Quarterback is the most position in sports — except, apparently, in the Big Ten, where some of the best teams seem to win in spite of their QBs, not because of them.

While in the SEC, Bryce Young, Matt Corral, Bo Nix, KJ Jefferson, Stetson Bennett and others have elevated their respective programs, most all of the B1G QBs outside of a few exceptions are dragging their teams down, or at least playing at a level where they aren’t increasing their team’s chances of winning. The SEC has 6 QBs with 12 or more TD passes and 4 or less INTs; the Big Ten has 1.

It has to be especially frustrating for fans of teams such as Iowa and Wisconsin. Where would they be if they just had average QB play, or even a serviceable backup? And come to think of it, why don’t they have a serviceable backup?

This looked like a weak crop of QBs, but there were at least a few strong returning starters coming back. Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr., Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz and Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan were all on the preseason All-B1G teams in Phil Steele’s magazine, Athlon Sports and PFF. The trio have combined for 13 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions this season. Other returning starters, like Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez, Iowa’s Spencer Petras, Rutgers’ Noah Vedral, Purdue’s Jack Plummer and Illinois’ Brandon Peters have either gotten benched or played bad enough to get benched.

That’s part of the reason this has been such a strange, unpredictable year in the Big Ten. Preseason top-20 Indiana is winless in the Big Ten, while Michigan State, picked last in the East, is ranked third in the country.

Aside from Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Penn State’s Sean Clifford and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, there isn’t a QB with a legitimate case as their team’s MVP. (Maybe Martinez, but Nebraska’s defense is the real reason the Huskers have competed with some of the B1G’s best.)

The West illustrates this dynamic perfectly, as the 4 teams with a chance to win the division (Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin) all are winning games despite getting subpar performances from their QBs. Only the 3 service academies pass less than Minnesota, which attempts just 18.1 per game. The Golden Gophers would rather hand the ball to their 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-string running backs than put the ball in the air with Morgan, who is in his 4th year as the starter. Wisconsin isn’t far behind at 23.1 attempts per game. The Badgers and Golden Gophers have won a combined 5 games while posting single-digit completion totals.

These teams ask so little and have such a low bar for QB play that sometimes it feels as though any random Joe could come off the street and win games for them. Obviously that’s not true, but that’s how it looks from the outside.

That’s another odd wrinkle to the B1G’s poor QB play; none of these teams have a backup they trust, even as their offense bottoms out. Mertz should’ve been benched after his 4-INT day against Notre Dame. Petras should be benched after back-to-back games in which Iowa scored only once. Martinez should be benched after 4 INTs against Purdue (and it should’ve been 5 INTs). But these teams haven’t recruited the QB position well at all and just don’t have other options. If these respective coaches think these guys are their best chance to win, what does that say about the backups?

Sean Clifford has been really good this season, but Penn State has no one behind him, and that’s the reason the Nittany Lions aren’t in contention for the College Football Playoff.  James Franklin couldn’t get a QB ready after a bye week to beat Illinois at home and instead had to run an injured Clifford out there for 9 overtimes.

I find it a little ironic that the teams that added QBs in the transfer portal, like Michigan State and Michigan, haven’t needed them at all, and the teams that didn’t add QBs, like Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa, probably wish they did. It’s especially crushing for Penn Sate and Wisconsin, who lost QBs to the portal who are now leading programs (Kentucky and Notre Dame) ranked higher than them.

That’s the kind of year it has been.

And you can’t just say, “Well, the defenses in the league are just so good.” Ohio State’s CJ Stroud rips that narrative apart with the way he shreds B1G defenses each week. Among Power 5 QBs, Stroud is the only B1G player in the top 20 of QB rating against Power 5 opponents.

With Stroud, Payton Thorne, Cade McNamara/JJ McCarthy and Taulia Tagovailoa, the league should see an uptick in QB play moving forward as those guys continue to get reps.

But that doesn’t take away from how disappointing this season has been from that standpoint. Fan bases are clamoring for better performances from the most important position in sports. It’s an area the conference needs to show improvement in next season.