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Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Big Ten position rankings: Quarterbacks

By Adam Rittenberg

The position rankings march on with the quarterback spot. You've already seen my individual quarterback rankings for the entire Big Ten, but this list is different. I certainly take into account the strength of the starter, but 50 percent of the ranking has to do with the overall depth at the position. If a team has a backup with experience, it helps the cause for sure.

Here's my top five:

Stanzi
Ricky Stanzi has come up clutch for the Hawkeyes.
1. Iowa: Say what you want about Ricky Stanzi, but he wins football games. There's no quarterback in the Big Ten I'd rather have in crunch time than No. 12. You also had to like what backup James Vandenberg did last November at Ohio Stadium under pressure-packed conditions. Vandenberg certainly looks ready step in and contribute if anything happens to Stanzi.

2. Ohio State: When Terrelle Pryor is on his game, few defenses can stop him. If he can build off of the Rose Bowl and complement his superior running skills with more consistency in the passing attack, look out. There's a drop-off behind Pryor, but Kenny Guiton has had a good offseason and Joe Bauserman brings some experience to the table.

3. Michigan State: Aside from a few ill-advised throws late in games, Kirk Cousins had a very solid first season as Michigan State's starting quarterback. Cousins has all the ingredients to be a star in this league, and he has a very good group of wide receivers and tight ends at his disposal. Andrew Maxwell and Joe Boisture both are promising quarterbacks, and Keith Nichol always can step in even though he'll work as a wide receiver.

4. Minnesota: People are writing off Adam Weber too soon. He's the Big Ten's most experienced quarterback and should improve in a more simplified offense this fall. Like Michigan State, Minnesota has its backup quarterback playing wide receiver, but MarQueis Gray can step in if need be and bring tremendous athleticism to the backfield.

T-5. Wisconsin: The Badgers are here because of starter Scott Tolzien, a perfect fit for Paul Chryst's system and a smart, efficient quarterback. Wisconsin likely would be higher if Curt Phillips were 100 percent healthy, but Jon Budmayr's up-and-down camp creates plenty of anxiety about the team's quarterback depth. The Badgers really can't afford to lose Tolzien.

T-5. Michigan: It's looking like the "Shoelace" Show in Ann Arbor this fall, and if Denard Robinson can merely be a decent passer, he'll be a very effective weapon in Rich Rodriguez's offense. Tate Forcier made a lot of big plays for the Wolverines last fall and provides an experienced option, while true freshman Devin Gardner might be the team's quarterback of the future and should play this fall.

Up next: Special teams

More rankings ...