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Talkin’ Big 10: Current Top 5 Quarterbacks

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

From Len Dawson to Tom Brady to Russell Wilson, the Big 10 has produced some of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history. The conference is rich in quarterback tradition and the talent in 2017 is no different as several teams return prolific starters. 2017 appears to be the Year of the Junior Gunslinger as well as the final stand for one quarterback from Columbus.

Here are my current top 5 Big 10 Quarterback rankings with a brief prediction for each:

5. David Blough, Junior, Purdue

Iowa v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

2016 Stats

Completion Percentage: 57.1%, Passing Yards: 3,352, Passing Touchdowns: 25, Interceptions: 21, Rushing Yards: 13, Rushing Touchdowns: 4

As a gunslinging type quarterback, your season will either be explosive or unbalanced; Blough is the latter (we will get to the former later) and 2017 appears to be more of the same. Purdue only returns 5 offensive starters so expect Blough to force the issue offensively and continue to put up high passing yards/ high interceptions. The biggest detriment to Blough’s passing will be the departure of leading receiver Deangelo Yancey. Purdue as a team hauled in 24 receiving touchdowns and Yancey accounted for 10 of them.

2017 Prediction: Blough will throw to whoever Purdue lines up, but because of they are devoid of playmakers, he will have to carry this team at all times. Expect high passing yards, high touchdowns, and high interceptions.

4. Wilton Speight, Junior, Michigan

Ilinois v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

2016 Stats

Completion Percentage: 61.6%, Passing Yards: 2,538, Passing Touchdowns: 18, Interceptions: 7, Rushing Yards: -60, Rushing Touchdowns: 1

Wilton Speight was a good quarterback in 2016, however his last few games left a bad taste in our mouths (Please keep in my mind he was injured in the Iowa game and the extent of this injury is left to speculation). The Iowa game was a nightmare; two costly interceptions could have avoided any drama in ‘The Game;’ the Florida State performance was hard to watch as Speight looked like a shell of his former self. Speight still threw for at least 200 yards in 7 games last season and was the third highest rated passer in the Big 10 (139.8).

2017 Prediction: With Harbaugh behind the scenes, it would not surprise me to see Speight at the top of the list by the end of the year. However, if his confidence does not recover from the end of 2016, it would also not surprise me to see Speight off of this list entirely. The Spring Game was not exactly a confidence boost and if that trend continues it could allow Brandon Peters to take this spot.

3. J.T. Barrett, Senior, Ohio State

Ohio State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

2016 Stats

Completion Percentage: 61.5%, Passing Yards: 2,555, Passing Touchdowns: 24, Interceptions: 7, Rushing Yards: 845, Rushing Touchdowns: 9

I want to preface this by saying J.T. was still shorter than a WWE Attitude era title reign and if you get this reference, we’re already best friends.

The Perry Ellis of college football (come on, this guy has been in school for the last 10 years), J.T. Barrett returns in what hopes to be an improvement season. The quarterback’s passer rating and completion percentage have declined since his breakout season two years ago when he set the Big 10 single season record for touchdowns (45) and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. At times in 2016, Barrett was seemingly a running back at the quarterback position. His two poor showings against Indiana and Michigan State saw him go a combined 19 of 43 for 179 yards. With those numbers why is Barrett so high? Despite these performances, he still showed glimpses of his former self and was always a threat running the football. Against Oklahoma, on the road, Barrett completed 14 of 20 passes for 152 and 4 touchdowns. Even in the disappointing Indiana game, Barrett rushed for 137 yards and totaled 2 touchdowns. Although inconsistent, Barrett is always a threat to take over a game.

2017 Prediction: Barrett will show flashes of elite ability, but will continue to be plagued by an inconsistent passing game. He is currently my third quarterback because of his ability to attack defenses in several ways. Helped by Weber and a stellar defensive line, Barrett will continue to accrue Big 10 records and wins. All questions will be answered September 9th when Oklahoma comes to Columbus.

2. Clayton Thorson, Junior, Northwestern

Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

2016 Stats

Completion Percentage: 58.6%, Passing Yards: 3,182, Passing Touchdowns: 22, Interceptions: 9, Rushing Yards: 98, Rushing Touchdowns: 5

Going into his third year as the starting quarterback, Clayton Thorson has one of the highest quarterback ceilings in the country. From his freshman to sophomore seasons, his interceptions stayed the same (9) while his touchdowns increased from 7 to 22. The most glaring stat for me is that as a freshman Thorson attempted 295 passes and as a sophomore he completed 280 passes. This stat personifies Fitzgerald’s trust and Thorson’s comfort within the offense.

2017 Prediction: Surprised? I would not be surprised if Thorson finishes atop this list because of his growth, return of dynamic running back Justin Jackson, and 16 returning starters (8 on offense). For now, he is ranked second.

1. Trace McSorley, Junior, Penn State

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

2016 Stats

Completion Percentage: 57.9%, Passing Yards: 3,614, Passing Touchdowns: 29, Interceptions: 8, Rushing Yards: 365, Rushing Touchdowns: 7

The other side of the gunslinger quarterback, Trace McSorley was dynamically explosive in 2016. His numbers are undeniable as he finished 13th in the country in passing yards and led his team to a berth in the Rose Bowl. However, I am one of the few to not board the McSorley hype train. I watched Michigan and Ohio State confuse him and I felt that most of his success was due to Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin. Godwin hauled in 11 of the 29 Penn State receiving touchdowns in 2016 and he has now moved on to the NFL.

2017 Prediction: I have zero confidence in this placement in the future. McSorley loses his top target and could experience the Blough side of the gunslinger mentality. However, his numbers are undeniable and as of May, I cannot place anyone above him.

Players to watch: Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin), Richard Lagow (Indiana), Brandon Peters (Michigan)


Which Big 10 quarterback will have the best season in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    David Blough
    (4 votes)
  • 50%
    Wilton Speight
    (271 votes)
  • 18%
    J.T. Barrett
    (99 votes)
  • 5%
    Clayton Thorson
    (31 votes)
  • 13%
    Trace McSorley
    (72 votes)
  • 11%
    (62 votes)
539 votes total Vote Now