A quarterback injury has the potential to derail a team’s entire season.

Just ask Indiana, which has cycled through QBs the past 2 seasons at the same rate Spinal Tap went through drummers. The Hoosiers needed 7 quarterbacks to make it through 2021 and ’22, so it’s little surprise IU has been among the Big Ten’s worst teams in that span.

But adversity need not be a harbinger of disaster. You just need the right backup in place.

The 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes remain the gold standard of the genre.

Starter Braxton Miller was lost for the season when he tore his labrum in August training camp. JT Barrett stepped up until he too was felled by injury against Michigan. The Buckeyes beat Alabama for the national title with third-stringer Cardale Jones leading the way.

It remains the most recent national championship for a Big Ten program.

While it’s inadvisable to attempt winning a national title going down that path, Ohio State’s 2014 success is a lesson that the sky doesn’t have to fall if the starting quarterback can’t get off the turf.

Clearly, no one wants to see a quarterback get hurt. But it’s essential to be prepared for the possibility. And the following 5 Big Ten teams are best equipped to handle that scenario in 2023.

1. Michigan

Last year JJ McCarthy simply overtook Cade McNamara as starter, giving the Wolverines a pair of starting-caliber QBs until McNamara entered the transfer portal.

This year, Michigan is again the team in the best position to handle losing a quarterback for any period of time.

Jack Tuttle — among the aforementioned 7 Indiana quarterbacks to throw a pass the past 2 years — is backing up McCarthy now. Tuttle had 5 career touchdowns and 6 interceptions at IU, where he was Michael Penix’s backup in 2020 and ’21. That ratio may not scream “game manager,” but Tuttle should never have to press in Michigan’s offense.

He’s a veteran quarterback who was respected as a leader at Indiana. A lot of people will panic if McCarthy goes down, but Tuttle won’t be one of them. Attitude is half the battle for a successful backup QB.

2. Maryland

Backup Billy Edwards Jr. has already proven himself to be a capable backup for the injury-prone Taulia Tagovailoa. In starts against Northwestern and NC State, Edwards completed 61% of his passes for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding 136 rushing yards. He also led Maryland’s game-clinching drive against Indiana, and led a 4th-quarter touchdown drive against Michigan while Tagovailoa was out.

Edwards is a more explosive running threat than Tagovailoa, which can actually stress defenses when he fills in on a pinch.

Maryland would obviously love a full season with a healthy Tagovailoa. But even if Tagovailoa is just banged up for a couple of drives, Edwards is capable of keeping the Terps moving.

3. Ohio State

While Tuttle and Edwards have already proven themselves as backups elsewhere, our belief in Ohio State’s quarterback depth is more faith-driven than data-driven. But that faith is warranted.

Kyle McCord is expected to start for the Buckeyes after 2 seasons backing up CJ Stroud. But he has yet to officially win the job over Devin Brown.

Brown and McCord battled out for the position in the spring until Brown missed the final 4 practices with a finger injury. That competition will now carry over into August. Regardless of who wins, the backup won’t be far off the mark — think Dwayne Haskins vs. Joe Burrow.

If the loser walks — or even if he stays — the Bucks have another insurance policy in former Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia. Gebbia has 5 career starts, including a 2019 upset win over Oregon.

As a seventh-year senior, Gebbia should have plenty of poise. And maybe a PhD.

4. Wisconsin

Part of the reason Wisconsin was stuck continually trotting Graham Mertz behind center the past couple years is the fact he was legitimately the team’s best option. QB depth was nonexistent.

New coach Luke Fickell has put an obvious emphasis on making sure that never happens again. Presumptive starter Tanner Mordecai has 2 years of experience starting at SMU after 2 years as a backup in Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma offense.

Behind Mordecai, the Badgers have a pair of former 4-star recruits who transferred in from powerful offenses — former Oklahoma quarterback Nick Evers and former Mississippi State quarterback Braedyn Locke.

Both are redshirt freshmen, which isn’t the ideal scenario for throwing a backup in the fire. They’re more likely to compete for the starting job next spring. But the raw talent is promising enough to believe Wisconsin’s season wouldn’t be derailed if either played.

5. Illinois

The Fighting Illini don’t have an all-Big Ten quarterback on their roster. But they do have a pair of passers that should be able to keep the offense near the middle of the conference pack. And with the defense Illinois might field this year, a middle-of-the-pack offense should be enough to make a pretty good team.

Former Ole Miss backup Luke Altmyer is Tommy DeVito’s presumptive replacement. But the most experienced quarterback on the roster is actually senior John Paddock, who started all 12 games at Ball State last season and had a 400-yard game against Northern Illinois. Incidentally, Paddock is a fourth-generation Illini — his uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather all played at Illinois.

Beyond that duo, potential 2024 starter Donovan Leary is waiting in the wings after redshirting last season. Overall, Illinois is probably in the best shape it has been at quarterback since Nate Scheelhaase graduated.