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B1G Ballers Take on Conference Leaders - Quarterbacks Edition

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How does your signal caller stack up against the rest of the conference?

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Most football arguments begin with the quarterbacks. They go like this: C.J. Beathard is a Long Legend. Hack sucks. Conner Cook is the second coming of Johnny Unitas...

You know how this works, because you've probably made those arguments both for and against.

The arguments are getting fierce lately. Even among individual teams. Ohio State started Cardale Jones and eventually benched him in favor of J.T. Barrett...who then tried to use that status to talk himself out of a DUI.

But it's worse between rivals. Iowa fans are particularly enamored of their kid, C.J. Beathard (a name I STILL crack up at, every time I write it. I'm juvenile, sue me...). This one time, I failed to notice that he played injured...INJURED!...in the Ballers. The first comment went on and on about his semi-divine status. How doctors said that his play wasn't human...that what he did was physically impossible. And yet he did it.

Then he went to the sidelines and turned the gatoraide into wine...seriously, I haven't heard this much hyperbole since I had to endure Tim Tebow mania when played for Florida.

Anyway, we all think we KNOW which quarterback is better and why. We know that 99% of the success of our team starts with the quarterback play. He's the most visible player on the field and also the most scrutinized. That's because we all love a good quarterback and most of us love statistics.

So which statistics best describe the best quarterbacks?

The quarterback is a particularly difficult an easy position to measure. It’s all about touchdowns passing yards completion percentage QBR… damn it’s hard to quantify what makes a great quarterback. It’s like porn…I can’t define great quarterback play, but I know it when I see it.

Here are some categories:

Statistics:

First

Second

Third

Pass Completions:

Wes Lunt

Mitch Leidner

Jake Rudock

Pass Attempts:

Wes Lunt

Tommy Armstrong

Mitch Leidner

Completion %:

Jake Rudock

Cardale Jones

C.J. Beathard

Touchdowns:

Connor Cook

Tommy Armstrong

Jake Rudock

Passing Yards:

Tommy Armstrong

Connor Cook

Nate Sudfeld

Passing YPA:

Cardale Jones

Nate Sudfeld

Connor Cook

Passing Efficiency:

Nate Sudfeld

Connor Cook

Cardale Jones

Fewest Interceptions:

Christian Hackenberg

J.T. Barrett

C.J. Beathard

Most Interceptions:

Caleb Rowe

Perry Hills

Tommy Armstrong

Rushing Yards

Perry Hills

J.T. Barrett

Clayton Thorson

I'm sure many of you will look at this table and cry foul. But these data come from the official Big Ten Conference site. If you want to bitch, take it up with them. I'm sure they'll get back to you...right after they change a bunch of penalties in last weeks games...

Now we can do the fun stuff...comparing qualities.

Some interesting things jump out of this table. First of all, Wes Lunt holds both the most attempts and completions, but not completion percentage. He’s actually tenth in completion percentage. That tells me he throws a lot of balls…in fact he has 85 more attempts than the second best on the list, Tommy Armstrong.

I also found it interesting that Cardale Jones made the top spot in YPA and was third in passing efficiency…and he’s now riding the pine. I heard that both Maryland and Rutgers are making bids to get him to transfer.

Probably the most telling data point is that Connor Cook shows up in the categories that really matter – Yards, Yards per Attempt, and Efficiency. That’s a big reason for MSU’s success this year.

The other side of that coin is interceptions. Turnovers kill drives and lose games. If you give the ball away a lot, you are going to be a bad football team. And going one and two in that category area…Maryland’s duo of quarterbacks.

Damn that’s embarrassing for the Turtle. And it isn’t close. There are only four B1G quarterbacks with double digit interceptions, the three on the list and Rutgers’ Chris Laviano. who is fourth. Maryland has two of them. Yeesh.

One thing the Maryland quarterbacks do well is run. Perry Hills has the most rushing yards by a quarterback in the conference. That surprised me too. And his numbers aren't for a handful of rushing attempts either. Maryland's "option" package is basically HIlls left or Hills right.

The kid is a decent runner too. He boasts a better yards per rush attempt than Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels. Chew on that for a while.

One thing that does stand out is that the really great quarterbacks should show up in this table a lot. Here's how it breaks down:

  1. OSU QB's J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones - 5 times
  2. MSU QB Connor Cook - 4 times
  3. Michigan QB - Jake Rudock - 3 times
  4. Indiana QB - Nate Sudfeld - 3 times
  5. Nebraska QB - Tommy Armstrong - 3 times (-1 for picks)
  6. Iowa QB C.J. Beathard - 2 times
  7. Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner - 2 times
  8. Illinois QB Wes Lunt - 2 times
  9. NU QB Clayton Thorson - 1 time
  10. PSU QB Christian Hackenberg - 1 time
  11. Maryland QBs Perry Hills/Caleb Rowe - 1 time (-2 for picks)

What conclusions can we draw from this information? Clearly MSU and OSU have talent and coaching at the quarterback position. Cardale wasn't the fan favorite, but he was efficient. J.T. Barrett can run like hell and, more important, he doesn't give the ball to the other team.  Those two teams' ranks reflect quality quarterback play.

You can make a similar argument for Michigan, with Jake Rudock on the list three times. However, it's not cut and dried.

While it's clear that the great teams have great quarterbacks. However, as you go lower in the stats, you find quarterbacks that play on losing teams. Nate Sudfeld and Tommy Armstrong both appear on the list 3 times, but play for "under-performing" teams.

Notably missing quarterbacks are Joel Stave from Wisconsin, David Blough from Purdue, and Chris Laviano from Rutgers. What I find interesting is that, while Purdue and Rutgers bring up the rear of the conference...Wisconsin doesn't. That, along with C.J. Beathard only on the list twice, kind of throws some shade on my thesis that the good teams get great quarterback play.

However, I stand by my hypothesis that a good team can be great with a good to great quarterback.

Your Friend,

Townie

P.S.: Christian Hackenberg is way better than his stats...so this is all bullshit anyway. #firstrounddraftpick!!!