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Crunching the numbers: Big Ten quarterbacks

With a 66.7 percent completion rate, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett was one of the nation's most accurate passers vs. the blitz. Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports

Everyday stats -- like passing yards and TDs -- don't tell the complete story of a quarterback. So, with the help of ESPN Stats & Info, we're trying to dig a little deeper.

Who's the Big Ten's best signal-caller in the fourth quarter? Who's the best in the red zone? And who doesn't mind throwing against the blitz? In this week's latest "Crunching the numbers" installment, we discovered the best and worst returning B1G quarterbacks in each of those categories. The only qualifier? Each QB needed at least 100 pass attempts last season.

Once again, just like last week, the statistics aren't perfect here. Variables like receiver ability and opposing defenses aren't taken into account, so some numbers might appear inflated or deflated. Regardless, it's still an interesting look at who was most effective on paper in 2015 -- and who might surprise in 2016.

Who's the Big Ten's best QB in the face of the blitz?

The best: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (79.7 QBR)

Barrett wasn't just the best in the conference, he was one of the most accurate passers vs. the blitz in the nation. He completed 66.7 percent of such passes, and only Stanford's Kevin Hogan boasted a higher completion rate (68.3) in the Power 5. Barrett turned the ball over just once when defenders were set loose -- on an interception vs. Illinois -- but the Buckeyes still won that game handily, 28-3. Overall, Barrett finished 30-of-45 in blitz situations for 365 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He was the clear No. 1.

The runner-up: Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner (72.4 QBR)

Note to Big Ten defenses: Don't blitz against Leidner. He was one of the rare quarterbacks who actually fared better against the blitz. His QBR when there was no blitz? A slightly below-average 52.1. Leidner was consistently good here, with the only real exceptions coming in games against top-15 defenses of Northwestern and Ohio State. Against the blitz, he finished 57-of-93 (61.3 percent) for 660 yards, four TDs and one pick.

The bottom: Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson (23.1 QBR)

Fellow Wildcats QB Zack Oliver didn't technically qualify here because he attempted only 53 total passes, including 18 against the blitz, but he would've finished below Thorson if no minimums existed. (He had an 8.4 QBR.) At any rate, there wasn't a lot of positive for Thorson here. Statistically, his first two games -- wins against Stanford and FCS Eastern Illinois -- were his best against the blitz. He finished the season 23-of-55 (41.8 percent) in those situations for 248 yards, one TD and two interceptions.

Who's the Big Ten's best QB in the fourth quarter?

The best: Iowa QB C.J. Beathard (88.1 QBR)

Besides Beathard, only one other quarterback in the Power 5 attempted more than 50 passes in the final quarter without throwing an interception. His name? Clemson's Deshaun Watson. Any way you really look at it here, Beathard was in elite company in this category. He tossed 14 passes of at least 20 yards in the fourth quarter, the second-best total in the Power 5 behind only Washington State's Luke Falk, who had more than twice the number of pass attempts as Beathard. The Iowa quarterback's total numbers: 44-of-63 (69.8 percent) for 706 yards, six TDs and no interceptions.

The runner-up: Ohio State Barrett (69.1 QBR)

There's quite a gulf here between Beathard and Barrett. The Buckeyes' signal-caller fared well above the 52.9 QBR average, but he just didn't come close to equaling Beathard in any fourth-quarter category. He finished 21-of-35 (60 percent) for 201 yards, three TDs and one pick. He was good; it's just that Beathard was better.

The bottom: Maryland QB Perry Hills (5.0 QBR)

Hills' numbers really couldn't be much lower. Out of the 100 Power-5 quarterbacks who had at least 20 attempts in the final quarter, Hills ranked dead last. No one threw more interceptions (6), and Hills completed just 46.5 percent of his passes. He finished 20-of-43 for 227 yards, two TDs and six interceptions.

Who's the most-effective Big Ten QB in the red zone?

The best: Purdue QB David Blough (87.2 QBR)

Blough was just a different signal-caller in the red zone. Outside of the red zone? His QBR was 39.1, and he threw five TDs to eight interceptions. In the red zone? Try 87.2, with five touchdowns and no picks. He didn't beat up on lowly teams here, and he didn't post up garbage-time numbers. His sample size is on the smaller end -- 18-of-25 (72 percent) for 119 yards -- and Nebraska's defense really helped him out. (He threw three red-zone TDs against the Huskers.) Regardless, Blough was still impressive.

The runner-up: Iowa QB Beathard (85.7 QBR)

Beathard's completion percentage was actually on the lower end here (45 percent), but he was still incredibly effective. Half of his completions went for first downs, despite having little room to work with, and he tossed seven touchdowns to just one interception. His worst game on paper? Iowa's first loss of the season, against Michigan State. He was 1-of-5 in the red zone there and threw his lone interception.

The bottom: Maryland QB Perry Hills (0.4 QBR) and Maryland QB Caleb Rowe (15.1 QBR)

Both of these signal-callers had limited sample sizes but, taken together, they still would've finished dead-last. The two combined to go 16-of-31 for five TDs and two interceptions. The pair finished slightly behind Thorson, who had a 26.3 QBR.