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9/27/2010: State of the Big Ten, Volume 5 (premium)

Posted on 27. Sep, 2010 by in Categories, Iowa Basketball, Iowa Football

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Every Monday, we will be running a weekly series titled “State of the Big Ten,” which will be made available to all members of HawkeyeDrive.com. This series of columns will focus on one major headline regarding the conference and go in-depth on the subject at hand.

By Brendan Stiles

HawkeyeDrive.com

With the exception of two teams (Illinois and Indiana), the Big Ten is now done with non-conference games and everybody can start shifting their attention to Big Ten play.

Right now, 2010 has been the year of the quarterback in this conference.

As expected, No. 2 Ohio State has been the cream of the crop. The Buckeyes have not just been winning games, but they are scoring at will on opponents. Through four games, Ohio State has 197 points. Junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor has played out of his mind, as he currently has 14 touchdowns to his names — 10 passing, three rushing, and one touchdown reception coming against Eastern Michigan last week. He might not be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy just yet, but he is definitely in the conversation.

A lot was made about quarterback play in general going into this season throughout the entire conference. Teams like the Buckeyes, Wisconsin, and Iowa, for instance, were all bringing back signal-callers who won bowl games last season.

As of now, the Big Ten has seven quarterbacks ranked in the top 20 nationally in QB rating, including four of the top seven.

The national leader in this category, surprisingly, is not Pryor, Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien, or Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi. No, it’s Northwestern junior Dan Persa, the heir apparent to who some Northwestern fans argue was one of the school’s best ever in Mike Kafka.

Persa has completed an absurd 85-of-106 passes through four games. To put this into perspective, Persa only threw for 37 yards against Iowa last season and was more of a threat running the football in that 17-10 Wildcat victory. Persa, along with Minnesota’s Adam Weber, are the only two Big Ten quarterbacks who have already thrown for 1,000 yards this season. He has eight touchdown passes to just one interception, and his 186.3 quarterback rating is the best in the country. Not just the Big Ten, but the entire country.

One yard shy of that 1,000-yard plateau for passing is Stanzi. The Iowa senior has completed exactly two-thirds of his attempts this season through four games, with 66 completions on 99 attempts. What’s even more impressive about Stanzi, however, is his touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 2009, he threw 17 touchdowns to 15 picks. This season, he has nine touchdown passes to just one interception. His 179.4 quarterback rating is fourth nationally.

Right behind Stanzi with a 179.0 QB rating is Indiana’s Ben Chappell. Although the Hoosiers have only played three games this season, Chappell currently has a a 72.4 completion percentage (71-of-98 passing), and has accumulated 890 yards through the air. Not only that, but the Indiana signal-caller has only been sacked twice and has yet to throw a pick.

Tolzien ranks seventh nationally with a 176.2 rating. Although he only has five touchdown passes to four interceptions thus far, the Badger QB has also completed 76.2 percent of his throws.

Pryor, who has already been mentioned, ranks 12th nationally in quarterback rating, and joining him at 16th and 17th nationally are Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Michigan’s Denard Robinson.

Cousins is currently 61-of-91 passing this season for 863 yards, while Robinson is 57-of-80 for 731 yards.

But the talk with Robinson isn’t so much about his arm, but his feet.

Through four games, Robinson leads the country in rushing yards with 688 of them. He also has six touchdowns on the ground, including an 87-yard score during a 28-24 win at Notre Dame on Sept. 11. Again, he’s a quarterback.

But his ability as a dual-threat is why Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez went to him as his starting signal-caller, and with the Wolverines currently sitting at 4-0 and ranked 19th, that ended up being a wise move.

As for the league’s other quarterbacks, here’s what can be said. Minnesota has been atrocious, but senior Adam Weber hasn’t played as awful as his team’s 1-3 record would indicate. As mentioned, he already has over 1,000 yards passing for the Golden Gophers this season.

The other three teams — Illinois, Penn State, and Purdue — are all breaking in newcomers. Illinois and Penn State both have freshmen starting in Nathan Scheelhaase and Rob Bolden, respectively. Purdue, on the other hand, was counting on Miami (Fla.) transfer Robert Marve to come in and be the guy. However, injuries to his left knee may keep Marve out for the near future, which could hurt the Boilermakers down the road.

There’s a reason why people say the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Looking at the Big Ten teams that appear capable of reaching bowl games, a big reason why is the play at that position.

As long as QB performances remain strong throughout the course of conference play, the Big Ten will continue to be perceived as nationally as one of the top conferences in college football this season.

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