Projecting B1G's top passers
Arguably the top two passers in the country call the Big Ten home. At the very least, they’re two of the best. Those guys — who will be named later — will have some competition for the Big Ten passing crown.
5. Wes Lunt, Illinois
Call me a believer in the Illini junior. After sitting out 2013 because of NCAA transfer rules, the former Oklahoma State quarterback showed why he could operate a high-powered Big 12 attack as a true freshman. His recovery from a broken leg made for an up-and-down first season in Champaign, but when he was on the field, Lunt made his time count. Three different times he saved the Illini with a fourth-quarter comebacks. His biggest issue has always been health. Especially without No. 1 receiver Mikey Dudek to start the season, the Illini can’t afford any more injuries to their starting signal-caller.
4. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Speaking of stud quarterbacks needing to stay healthy, Sudfeld has to be at the center of Kevin Wilson’s offense this year. His value was shown when he wasn’t on the field. No offense to Zander Diamont, but Indiana’s offense fell apart when Sudfeld went down with a season-ending injury to his non-throwing shoulder. He says he’s at 100 percent, which is what the Hoosiers will need from his right arm without leading returning receiver J-Shun Harris for the season. Still, Sudfeld will find a way to get it done, even without the likes of an established outside threat.
3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
I wonder how many times Hackenberg and some form of the word “regress” have been used in the same sentence over the last year. It’s probably a ton. I wonder how many times the phrase “bounce-back” has been associated with him over the last six months. Also, probably a ton. I’m a believer in the latter. I think Hackenberg looks a whole lot more like his freshman self than his sophomore self. Even Peyton Manning looks hysterical when he doesn’t get time to throw. Hackenberg gets that time back in 2015 and reminds the nation why he’s one of the NFL’s top prospects.
2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Wait, I actually named an Ohio State quarterback here? Yes, I did. Thank you for noticing. The guy who broke Ohio State’s single-season touchdown pass record — as a freshman — will get his job back. Before Barrett broke his ankle, he was the conference’s best offensive player. Remember when he racked up a Big Ten-record 45 touchdowns? As a freshman? He was second in the conference in passing last year, which could increase if he’s lacking any mobility from last year. Barrett can operate in or out of the pocket as well as anyone in the country. The only reason he won’t be tops on this list is because the Buckeyes will be in their fair share of blowouts where Barrett will be holding a clipboard.
1. Connor Cook, Michigan State
What else can be said about Sparty’s senior signal-caller? It’s somewhat unbelievable that the third-year starter still has eligibility. Either way, Cook is back after leading the best offensive season in school history. He led the conference in passing, too. Of all the quarterbacks ranked among the top 40 passers in 2014, Cook had the fewest attempts. He racked up over 3,000 yards when the Spartans relied plenty on its rushing attack. With Jeremy Langford gone, the Spartans will put their faith in Cook even more. Major showdowns against Oregon and Ohio State could easily turn into shootouts. If they do, Cook isn’t a bad guy for Mark Dantonio to have in his holster.