Big Ten: Kirk Herbstreit
In preparation for the 2014 season and in conjunction with interviews conducted by ESPN CFB analyst Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today, we take a look at Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
A look back at 2013
Braxton Miller had an outstanding junior season, becoming the first player in Big Ten history (since 1990 when the award was first given) to win the Offensive Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons. He was the only Power Five conference quarterback to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last year. If Miller can accomplish that feat again, he will join Colin Kaepernick and become the second FBS quarterback in the past 10 years to reach those thresholds in three seasons.
Miller has rushed for at least 100 yards in 14 games since the start of 2011, second most among FBS quarterbacks. He had five such games last season, which tied for fourth among FBS quarterbacks. Miller has always been a prolific rusher, but he’s also improved as a passer every year at Ohio State. Miller’s completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns have increased every season.
He was more willing to operate from the pocket last year. He attempted 85 percent of his passes from the pocket, nearly 20 percentage points higher than in 2012. His 19 touchdown passes from inside the pocket were tied for the most in the Big Ten with Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
A look ahead to 2014
With another 11-win season, Miller will pass Art Schlichter for the most wins in school history (36). Assuming Miller stays healthy, he has a good chance of passing Schlichter.
According to the ESPN Football Power Index, Ohio State has the best chance (41 percent) of winning the Big Ten, nearly 20 percentage points better than Wisconsin, and is projected for between 10 and 11 wins heading into bowl season. The Buckeyes have won 24 consecutive regular-season games, four shy of tying the Big Ten conference record.
The Buckeyes have big shoes to fill. They must replace six of 11 starters on offense, including league-leading rusher Carlos Hyde and four starters from an offensive line that combined for 135 starts.
Miller might have to shoulder more of the load. In the past, he has stepped up when his team needed him. Miller enters 2014 with six career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, including three last season. The six career game-winning drives are the most among returning FBS quarterbacks and five more than any other returning quarterback in the Big Ten.
One area in which Miller needs to get better is on third down. He ranked in the bottom third of the FBS in Total QBR (47.1) and completion percentage (50.9) on third down. Only Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Purdue’s Danny Etling were sacked more on third down than Miller (12) among Big Ten quarterbacks. Only two of the past 10 national championship quarterbacks have had a third-down QBR less than 70 in the season they won the title.
Herbstreit predicts Michigan State to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, and for the Badgers' Montee Ball to be the league's top player. He has Florida State over USC in a surprising national championship pick.
Several Big Ten players also made his All-Herbie team, which he describes as "What a college team should look like." Honorees include Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner and Michigan State defensive end William Gholston. Herbstreit picks Purdue as his No. 2 surprise team in the country
Here's where Big Ten players rank in some of Herbstreit's other categories.
Best Running Backs
2. Ball, Wisconsin
Quarterbacks: Dual Threat
3. Denard Robinson, Michigan
5. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Tight Ends: Best In The Biz
2. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
End Game: Defensive Ends
3. Gholston, Michigan State
11. John Simon, Ohio State
Inside Job: Defensive Tackles
2. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
4. Kawann Short, Purdue
Got Your Back: Outside Linebackers
3. Jonathan Brown, Illinois
5. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Take Cover: Defensive Backs
5. Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State
Right To Excite: Most Exciting Players
3. Robinson, Michigan
SHHHHH, Don’t Tell: Best-Kept Secrets
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Don’t Turn Your Back: Backyard Football
2. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Dress For Success: Looks The Part
1. Gholston, Michigan State
Off And Running: Ready To Take It To The Next Level
3. Miller, Ohio State
Old School: Throwback Players
2. Burkhead, Nebraska
4. Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Ahead Of The Curve
2. Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State
Ouch! The Ankle Breakers
1. Robinson, Michigan
Basic Instinct: It’s Everything
1. Borland, Wisconsin
The Ultimate Herbie
5. Ball, Wisconsin
All-Herbie Team: RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska; TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State; DL William Gholston, Michigan State.
Conference predictions: Michigan State over Wisconsin in Big Ten title game; Montee Ball as POY
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's not a misprint. College football will be played today in America. Not in the Big Ten -- gotta wait till Saturday -- but the season is here, and that's a good thing. I'll be chatting at 4 p.m. ET, and Week 1 predictions are coming in a little bit.
First, the links.
- The Big Ten's reputation has suffered since the 2007 Rose Bowl, but the biggest struggles have come against the SEC, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit is reminded of how far the league has fallen each time he sits down on the College Gameday set, Bill Rabinowitz writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Missouri is the blueprint for an Illinois program on the rise, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. Kicker remains a question mark, but Illinois coach Ron Zook is pleased with his special teams, Daniel Johnson writes in The Daily Illini.
- Indiana is sprucing up Memorial Stadium with 21 new banners, Chris Korman writes in the Bloomington Herald Times (subscription required). On the field, expectations are high for the Hoosiers after last year's bowl run.
- After academic issues forced him to leave the program, cornerback Amari Spievey is back in Iowa's starting secondary, Eric Page writes in the Quad-City Times. Hawkeyes starting center Rob Bruggemen grew up in Iowa's backyard, but he didn't get much attention in the recruiting process, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Iowa will sink or swim this fall based on an offensive line that used to be the program's trademark, Pat Harty writes in the Press-Citizen.
- Michigan's Rich Rodriguez downplays the uniqueness of his offense, but history has shown few coaches run the spread more effectively, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Snyder also takes a detailed look at the changes RichRod has made at Michigan. Here are some burning questions for the Wolverines.
- The offensive line is a question mark for Michigan State, especially with little depth, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. Coach Mark Dantonio expects plenty of Michigan State fans in Berkeley. Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp expects the Spartans to go 8-4.
- The bed in Tim Brewster's office isn't being used as the Minnesota coach is pleased with his team's preparation, Dennis Brackin writes in the Star Tribune.
- Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton wasn't named a captain, but his voice will be heard this fall, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Wildcats' new coordinators bring experience to the coaching staff, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Five Ohio State seniors passed up NFL millions for another year in school, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Heacock coaches against his brother this weekend, and Ohio State denies rumors that cornerback James Scott will transfer, Tim May writes in the Columbus Dispatch.
- Despite some obvious disappointment on Wednesday's teleconference, Penn State backup quarterback Pat Devlin likely won't transfer, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nittany Lions safety Mark Rubin used to beat Michael Phelps in swimming (Phelps also beat Rubin a bunch, too), Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter will set plenty of records in his career, but he wants some marquee wins as well, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Kubat also takes a look at the Boilermakers linebackers and a new-look receiving corps.
- Wideout Maurice Moore could surprise defenses this fall after working his way into a starting position, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Wisconsin also plans to honor its 1998 Rose Bowl team this weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Several more Week 1 depth charts came out Monday, but few major questions were answered. Penn State still doesn't have a starting quarterback, and neither does Indiana or Michigan. The first Big Ten coaches' teleconference is later Tuesday, so perhaps some light will be shed on the league's top position battles. Check back for updates.
- ESPN TV analyst Kirk Herbstreit says the Big Ten has been in an "identity crisis" since 2006, George M. Thomas writes in the Akron Beacon-Journal.
- Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson was surprised to end up on the Butkus Award watch list after never starting a game last fall. Now Wilson has the chance to back up all his hype, Stu Durando writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Illini defense isn't the only unit looking for better results Saturday in St. Louis, Mike DeArmond writes in The Kansas City Star.
- Having Jerimy Finch eligible for this season will help Indiana, but don't expect the Florida transfer to play right away, Chris Korman writes in the Bloomington Herald Times (subscription required).
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn't go through the normal application avenues to land his first head-coaching job at Maine, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Iowa is finalizing its future schedules, which probably won't change the belief that the Big Ten takes it easy in the nonconference, Eric Page writes in the Quad City Times. Iowa's streak of sellouts could come to an end Saturday against Maine.
- Rich Rodriguez doesn't mind rocking the boat at a Michigan program accustomed to the status quo, Drew Sharp writes in the Detroit Free Press. Don't be surprised to see two quarterbacks play in Michigan's season opener, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Count on plenty of true freshmen being on the field, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. The Wolverines will start a new tradition, the "Victors Walk," before each home game this season, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. I'll have to check that out on Saturday.
- Michigan State's new facility is long overdue and could have benefited previous coaches, Tim Staudt writes in the Lansing State Journal. The Spartans haven't beaten a Pac-10 team on the road since 1957, Joe Rexrode writes in his blog. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises expects Sparty to start 7-0.
- Heralded Minnesota freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray is off the team, at least temporarily, because of an academic eligibility issue, Myron Medcalf writes in the Star Tribune. Redshirt freshman wideout Damien White has left the team, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Footwork could be the key to C.J. Bacher's consistency this fall at Northwestern, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is high on wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, the only true freshman on the Week 1 depth chart.
- Quarterback Todd Boeckman's surge of confidence is unmistakable at Ohio State, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. The Buckeyes seem to be taking no chances with hobbled running back Brandon Saine, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Columbus Dispatch columnist Rob Oller is sick of SEC fans.
- Don't hold your breath for a starting quarterback to be named at Penn State, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nittany Lions defensive end Mo Evans is setting the bar extremely high, like 24 sacks high, Todd Irwin writes in The Altoona Mirror. The Spread HD will look a lot like Penn State's 2005 offense, and the team needs some players to step up at linebacker, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- Purdue's Cory Benton finally gets his shot to start at center this fall, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. The Boilers are still waiting for wideout D.J. Donley, a transfer from Georgia Tech, to arrive on campus. Donley might have to attend a junior college this season.
- Wisconsin starting safety Jay Valai doesn't lack much confidence, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst doesn't have a set system for developing quarterbacks, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. The Badgers hope to end their Big Ten title drou
ght this fall. Ohio State fans aren't the only ones celebrating the Big Ten Network-Time Warner Cable deal, Don Walker writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Iowa 24 Pittsburgh 20 Final Eastern Michigan 14 11 Michigan State 73 Final Western Illinois 7 Northwestern 24 Final Southern Illinois 13 Purdue 35 Final Bowling Green 17 19 Wisconsin 68 Final Maryland 34 Syracuse 20 Final Utah 26 Michigan 10 Final Rutgers 31 Navy 24 Final Massachusetts 7 Penn State 48 Final San Jose State 7 Minnesota 24 Final Texas State 35 Illinois 42 Final Indiana 31 18 Missouri 27 Final Miami (FL) 31 24 Nebraska 41