All of us at the Big Ten blog -- and most everybody else -- believe that Ohio State's J.T. Barrett will be the top quarterback in the conference in 2016. Barrett already has a top-five Heisman Trophy finish and a Big Ten quarterback of the year award on his résumé, and he won't have to battle Cardale Jones for the Buckeyes' gig this fall.
But who will be the second-best quarterback in the league, at least statistically speaking? Our B1G roundtable discusses:
Jesse Temple: Iowa QB C.J. Beathard
Beathard ranked eighth among Big Ten quarterbacks in passing yards per game last season (200.6), but you really can't argue with his efficiency. He finished fourth in that category and is tops among returning players in the league who threw a minimum of 15 passes per contest. Beathard didn't have to dominate a game by constantly airing it out given the trio of talented running backs he had playing behind him, which seemed to make him more effective when he did pass. He completed 61.6 percent of his throws for 2,809 yards, with 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Iowa plays perhaps the least difficult schedule in the Big Ten this season, which should help boost Beathard's statistics. Beathard still has offensive weapons to use, too. Top receiver Matt VandeBerg is back, as is tight end George Kittle, who led the team with six touchdown catches. The fact Iowa returns a strong ground game with Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels means the Hawkeyes will have a balanced offensive attack -- all paced by a senior quarterback who is an unquestioned leader on the team.
Dan Murphy: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Armstrong threw for more than 3,000 yards last season, finishing second among Big Ten quarterbacks to Nate Sudfeld in average yards per game. Next to Barrett, he's also the second biggest threat in the league with his legs. More importantly, after a year of getting to know each other, he and head coach Mike Riley both seem willing to play to each other's strengths. Armstrong buckled down in the offseason to improve his footwork and fundamentals. He told reporters in the spring that he wanted to rely less on his ability to make plays and operate more within the offense. For his part, Riley has pledged to do his best to give Armstrong more chances to use his legs within that offense. The Huskers aren't bailing on some dropback-passer elements, but the coaches seem more accepting of how to play to Armstrong's strengths after seeing him in action this spring. With targets at receiver such as Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and De'Mornay Pierson-El, Armstrong could put up some big-time numbers with just incremental improvements in his technique.
Brian Bennett: Michigan starter TBA
Is this a stretch? Perhaps. I mean, I can't even tell you for sure who will start under center for the Wolverines. It will either be Wilton Speight, who has minimal college experience, or John O'Korn, who last played two years ago at Houston. So what's with this pick? It's a belief in Jim Harbaugh, his staff and the offense that will surround the new quarterback. Just look at how that worked wonders last year for Jake Rudock, who had been a mediocre starter at Iowa before he became one of the Big Ten's most efficient passers in Ann Arbor (more than 3,000 yards with a 64-percent completion rate). Either Speight or O'Korn will have had two full offseasons to learn Harbaugh's system. They will also have a veteran offensive line to protect them and one of the league's best and most experienced group of receiving targets, including seniors Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt. The new Michigan starting quarterback will constantly be put in position to succeed, and I think the numbers will reflect that at the end of the season.