As 1,000 yards rushing is the baseline for greatness by running backs, so is 3,000 yards passing for quarterbacks. But it is often an even harder milestone to achieve, especially in the Big Ten.
Only one quarterback reached 3,000 yards passing in the league last season, and hardly anybody saw it coming: Penn State's Matt McGloin blossomed under Bill O'Brien and threw for 3,266 yards in 12 games. Besides McGloin, only three other conference passers even threw for 2,500 yards.
McGloin is gone, so who will be the next league signal caller to make it to 3k? Here's a breakdown of the top contenders in order of likelihood:
1. Indiana's starter: Quick: which player finished behind McGloin last season in passing yards per game? It was the Hoosiers' Cameron Coffman, who threw for 2,734 yards. He did that in just 10 starts, after being thrust into the role following Tre Roberson's Week 2 broken leg, and while splitting some snaps with Nate Sudfeld. We don't know who is going to start for Indiana this season, and if it's Roberson, the passing projections go down. But we know the Hoosiers will throw the ball all over the place, and if one quarterback can start all 12 (or even 13 games), he's going to put up huge numbers.
2. Devin Gardner, Michigan (1,219 passing yards in 2012): A bit of a stretch? Perhaps. But consider that Gardner passed for more than 1,200 yards in just five games as the Wolverines' quarterback last season. Project that over 13 games and -- voila! -- that's more than 3,000 for the season. Plus, as the Wolverines go to a true pro-style attack, I think Gardner will throw more than the next guy on the list ...
3. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (2,871): People might have laughed at the notion of Martinez as a 3,000-yard passer in recent years, but look how close he got in 2012. Add in a few more completions, and it doesn't take much to get him there. Of course, he posted those numbers last season in 14 games, so he's either got to get Nebraska back to the Big Ten title game or increase his passing yards per game, and Nebraska doesn't need to sling it around all the time with its rushing attack.
4. Penn State starter: If O'Brien can turn McGloin into the league's top passer, what can he do with a pure talent like Christian Hackenberg or junior-college transfer Tyler Ferguson? Having Allen Robinson and about 16 tight ends to throw to certainly helps. The one drawback is the lack of major college experience for either guy. McGloin at least had plenty of snaps under his belt before last season.
5. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (2,039): Miller worked hard on his passing technique this offseason, and I fully expect his yardage total to go up. He's still got a long way to go to reach 3,000, but there's a good chance the Buckeyes play two more games this season if they win the Leaders Division. If he does get to 3,000 passing yards, a Heisman might await.
6. Michigan State starter: As shaky as the Spartans' passing game was a season ago, Andrew Maxwell still managed to throw for 2,606 yards. The receivers will be a year older and presumably better, and it doesn't look like Michigan State has a Le'Veon Bell type to hand the ball to 30 times a game. Still, very little about this offense inspires confidence, and there is an ongoing competition between Maxwell and Connor Cook.
7. Wisconsin starter: The three Badgers quarterbacks who played last season combined for just 2,197 passing yards -- and that was in 14 games. So there is no reason to suspect a Russell Wilson-type season. But at least Joel Stave and Curt Phillips now have a lot more game experience, though I believe Gary Andersen will continue to rely on the running game.
8. Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois (1,361): Scheelhaase's season, like all things Illini in 2012, was instantly forgettable. But if he can stay healthy, his numbers should go way up in Bill Cubit's pass-happy spread offense. The ceiling is probably more like 2,500 yards, though.
9. Iowa starter: The Hawkeyes had a 3,000-yard passer just two years ago (the good version of James Vandenberg), and the offense should improve in the second year under coordinator Greg Davis. But the combination of no quarterbacks with college experience and lackluster options at receiver makes this seem like a major long shot at best.
I ruled out Purdue (little experience at quarterback, ground-based system), Northwestern's Kain Colter (a running quarterback; maybe if Trevor Siemian plays a whole lot more) and Minnesota's Philip Nelson (too few weapons around him) as legitimate candidates.
Who if anyone do you see getting to the 3,000-yard mark from the Big Ten this season?