We've reached the final three in our countdown of the Big Ten's Top 25 players heading into the 2013 season. As a reminder, this list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.
Up next is a quarterback who made major strides from 2011 to 2012. A similar jump this fall could push him to No 1. For now, he'll settle for his jersey number ...
No. 3: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska, senior, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
2012 postseason ranking: No. 5
2012 numbers: Completed 228 of 368 passes for 2,871 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; 195 rushes for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns
Why he's here: Vowing to be a more accurate and efficient quarterback before the 2012 season, Martinez kept to his word and led the Big Ten in total offense (277.9 ypg) and pass efficiency (141.59 rating). You could have made a good case for the Nebraska quarterback to win the league's offensive player of the year award, and Martinez earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches, ahead of Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
Martinez set Nebraska single-season records for total offense (3,890) and touchdowns accounted for (33), and he showed his poise by rallying the Huskers from double-digit second-half deficits in four separate games. He improved his completion percentage by nearly six percent and recaptured the running form he displayed during the first half of his freshman season in 2010. Martinez already holds Nebraska career records for total offense (9,449 yards) and passing (6,591 yards). He's on pace to set every meaningful Husker passing record and needs just 577 rush yards to break the team record for quarterback rushing held by former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch.
Championships are the only thing separating Martinez from cementing himself among Nebraska's all-time greats and climbing this list to the No. 1 spot. He still commits too many turnovers, especially in big games. If he can maintain or improve his positive statistics and eliminate those frustrating errors, he'll contend for Big Ten and national honors as a senior.
No. 5: Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
No. 4: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State