We've all been through a lot this week. I'm drained. The OTE writer group voted to unionize on Wednesday, so we've been at the bargaining table throughout the past two days, trying to hammer out details. Lots, lots of requests that can be summed up as "parent's basement furnished or no more writing" and "better meme-making Microsoft Paint software available".
That said, we've been unable to reach agreement so far on terms, so I brought in a "scab" (as the old UAW folks would call it) to help me with research. For fear of retribution, we won't use his real name, so you can refer to him as "Chopper Pants." Blame CP for any clerical or statistical errors in today's post.
Sadly, today's focus is not nearly as flashy as yesterday's PUNTERS piece. We don't have Heisman Candidates, magazine models, fake plays, or rigged voting thanks to the actual punter retweeting our piece. But we do have -
I'm a non-conformist, and Chopper Pants is new to the site, so we're not going to do a "Top 5" list. Instead I'm going to highlight some of the important statistics and focuses when it comes to wide receiver play in the B1G....and where me and Chopper think the passing game will go during 2014.
How many B1G teams featured an effective passing game in 2013?
7 qualified QB's over 130 ESPN Rating
9 QB's over 2000 yards passing
7 QB's with over 20 passing TD's
Compare that to 2012:
4 qualified QB's over 130 ESPN Rating
6 QB's over 2000 yards passing
2 QB's with over 20 passing TD's
An obvious uptick was shown in the offensive output of most B1G teams. Horrible MSU became effective, efficient MSU. Armpunting Michigan became less armpunty. Penn State's frosh QB was super.
CAUSE OF THE UPTICK
CAUSE #1: Quarterbacks stayed, for the most part, healthy enough to run their offensive system all year and gain familiarity with the system.
CAUSE #2: Passing systems evolved and improved through different ways; Illinois, Indiana and MSU being prime examples.
CAUSE #3: The receivers, oh the receivers. Veteran receivers making big plays and circus catches. Take a look at the Top 10 Wide Receivers from 2013 for overall yards. Notice anything? Not only did they have some monster years, but they're almost all done playing college football. Robinson, Gallon, Latimer, Abbrederis, Hull, Brown, Enunwa, Hughes...all gone. Christian Jones and Devin Funchess, listed as a "tight end", are the only two remaining. That's a trend, man, and who is going to replace all those veteran studs?
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
What is the #1 indicator for whether a team's passing offense is going to be successful? It seems like stable offensive system + veteran quarterback will get you consistent results. We're ripe with those kinds of systems in the B1G.
But there is more to that equation, obviously, and questions remain. Who will Christian Hackenberg throw to without Al Robinson destroying cornerbacks? Will the B1G, void of NFL-level wide receivers, go back to its three years and a cloud of dust roots? Who is the best wide receiver no one is talking about? Who is going to catch the ball for the Wolverines when Funchess is doubled all game long?
Playing and succeeding at wideout is a most inexact science. You're 6'3'' 220 lbs, you look like a video-game creation...and you've got no one to get you the ball. Or you're buried on the depth chart, but you keep your head down, keep grinding, other receivers get hurt or a case of the drops...and when it's your turn, your hands are made of stick 'em.
TOP B1G WIDE RECEIVERS
Devin Funchess, Michigan
Devin Smith, OSU
Tony Lippett, MSU
Macgarrett Kings, MSU
Christian Jones, NW
Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Deon Long, Maryland
Shayne Wynn, Indiana
Kenny Bell, Nebraska
Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa
DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue