The national media loves a tackling dummy, and although the Big Ten has set itself up to get knocked down early, why doesn’t anyone say WHY the Big Ten is getting embarrassed every weekend? Since dinosaurs roamed the Midwest the Big Ten has been one of the best conferences in the country, and even when the Big Ten is “down” it is consistently one of the three best conferences top-to-bottom in college football. This year the Big Ten finds itself being kicked around because they are late to the party, staying later than welcome, trying to suck all the marrow out – “party” being the spread offense and the quality of quarterbacks reflecting the need to recruit to a spread. Conference-wide the Big Ten is not starting a quarterback that resembles an NFL draft pick. While there are a multitude of other issues, watch a day‘s worth of bumbling offenses and think fondly of yesteryear when the Big Ten was the cradle of quarterbacks. From buster to Brees, this is where each team stands with their quarterback. (The rating system is based on there being 124 Division 1 teams, and how many teams boast a stronger starting option at quarterback; ergo, the higher the number, the bigger the buster.)
Illinois – Nathan Scheelhaase, 85. Scheelhaase is a two-year starter behind center for Illinois and already has two bowl wins, so what gives with his ranking? Plain and simple, he isn’t that good. He isn’t the runner he is billed to be, and locks on to receivers and delivers the football with a weak arm. Illinois has offensive line problems, but they’ve played three different quarterbacks this year even when Scheelhaase was healthy.
Indiana – Tre Roberson/Cameron Coffman, 72. Tre Roberson got off to a nice start, albeit against the weakest competition money could buy. Sadly for the Hoosiers Roberson went down with an ankle injury, and in stepped Coffman. Coffman has played well too but will face a different animal in Northwestern this week. Indiana would publicly say they are happy with their QBs but they’d trade with a lot of people if they could.
Iowa – James Vandenberg, 45. Vandenberg hasn’t had a lot (if any) help from his teammates, and is trying to run the show by himself. He has pressed early and turned the ball over while throwing for only one touchdown through four games. His stats say he should be much higher in the rating, but Vandenberg has proven he is a good quarterback with an accurate arm and head coach Kirk Ferentz should stick behind him.
Michigan – Denard Robinson, 28. I billed Robinson as a potential Heisman candidate, and in a different offense he just might be. Brady Hoke took another step in turning Michigan’s offense into a pro style, but is doing so with the most dual-threat spread quarterback of the past decade. Robinson is an electrifying runner, but with three seasons of tape to study, good defenses are making him look downright terrible. He was horrible against Alabama and Notre Dame, simply horrible.
Michigan State – Andrew Maxwell, 80. I remember going to quarterback camps and seeing highly billed prospects with big arms that couldn’t hit Randy Moss standing still from 20 yards. Maxwell is the least accurate passer in the Big Ten and, after expecting more success than he‘s had, lacking confidence. Michigan State has an All-American talent in the backfield and still can’t get points on the board – that says a lot about Maxwell.
Minnesota – MarQueis Gray (injured), 32. Gray is a huge quarterback with wide receiver speed; in fact he spent the beginning of his career split wide alongside Eric Decker. Gray isn’t a great passer but when he scrambles in the pocket he keeps his eyes downfield and has made big plays through the air. On the ground Gray is the best running quarterback in the Big Ten not named Robinson or Miller, and he has churned out tough yards as well as long plays. Gray is not the problem, the model of the dying breed of run-heavy quarterbacks that have trouble in the pocket is.
Ohio State – Braxton Miller, 7. Miller is still learning to refine his passing, but he has a gun and puts the ball in good spots downfield. What Miller doesn’t have to refine is his running ability, which is breathtaking. Miller doesn’t need an inch or an angle and he can break down a defender one-on-one and off to the races. Miller is going to have a great YouTube reel for his 2013 Heisman campaign. Not many other QBs can make Urban Meyer say they’re “more talented than Tebow”.
Nebraska – Taylor Martinez, 16. Martinez has always been a brilliant runner in the open field with an instinctive feel for the option game, and this year he has further refined his throwing motion and has seen dividends. Like I said at the beginning, quarterback isn’t the only problem in the Big Ten, and it is the least of Nebraska’s concerns, and they are slowly making a mockery of the “Blackshirt” defense moniker.
Northwestern – Kain Colter, 45. Colter came back to Northwestern this year as the team’s leading rusher, receiver and passer, so I’m comfortable saying this is a high school technique called “put your best athlete at quarterback and hope for the best”. Northwestern has won up until this point and Colter is a big reason why, but in a big game against a good defense you’ll see Colter’s limitations.
Penn State – Matt McGloin, 91. Happy Valley is getting a taste of what Bill O’Brien can do for a quarterback. I doubt I’m preaching to the choir but Matt McGloin is really really bad and easily replaceable by looking at almost any other program in the nation. The former walk-on has been the poster child for just how bad things have become at Penn State.
Purdue – Robert Marve/Caleb Terbush, 35. Quantity does not equal quality, and although both of these guys are serviceable, the Big Ten should not be a conference of serviceability. Both are equally adept running and passing, they just don’t excel in either area.
Wisconsin – Joel Stave/Danny O’Brien, 96. I admittedly haven’t seen enough of Stave to say he’ll always be poor, but as of now he is the worst starter in the league. Danny O’Brien won the job over this guy, and we all saw what O’Brien was capable of. Wisconsin was privy to the most recent NFL starting quarterback in Russell Wilson, and I hope they enjoyed him because these two could be replaced by almost any Division-1 starter.