Viewed from a national perspective, the Big Ten is QB-shy.
That’s not good. Fans tend to judge teams by their quarterback play. And quarterback play certainly reflects on the rest of the team.
The numbers tell the story. The Rust Belt is rusting in aerial mastery.
Whereas six Pac-12 teams have six passers in the Top 20 for yardage — Oregon State’s Sean Mannion has 3,263 — the Big Ten has none in the Top 34.
There are 27 quarterbacks with 15 or more TD passes — Mannion has 30 — but none from the Big Ten.
Maybe that’s why Big Ten teams, other than Ohio State, are having such a difficult time cracking the Top 25 ... why the Pac-12 is perceived to be challenging the SEC and the Big Ten is not.
Frankly, with injuries playing a role, QB play in the Big Ten is as mediocre as it has been in the last 30 years.
Bucking the trend
The Big Ten’s best quarterback is Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. He was named Offensive Player of the Week after a 63-14 thrashing of Penn State on Saturday night. He is completing 70 percent of his passes and figures to dominate from here on out.
Miller missed nearly three full games and parts of others, creating the belief that the real all-conference QB is “Miller-Guiton,” the Buckeyes’ 1-2 punch (Kenny Guiton), or anyone else coach Urban Meyer elects to insert at the position. Guiton has thrown 13 TD passes, 12 in three games while Miller was injured.
My theory is that since Ohio State has superior blockers, excellent receivers and a pile driver in Carlos Hyde, the Buckeye signal caller has distinct advantages. A half-dozen other Big Ten quarterbacks would look good in Buckeye colors. A half-dozen other Big Ten quarterbacks might be contending for all-league honors, and that includes Illini Nathan Scheelhaase.
Eyes on Illini
Despite the UI’s offensive collapse in the second half Saturday — one lonely first down against Michigan State — Scheelhaase trails only Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg in per-game aerial yardage, 278.7 to 257.7.
Those two will face off in Happy Valley this weekend, the fifth-year senior against the raw freshman.
While they lead the Big Ten, their numbers aren’t great by Pac-12 or SEC standards, but they’re good enough to put them in contention for conference honors behind Miller.
They’ve laid groundwork, but it all depends on developments from this point. If Scheelhaase was disappointed in a 42-3 loss, imagine how Hackenberg feels about two early interceptions that ignited the Buckeye freight train.
Look around. Look at what’s happened in the conference. Quarterback problems abound. An erratic Devin Gardner has thrown 10 interceptions for Michigan. Connor Cook received a battlefield commission over incumbent Andrew Maxwell and was badly off target at Purdue (a 14-0 win) before completing 15 of 16 at Illinois.
Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez has been injured most of the season and sputtered in Saturday’s loss to Minnesota. Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue have alternated signal callers with varied success. Iowa’s Jake Rudock and Wisconsin’s Joel Stave, who meet Saturday, represent close-to-the-vest teams, the latest example being Iowa’s 17-10 overtime defeat of Northwestern on Saturday.
Bottom of the barrel
All around the country we hear about Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Jameis Winston of Florida State, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Bryce Petty of Baylor.
No Big Ten quarterbacks draw this attention. And insiders in this state would be quick to point out that, as it pertains to the Big Ten, no quarterback has matched the accomplishments of Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois and Jimmy Garropolo at Eastern Illinois. This is true despite the fact that Big Ten schools had their pick of the litter, and Lynch and Garropolo rose up from the bottom of the recruiting barrel.
November is upon us. Except for runaway Ohio State, which should have a breezy day at Purdue, every Big Ten team has its back to the wall Saturday. Illinois has the opportunity to change spiraling attitudes. Northwestern and Nebraska compete in the Unhappiness Bowl. And then there’s the Civil War in Michigan, the Spartans vs. the Wolverines.
Somewhere in these slugfests standout quarterbacks will emerge. Will it be ours or will it be yours? Or are we asking too much?
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.