- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thirteen is an unlucky number. Unless you're No. 13 in our Big Ten player rankings, which means you're one of the very best players in the league. And do you really think a little thing like triskaidekaphobia is going to bother the next guy on our list, who happened to shoot a bear this offseason? No way.
No. 13: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa, senior, 6-foot-3, 212 pounds
2011 postseason rank: Not ranked
2011 numbers: Completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
Why he's here: It's hard to criticize too much about Vandenberg's first year as a full-time starting quarterback. He threw for 3,000 yards, after all, and his 25 touchdown passes tied him with Kirk Cousins for the second-most in the Big Ten.
Some have harped on Vandenberg's road performance, but they're mostly talking about his numbers at Penn State and Nebraska, two hard places to win where the entire team struggled. They conveniently forget to mention how he passed for 273 yards and three scores in a win at Purdue.
Vandenberg enters 2012 as the most accomplished pocket passer in the Big Ten. He won't have star receiver Marvin McNutt around anymore, and there were times last year when he locked on McNutt too much (an understandable decision, given how good McNutt was). But noted quarterback developer Greg Davis is the new Iowa offensive coordinator, and under his tutelage Vandenberg could turn in an outstanding senior season. Don't be surprised if he's higher than No. 13 in the postseason rundown.
No. 16: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
No. 15: Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
No. 14: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State