackenberg - Penn State
Surprised he's No. 2 on this list? Don't be. Hackenberg put together one of the best freshman performances in the nation last season, throwing for 2,955 yards (58.9%) and 20 TD's in the Nittany Lions' 12 games. His 246.3 passing YPG ranks him second in terms of returning quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He closed out the season on a high-note, with 339 yards (70%) with 4 TD and 0 INT in a win at Wisconsin - a notable victory considering very few road teams come away with a victory in Madison. PSU is going through a coaching change from Bill O'Brien to James Franklin. Franklin has worked wonders with overachieving quarterbacks in his years at Vanderbilt, and we expect that to translate well in State College. We expect that Hackenberg will only get better with a year's worth of experience and to improve on his stellar 2013 numbers.
3. Connor Cook - Michigan State
Arguably no quarterback in the nation silenced his critics more than Cook in 2013. Cook split time with Andrew Maxwell through the first four weeks of the season and stated publicly that he was upset that he didn't get snaps in crunch time during the 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. He got his wish and took sole possession of the starting gig from Week 5 on and he never looked back. Cook finished with 22 TD and only 6 INT, leading Michigan State to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl win, earning MVP honors in both games. The Spartans' receiving corps has a few question marks heading into the season and it never has been a team strength, but Cook made due last season and we don't expect any fall-off from last season's remarkable production.
4. C.J. Brown - Maryland
Brown is back for yet another season at Maryland as a sixth-year senior after receiving a medical waiver last spring in the wake on an injury that cause him to miss 2012. Brown started hot, throwing for 210+ yards in each of the first four games with 7 TD and just 1 INT. An early injury against Florida State in the fifth game caused him to miss two full games and better parts of two others and he was never the same player after that, finishing with just 6 TD and 6 INT over the final seven games. In his defense, he lost his two top receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, to injury in the same game on October 19th. Brown will need to improve his accuracy a bit, but with Diggs and Long returning, giving the Terps their top five pass-catchers back from 2013, this passing attack could be one of the top units in the Big Ten.
5. Nate Sudfeld - Indiana
With Tre Roberson transferring to Illinois State this summer, Nate Sudfeld will be the main main at Indiana. Sudfeld is more of a pocket-passer, amassing 21 TD and just 9 INT last year while averaging 210 pass yards per game in 2013. These two split time under center in 2013 with great results, Sudfeld airing it out and Roberson leading the way with his feet. The Hoosiers offense ranked 10th in total yards, 17th in pass yards, and 16th in scoring. Now if only that defense would show up once in a while.
6. Trevor Siemian - Northwestern
While battling injuries and sharing time with Kain Colter last season, Siemian got uneven results. He finished with 2,143 yards (59.7%) with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. This season, he's the only quarterback remaining on the Northwestern roster to have actually completed a pass. He doesn’t have much of a dual-threat ability as he rushed for just 33 yards last season and that could present a problem for the Wildcats as they would bring in Kain Colter to add that dimension to the offense in season’s past. But with three of his top four receiving threats from 2013 returning, we expect Northwestern becomes more of a passing team in 2014. Off the field, he has voiced his opposition to the players’ union at Northwestern, which is interesting as he is a leader in the locker room and that could become an issue with other players that support it. But for now, we expect a strong season from Siemian.
7: Devin Gardner - Michigan
Gardner didn’t get a lot of help from his running backs or offensive line last year, leading to some uneven performances. Still, he is capable of putting up huge numbers as evidenced in games against Notre Dame (294 yards, 4 TD), Indiana (503 yards, 2 TD), and Ohio State (451, 4 TD). Now his two best linemen from 2013 are gone and the unit remains a bit of a question mark. During spring, he was still recovering from a broken foot suffered against OSU that caused him to miss the bowl game and that allowed backup Shane Morris to garner more attention as a possible replacement. Despite losing five of the last six games in 2013, Gardner has the most experience on the roster and has the dual-threat ability that should keep him #1 on the depth chart. But if things start to go south in Ann Arbor, don’t be surprised if coach Hoke starts giving Morris more looks.
8. Joel Stave - Wisconsin
With RB Gordon and four of five returning offensive linemen back from 2013, whoever wins the starting QB spot in Madison is in a good position to succeed. The leader on the depth chart right now is Joel Stave. Stave had a decent 2013 campaign and would figure to be higher on this list, but we're not convinced that he will absolutely be the starter for the Badgers this fall. Speaking to team insiders, coach Anderson favors backup QB Tanner McEvoy's dual-threat ability over Stave's pocket-passing style. We're also concerned that whoever takes the QB job in Madison won't have a ton of options in the receiving corps now that WR Jared Abbrederis has departed. Stave might not be on this list by season's end.
9. Jake Rudock - Iowa
Rudock returns for his redshirt sophomore season after a solid 2013 campaign in which he threw for 2,383 yards (59%) with 18 TD and 13 INT. He is not likely to make any "wow" plays but is the prototypical Iowa quarterback. The numbers will never wow you with Rudock, but he can develop into a quality game-manager. He'll need to get better in the "big" games as he completed less than 54% with just 6 TD and 7 INT in Iowa's five losses last season. If Iowa wants to make the jump into the top-tier of the Big Ten, it starts with a better season from Jake Rudock.
10. Wes Lunt - Illinois
Lunt is still a bit of an unknown. He transferred from Oklahoma State after the 2012 season and had to sit out last fall due to NCAA transfer rules. Lunt threw for 1,108 yards (61.8%) with 6 TD and 7 INT in limited duty as a freshman at OK State and now looks to take over an offense in complete overhaul. He's not guaranteed the starting spot but he has just as much, if not more, experience than his two competitors, Aaron Bailey and Reilly O'Toole (combined 21 pass attempts last season) despite sitting out an entire season. He has favorable size (6'5" 210 lbs) and a live arm and could turn a few heads. We'll have to see a bit more of him before he rises on this list, but for now we like his potential.
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