Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) attempts to avoid the tackle by Clemson Tigers linebacker Spencer Shuey (33) during the first half in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
7.) Jake Rudock, Iowa (JR)
Rudock has a decent amount of potential as a player after throwing for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns last season for the Hawkeyes. He’s got a solid arm that can be a bit inaccurate (he completed less than 60% of his passes), but he’s an 8-win quarterback who was playing behind a pretty bad offensive line. The return of his best receiver should alleviate some of those 13 interceptions he threw last year, too. Rudock is never going to light the Big Ten on fire playing at Iowa, but he’s a solid option who only stands to get better.
6.) C.J. Brown, Maryland (SR)
Brown fits here after scoring a combined 25 touchdowns last season despite missing a couple games playing dinged up. While he did struggle at times against some of the top-tier competition, Brown might be the fastest quarterback in the Big Ten and has more weapons at his disposal than most teams in the country. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long at wideout, combined with a solid running game headed by Brandon Ross are all the weapons Brown needs. Fortunately, he’s also got the best offensive line he’s had during his entire tenure at Maryland as well; that could be the difference between unhealthiness and a career year. Accuracy still a question.
5.) Devin Gardner, Michigan (SR)
Gardner is the one person in the top five who, in some folks opinions around Anne Arbor, could also place dead last. He’s polarizing, picks up negative yardage on a lot of plays, and might be a better wideout than quarterback. But the numbers are just inarguable: 32 combined touchdowns (rushing and passing), 11 interceptions, and just shy of 3,000 yards passing. Those are gaudy numbers, and it’s hard to imagine they don’t get better his senior year with a much improved offensive line. Gardner still has room for growth both in terms of accuracy and decision making, but Brady Hoke seems to believe he’s the man, despite the emergence of youngster Shane Morris at the position.
4.) Nate Sudfeld (JR)/ Tre Robinson (JR), Indiana
Two quarterbacks at No. 4? You bet. Indiana threw up a whole lot of points last season (38.4/g) and didn’t get a ton of attention because of how bad their team was. But Indiana happens to be one of the few teams to successfully employ the two-quarterback system effectively. Sudfeld had 22 touchdowns to only 9 picks despite playing half the time, while Tre Robinson had 15 touchdowns and 4 picks, with 5 rushing touchdowns the rest of the time. The Hoosiers are deep at QB, and while one might eventually emerge victorious in the competition, there’s no real reason to mess with a good thing.
3.) Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (SO)
Hackenberg has the most potential of any quarterback on this list, quite frankly. Last season as a true freshman he threw for 20 touchdowns and only 10 picks despite playing behind a pretty shoddy O-line and having little time to prep for a new coach. Hackenberg had a lot of pressure thrust onto him and he responded by winning a Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. He’s big, he’s gotten stronger, and there’s a good chance he’s going to be better next year. Still, some major red flags include whether or not he’ll still thrive now that Bill O’Brien has moved on and his best receiver is going to be playing in the NFL. Those are big hits for any quarterback, especially a true sophomore.
2.) Connor Cook, Michigan State (JR)
Cook took over at Michigan State on the third game of the season, and the rest is history: 22 touchdowns, only 6 picks, a Rose Bowl victory and MVP award. Cook has a nice arm (he passed for a little over 2,700 yards) that’s capable of delivering balls to anyone anywhere, and he put up great stats last year while not possessing elite talent at WR. He’s the unquestioned starter now with more talent, so you can expect Cook to continue guiding Michigan State to a potentially undefeated season.
1.) Braxton Miller, Ohio State (SR)
There’s not much more to say about Braxton Miller, the accolades speak for themselves; two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, a Rose Bowl appearance, about 5,200 yards passing and over 3,000 yards rushing, 84 total career touchdowns, and he’s coming off his best season. Miller has been everything and more to Ohio State, and even though he lost in both the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl, he’s still a dynamic playmaker capable of beating anyone. He’s 24-0 in regular season play as evidence of that, but a Rose Bowl win and a National Championship are the only way his final season will be viewed as a success with Urban Meyer.