Photo Copyright: Matt Mitchell/MSU Athletic Communications

Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Not so fun fact: Minnesota hasn’t had a QB selected in the NFL draft since 1972. Of the Gophers six quarterbacks on their roster, not a single one has ever thrown a pass at the FBS level. I’m not suggesting that the Gophers won’t get production out of the unit, however their inexperience gives me no other choice but to rank them here.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Not so fun fact: Rutgers has had NINE different offensive coordinators in NINE years! That’s no typo folks. The Knights will likely turn to Artur Sitkowski, a 6’5” true freshman with a cannon after Giovanni Rescigno and Johnathan Lewis combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes last year.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini – Not so fun fact: Injuries and inconsistent play has resulted in Illinois using three QB’s each of their last two seasons. Cameron Thomas completed just 42 percent of his passes in four games late in the season as a true freshman last year, but showed promise and is a dual-threat. AJ Bush didn’t transfer from Virginia Tech for his final season to sit and will provide solid competition in fall camp.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Fun fact: Tanner Lee was the first Nebraska QB to declare early for the NFL draft. Nebraska is shifting from a pro-style to an uptempo spread-option offense this season. While the quarterback room is inexperienced similar to Minnesota, the talent level is superior with true freshman Adrian Martinez, the No. 17 ranked QB in the 2018 class and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, the No. 9 ranked QB last year taking over.

10. Maryland Terrapins – Not so fun fact: In four of the last six seasons including three straight, injuries has forced Maryland to start three or more QB’s. Both Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill showed playmaking ability in their brief stints last year before injuries ended their seasons. Veteran Max Bortenschlager showed improvement with each passing rep last year.

9. Indiana Hoosiers – Fun fact: Peyton Ramsey was the first Indiana freshman to throw for 300 or more yards since 2006. The aforementioned Ramsey showed he was more than capable to compete in the Big Ten last year. The Hoosiers also added Brandon Dawkins as a grad transfer from Arizona, who has 14 career starts with nearly 4,000 total yards (1582, 6.8 rush).

8. Purdue Boilermakers – Not so fun fact: Purdue has had a different QB start their opener for nine straight years. Not even a torn ACL could slow down Elijah Sindelar, who played thru the injury for final three and a half games last year. David Blough beat out Sindelar last year before an injury ended his season. He’s made 25 career starts.

7. Wisconsin Badgers – Fun fact: Wisconsin is the lone FBS school since 2000 with two QB’s that have completed 94 percent of their passes in a road game (Russell Wilson, Alex Hornibrook). Wisconsin QB’s are typically game managers. Alex Hornibrook is a perfect example of that and 2018 will be his third season as the starter. Jack Coan and Kare’ Lyles were both highly touted recruits.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes – Fun fact: JT Barrett was named the Big Ten’s QB of the year three times! It’s going to be weird watching Ohio State without JT Barrett under center, but Dwayne Haskins will allow the Buckeyes to throw the ball downfield more often with his rocket arm. Haskins proved more than adequate when he rallied Ohio State over arch rival Michigan in the Big House last year. Tate Martell was the No. 3 QB in the 2017 class and head coach Urban Meyer compares his running skills to Barrett.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes – Fun fact: Head coach Kirk Ferentz hired a full time QB coach for the first time in 2017. Nathan Stanley’s 26 touchdown passes last year were the most for an Iowa QB since 2002 and he joined Chuck Long as the only QB’s in school history with multiple five touchdown games. Peyton Mansell has shown steady improvement and true freshman Spencer Petras is 6’5”, 227 pounds and enrolled during the spring.

4. Northwestern Wildcats – Fun fact: Clayton Thorson increased his completion percentage from 50.8 percent in 2015 to 58.6 percent in 2016 and then again to 60.4 percent last year. Clayton Thorson flirted with declaring for the NFL draft before last years Music City Bowl before opting to return for his Senior season. He suffered a torn ACL in the bowl and was held out of spring, leading to more reps for Aidan Smith, Andrew Marty, and TJ Green.

3. Michigan State Spartans – Fun fact: Last year Brian Lewerke became just the third Big Ten QB in the last 20 years to throw for 400 or more yards in back-to-back games. Brian Lewerke is a dual threat and had the most total yards by a Sophomore in Michigan State history last season. Rocky Lombardi was said to be as far ahead mentally as any freshman QB in East Lansing and true freshman Theo Day was the No. 31 ranked QB in the 2018 class and enrolled during the spring.

2. Michigan Wolverines – Fun fact: Head coach Jim Harbaugh was the Big Ten Player of the year and finished third in the Heisman Trophy ballot in 1986. Shea Patterson was the No. 2 rated QB out of high school in 2016 and started 10 games in the SEC at Ole Miss the last two years. He was granted eligiblity this season and instantly makes the Wolverines a National Title contender. Backups Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffery, and Joe Milton were all very highly touted recruits.

1. Penn State Nittany Lions – Fun fact: Trace McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games. This should come to no surprise, given my previous article stating that Penn State has the best QB room in the nation. McSorley is a bonafide Heisman contender and backup Tommy Stevens would be a starter at roughly 75 percent of the FBS programs.

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