Guys, I’m going to level with you. The overall state of the quarterback position in the Big10 is trash. There are several, “well, he won’t lose the game for you” type of guys, but very few, “put the ball in his hands and let him win the game” type players. It really reminds me of the SEC about 3 years ago when you had to search long and hard to find a decent QB. In terms of “Top 5” lists, the Big10 probably has the least quality at the quarterback position. That being said, QB is still the most important position in sports, so you should probably know the key players coming into the season.
Dwayne Haskins - OSU
Haskins has looked good in mop up duty for the Buckeye’s, but is a bit of a departure stylistically for an Urban Meyer offense. He can run, but I wouldn’t consider a strong point in his skill set. He might be good, he might struggle being the head man in Columbus, especially with dual threat quarterback Tate Martell hot on his heels. I want to see how Myer handles this situation.
Shea Patterson - Michigan
I know everyone loves Patterson, but I’m going to need to see it on the field before I anoint him the the second coming. The truth is, before he tore his PCL against LSU and ended his season, he was extremely hot and cold and did a bunch of stat padding vs bad teams. His best game was in a blowout loss to Auburn, where he threw for 346 yards and 2 Tds. He couldn’t do anything against Alabama (165 yards 2ints) or LSU (116 yards, 3ints). When he’s off, he tends to be way off, throwing 8 of his 9 interceptions in 3 games. Throw in the fact that I have no faith in the Michigan offense, and I’m just not sold. He could be good, but I’m going to need to see it on the field.
#5 - Clayton Thorson - Northwestern
After a stellar sophomore campaign, Thorson substantially regressed as a junior. Last season he threw for 2844 yards and 15 TDs and 12 INTS. His low number of touchdowns and high number of interceptions has to be troubling for Nothwestern faithful after he threw 22tds and only 9ints as a Sophomore. He has talent, but it will be interesting to see if Sophomore or Junior Thorson shows up for the Wildcats this season.
I went with Thorson over a few bigger named players, because Thorson has actually shown it on the field in his career, but he’s got to start showing up on the road (5tds 9ints last season) if Northwestern is going to build on their 10 win season.
#4 - Eli Sindelar - Purdue
This one might be a little controversial, but I think Purdue will have a top 5 passing offense and I think Eli Sindelar will be the starter. If Blough turns out to be the starter, I would have him at 5 as well, based both on talent and system.
That said, Sindelar may have been the hottest quarterback in the nation down the stretch last season. Overall, he finished the year with 2099 passing yards, 18tds, and 7ints. Those stats aren’t bad considering he played sparingly in 4 games. What’s more impressive is his stat line in the last 4 games, where he threw for 1160 yards, 11tds and 2ints.
Sindelar is a guy that is reliant on his receivers. He’s going to sit back in the pocket and deliver the ball, and the wide receivers have to run good routes and catch the ball. He’s not a guy that does much improvising. At the start of last season, the wide receivers were terrible in several games, and subsequently, Sindelar was also terrible. This year, I have much more confidence in the receiving corps, and subsequently, I think Sindelar is going to monster statistical season. I feel like he has the best chance of anyone to move up this list by the end of the year.
#3 - Alex Hornibrook - Wisconsin
Hornibrook is an interesting quarterback. He does some things extremely well, and struggles mightily in other areas. Last season he threw for 2,644 yards, 25tds, and 15ints. As you can see from his stats, he doesn’t throw for a ton of yards, but does throw a bunch of touchdowns. He also throws a bunch of interceptions as well. He threw 4 multiple interception games, including a dud in the Big10 Championship where Ohio State all but challenged him to win the game for Wisconsin.
If Hornibrook can figure out how to stop throwing it to the other team, the Badgers should be set at quarterback. Hornibrook is a big kid with a live arm, and isn’t afraid to cut the ball loose. He also benefits greatly by playing in the Wisconsin system which usually gives him single coverage looks because of the Badgers dominant run game. His ability to utilize play action is the reason he finds the endzone so often.
Overall, the Badgers will go as far as the run game will take him. It will be interesting to see if Hornibrook gets another chance, like he did against OSU, to win a big game for the Badgers.
#2 Brian Lewerke - Michigan State
Lewerke took the Big10 by storm in his Sophomore year. The normally moribund, ground based Michigan St. offense got a makeover last year in order to account for the skills of the former 4* recruit out of Phoenix, Az. Lewerke and Michigan St threw it all over the field last year. The Spartans attempted 50+ passes in 3 games last year (granted they were 1-2 in those games) and Lewerke put up 2 400 yard passing days. In total, he threw for 2,793 yards, 20tds, and 7 interceptions as a Sophomore. He is also somewhat of a dual threat QB. He rushed for over 50 yards in 7 games and recorded 5 rushing touchdowns.
Hopes are running high in East Lansing, and some are going so far as to say that Lewerke is a dark horse Heisman candidate. I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but he could push for top quarterback in the Big10 if he can figure out how to be more consistent. While he put up several hug games, he also had a couple real clunkers on the road at Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State (strangely enough, MSU was 2-1 in these games). He going to have to prove it on the road if he wants to be placed in the elite category of quarterbacks.
#1 - Trace McSorley - Penn State
The diminutive McSorley has far and away the best stats of any returning quarterback in the Big10, or in the nation for that matter. Last season, he lit up the Big10 trowing for 3,570 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also contributed 491 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns to the Penn State cause last season. McSorley is a fiery competitor with solid athleticism and a quick trigger. He reminds me a good bit of last year’s Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield.
With all of McSorley’s eye popping stats, he’s been maddeningly close to taking Penn State to the CFP, but seems to always fall just short of the goal. Last season, the Nittany Lions dropped consecutive road games to Ohio State and Michigan St, and those two games just happened to be McSorley’s worst performances of the season. If McSorley has a weak spot in his game, it’s the ability to stay focused when things are going poorly. He tends to try and go outside the system and freelance, and will often times force things he probably shouldn’t. It will also be interesting to see how he looks without Saquon Barkley taking pressure of him this season as a safety valve this season. McSorley has all the tools, but can he finally push Penn State over the top and into the playoffs?
I know some of you may find this shocking, but it turns out my takes are not infallible and I screwed this up a little. After looking at the comments, I realized that Nate Stanley absolutely has to be on this list. My bad Nate, didn’t mean to disrespect.
#3 - Nate Stanley
Stanley went nuts in a couple games last year. He threw 10 total touchdowns in the Ohio State and Iowa State game, but even discounting those games as an anomaly, Stanley is one of the better returning quarterbacks in the Big10. Last season Stanley threw for 26 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. His absolute evisceration of Ohio State single handily kept OSU out of the CFP.
Stanley’s main issue last year were bad games in losses to Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue. He ran hot and cold all year, and it doesn’t even appear opponent or home/road related. I’m going to put it on a lack of experience and hitting a wall late in the year. He’s in a position this year to help push Iowa into the upper tier of the Big10 after a disappointing 8-4 last year.