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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Big Ten bowl season is nearly here, but with a few days to go, it's time to begin the year-end position rankings. These won't be quite as in-depth as the preseason rankings, but I'll try to get to each position before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5.
The rankings begin with arguably the Big Ten's weakest position, quarterback. While signal callers from the Big 12 and SEC dominated the national spotlight, the Big Ten struggled under center, and several veteran quarterbacks backslid. There were some bright spots, especially at Penn State, but I can't remember a season where the Big Ten was so poor at the game's most critical position.
In case you forgot, here were my preseason rankings (what was I thinking?!?!). Note: I did not include first-year starters in this rundown.
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|Daryll Clark led Penn State to an 11-1 record.|
1. Kellen Lewis, Indiana
2. Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
3. Curtis Painter, Purdue
4. Juice Williams, Illinois
5. C.J. Bacher, Northwestern
6. Brian Hoyer, Michigan State
7. Adam Weber, Minnesota
And now for the year-end top 10.
1. Daryll Clark, Penn State -- Clark exceeded expectations in his first season as the starter, mastering Penn State's Spread HD system and helping the Nittany Lions to an 11-1 record and a Rose Bowl berth. He ranked second in the league in pass efficiency and threw 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 285 pass attempts.
2. Adam Weber, Minnesota -- His numbers weren't spectacular, but the Gophers sophomore did an excellent job of leading the offense and limiting mistakes. Minnesota's offensive line had major problems, and without a viable run game, Weber once again shouldered much of the load. He showed tremendous toughness by returning to the field just six days after knee surgery and led Big Ten starters in completion percentage (62.8).
3. Juice Williams, Illinois -- This was your Big Ten offensive MVP through the first half of the season. Williams set total offense records at the Edward Jones Dome, Michigan Stadium and Memorial Stadium. He led the Big Ten in passing and ranked third in quarterback rating. If not for a poor finish -- nine interceptions in the final five games -- Williams would have been higher on the list.
4. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State -- There were undoubtedly some growing pains, but under the circumstances, Pryor exceeded expectations and fueled optimism for Ohio State's future. Stepping into the starting job just four weeks into his college career, Pryor went 8-1 at the helm and helped the Buckeyes to a Big Ten co-championship. He still holds the ball too long at times and must become more consistent as a passer, but those things will come.
5. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa -- Stanzi's emergence down the stretch was the primary reason why Iowa finished so strong and reached a New Year's Day bowl. Think about it. Shonn Greene was terrific all season, and so was the defense. But the quarterback position looked shaky until Stanzi emerged in October. He avoided an interception in four of Iowa's final six games and threw 13 touchdown strikes.
6. Brian Hoyer, Michigan State -- Hoyer overcame his struggles in close games and helped Michigan State to a 9-3 record and a third-place finish in the Big Ten. He came up huge against Michigan and led the game-winning drive against Wisconsin. Still, his unsightly stats can't be totally overlooked. I just can't get too excited about a guy who completed 50.8 percent of his passes and had only one more touchdown (9) than interception (8).
7. C.J. Bacher, Northwestern -- Bacher deserves credit for playing some of his best football in Northwestern's final two games, but the senior couldn't eliminate the bad habits that dogged him throughout a career that featured plenty of passing yards. He threw as many interceptions (14) as touchdown passes for the second consecutive season and lacked the huge passing performances he had in 2007.
8. Curtis Painter, Purdue -- It wasn't the end Painter had envisioned to a record-setting career at Purdue. He finished second in the league in passing but really missed Dustin Keller and Dorien Bryant. Painter struggled to get the Boilermakers into the end zone and battled some injury problems late in the season. His incredible career numbers should not go unnoticed, but he never seemed to get over the hump against the Big Ten's elite.
9. Dustin Sherer, Wisconsin -- Sherer might have been higher on the list had he played a full season. The junior seemed to give Wisconsin a lift after replacing Allan Evridge as the starter on Oct. 18 at Iowa. Sherer went 4-2 as the starter and helped Wisconsin to wins in its final three games. His numbers weren't stellar, but he avoided the critical mistakes that crippled Wisconsin earlier in the year.
10. Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis, Indiana -- These two shared duties this season, so they'll share a spot as well. Chappell led Indiana to its only Big Ten win and showed some good leadership at times. Lewis had a rough season, throwing more interceptions (8) than touchdown passes (6) and sustaining an ankle injury. Though Indiana's defense deserves most of the blame for a 3-9 season, the quarterback play wasn't good.