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Wednesday, January 7, 2009
QB play is first step toward Big Ten fix

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten took a beating this bowl season, but rather than gripe about unfavorable locations and matchups, it's time to acknowledge a fact about the league.

The quarterback position stinks.

And in this age of college football, that equals competitive suicide.

All it took was a look across the field during bowl season to realize how far the Big Ten must progress at the quarterback spot.

The list of quarterbacks the Big Ten faced included:

Of the Big Ten quarterbacks competing in bowl games, only one, Penn State's Daryll Clark, ranks among the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency (Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor did not qualify). Minnesota's Adam Weber had the most passing yards (2,761), which ranks 35th nationally.

Granted, the Big Ten's best statistical passer, Illinois' Juice Williams, didn't reach the postseason, but this league is losing the arms race.

The Big Ten had by far the best stable of running backs in the country this season, boasting three of the nation's top six ball carriers (Shonn Greene, Javon Ringer, Chris "Beanie" Wells).

Who cares?

College football has become a quarterback's game, and the Big Ten has fallen way behind. For the Big Ten to restore its place among the nation's top conferences, the fix must begin under center. It takes more than adopting the spread offense, which most Big Ten teams have done. Quarterbacks must be better developed in this conference.

And despite the league's sagging national reputation, there is hope.

The quarterback spot figures to be stronger in 2009 than it was in 2008.

Still, there are major question marks around the league. Wisconsin and Michigan need to identify capable quarterbacks, and the situations at Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State are far from stable.

Improved quarterback play also will help Big Ten defenses. Though Stanzi exposed Penn State's weak secondary in the second half of Iowa's 24-23 upset on Nov. 8, it took a quarterback like Sanchez to truly show the season-long deficiencies in the Lions' back half.

The Big Ten's problems certainly go beyond the quarterback spot, but until the play under center improves, the league will get exactly what it deserves.