- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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I thought it would be fun to borrow an idea from our friends at the SEC blog -- they're on our good side after this post -- and look at which Big Ten offenses return the best triumvirates (quarterback, running back, receiver) on offense.
It turned out to be quite challenging. And a little depressing.
No Big Ten squad brings back a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher (running back) and a 1,000-yard receiver from 2012. After all, Penn State's Allen Robinson was the lone Big Ten pass-catcher to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in 2011. Although the Lions return Zach Zwinak, who finished with exactly 1,000 rush yards, they lose 3,200-yard passer Matt McGloin.
The benchmark seems to be 2,000 pass yards, 900 rush yards and 600 receiving yards. Two teams qualify here, and they would have met in the Big Ten title game if one hadn't been on postseason probation.
Here are the Big Ten's top three offensive triumvirates ...
QB Taylor Martinez -- 2,871 pass yards, 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
RB Ameer Abdullah -- 1,137 rush yards and eight touchdowns
WR Kenny Bell -- 863 receiving yards and eight touchdowns
2. OHIO STATE
QB Braxton Miller* -- 2,039 pass yards, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions
RB Carlos Hyde -- 970 rush yards and 16 touchdowns
WR Corey Brown -- 669 receiving yards and three touchdowns
QB Cameron Coffman -- 2,734 pass yards, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
RB Stephen Houston -- 749 rush yards and 12 touchdowns
WR Cody Latimer -- 805 receiving yards and six touchdowns
*-Miller led Ohio State in rushing with 1,271 yards.
Why are only three teams listed? Because no other Big Ten offenses merit mentions. They're either losing key pieces or looking for much more production from the pieces they have.
Northwestern brings back a 1,300-yard rusher in Venric Mark but lacks the passing and receiving components. Despite losing Montee Ball, Wisconsin brings back two talented running backs (James White and Melvin Gordon) and a solid receiver (Jared Abbrederis), but none of its three quarterbacks eclipsed 1,200 pass yards in 2012.
Penn State has the receiver and the rusher, but its leading returning passer (Steven Bench) had 12 yards in 2012. James Vandenberg was the only Iowa Hawkeye to attempt a pass in 2012, and he's gone. Purdue loses its top passer (Robert Marve), top rusher (Akeem Shavers) and top receiver (Antavian Edison).
Michigan likely would have had two-thirds of the equation if Devin Gardner had played quarterback all season, but the Wolverines lose their only consistent rushing threat in Denard Robinson. Speaking of rushers, Le'Veon Bell leaves a huge void (1,793 yards) at Michigan State, which brings back 2,500-yard passer Andrew Maxwell and two 500-yard receivers (Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler).
Personnel losses are part of college football, but the limited list of Big Ten "triumvirates" illustrates how many teams are returning proven pieces on offense. The quarterback and receiver positions are particularly lacking.