ESPN has a very cool new metric for evaluating college quarterbacks, the QBR, which is explained here. We'll use it a lot when sizing up Big Ten quarterbacks and how they match up with signal-callers around the country.
The QBR system measures college quarterbacks on a scale of 1-100, scoring all plays they're involved in that contribute to victories. It basically assesses how much a quarterback factors into wins.
Total QBR factors in such things as overthrows, underthrows, yards after the catch and more to accurately determine how much a QB contributes to each play. How critical a certain play is based on when it happens in a game is factored into the score.
Michigan's Denard Robinson actually was the Big Ten's top-rated player in QBR last season, coming in at No. 8 nationally with a rating of 80. Ohio State's Braxton Miller, the Big Ten offensive player of the year, actually ranked third in the league and 29th overall behind both Robinson and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (No. 28).
Northwestern's Kain Colter finished 38th, while Penn State's Matt McGloin came in at No. 44.
Wisconsin's Russell Wilson led the FBS in total QBR -- by a wide margin -- in 2011, finishing with a 94.2 rating, well ahead of second-place Kellen Moore (85.1). It supports my theory that Wilson's season -- along with Montee Ball's -- was underappreciated nationally because the Badgers fell out of the BCS title race.
Michigan signal-caller Devin Gardner, who took over for the injured Robinson in November, didn't log enough plays to qualify for the 2012 list. But he had the highest opponent-adjusted total QBR (90.7) of any player with at least 175 action plays.
From the ESPN Stats & Information crew:
Gardner had such a high total QBR because of his play in the red zone and on third down. Michigan excelled in the red zone with Gardner at quarterback, scoring on all 18 trips, including 15 touchdowns. Gardner accounted for 13 of the Wolverines’ 15 red-zone touchdowns (six pass, seven rush) and did not have any turnovers. His touchdown percentage (40 percent) was third highest by any FBS player with at least 15 pass attempts.
Gardner had a total QBR of 98.3 on third down, second best among players with at least 25 action plays. All 15 of his completions on third down led to either a touchdown or a first down. He was responsible for 11 touchdowns on third down, tied for 10th most in the nation with Matt Barkley.
It will be interesting to see if Gardner can maintain his red-zone and third-down efficiency this season as he enters as Michigan's No. 1 quarterback.