“Best laid plans of mice and men” right?
With today’s news that Miller is expected to miss the entire 2014 season, the conference is left without a clear-cut top QB.
Five B1G quarterbacks were named to the Manning Award Watch List, an honor bestowed to the nation’s top signal caller: Iowa’s Jake Rudock, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Miller. Noticeably absent from the list was Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, who also figures to be one of the top QB’s in the league. We’ll throw Wisconsin’s Joel Stave in the mix as well just for fun. With Miller now out of the picture, Hoosier fans are quick to catapult Sudfeld into the top spot, but let’s take a step back and look at what the statistics suggest.
In order to determine the conference’s “best returning quarterback,” five statical categories were examined: completion percentage, total yards, touchdowns, interceptions and overall quarterback rating. Players were awarded points based on their comparative rank in each category (example: Devin Gardner had the highest quarterback rating so he gets “6” while Jake Rudock, who had the lowest, is assigned a “1”).
Without further ado, here’s how the top returning field generals fared in our analysis:
Well, apparently the often criticized Devin Gardner will be leading the way this year. He did lead the conference in passing last year despite the fact that Michigan ran the ball 60% of the time on offense. “But wait!,” IU fans scream all at once. Sudfeld had to share snaps last year with the now-departed Tre Roberson! Indeed he did. In fact, Sudfeld was only responsible for 70% of the Hoosier’s pass attempts in 2013. So what if Sudfeld’s 2013 stats were adjusted? While completion percentage and quarterback rating would remain unchanged, yardage, touchdowns, and interceptions would all vary with a theoretical 30% increase. Here’s how the same analysis would look with Sudfeld taking all the snaps under center.
While Sudfeld is completely mediocre in terms of interceptions with the adjusted stats, he becomes the conference’s only 3,000 yard passer with over 3,500 yards.
While there are an infinite number of other variables to consider (including Hackenberg maturing in his sophomore campaign), based on last year’s data the answer is clear: with Braxton Miller out of the picture, Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld is the Big Ten’s top returning quarterback.