Big Ten becoming league of haves, have nots at QB
The Big Ten is becoming a league of haves and have-nots: Those
with established quarterbacks generally win. Those without usually
Yes, the conference once known for its rugged, black-and-blue
image is evolving like most other college conferences into a
”Don’t want to play three quarterbacks, don’t want revolving
doors, don’t want two (quarterbacks),” said Indiana coach Kevin
Wilson, who has used three different players behind center this
While the philosophies differ from school to school, the
difference between picking one quarterback and juggling others has
produced stark contrasts.
Of the five Big Ten schools ranked this week – No. 4 Wisconsin,
No. 11 Michigan, No. 14 Nebraska, No. 16 Illinois and No. 23
Michigan State – each has a named starter without controversy at
football’s highest-profile position. Wisconsin, Michigan and
Illinois are all unbeaten, too.
The five schools using more than one quarterback extensively
because of choice or injuries – Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State,
Penn State and Purdue – have a combined record of 13-16. And Penn
State (5-1, 2-0), the most successful team in the group, has 29
total points in two Big Ten wins.
Joe Paterno, college football’s winningest coach, doesn’t care
as long as the rotation between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden is
”We’re getting much more out of it,” the Nittany Lions coach
said Tuesday. ”I think both of them deserve to play. It’s hard for
me to tell you which one would be better, but right now, I’m
satisfied with the way the two kids have played.”
Still, the overall evidence backs up the adage that if you have
two quarterbacks you don’t have one.
With Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson splitting snaps at
Michigan the past two years, the Wolverines were 12-13. This year,
under new coach Brady Hoke and a full-time starter in Robinson,
What’s changed? Robinson has had more time to work with the
starters and develop his skills.
”I think the understanding of the offense, the more
completeness of managing the offense has been better,” Hoke said.
”From a throwing-game perspective, we’ve made a few bad decisions,
but overall I think he’s done a tremendous job.”
Ohio State’s struggles also illustrate the point.
From 2005 through 2010, the Buckeyes won or shared every Big Ten
football title. Only once during that span, briefly in 2008, was
there a quarterback controversy. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith
was the full-time starter in 2005 and 2006, Todd Boeckman was the
guy in 2007 and after Terrelle Pryor wrested the job away from
Boeckman as a freshman, it was Pryor’s until he left school earlier
This season, Joe Bauserman has taken 105 snaps and Braxton
Miller 95. The Buckeyes head into the second half of the season at
3-3 (0-2 Big Ten), their conference-title streak in serious
Things could be changing soon in Columbus. Miller picked apart
Nebraska’s defense for three quarters Saturday, but the offense
struggled when Miller hurt his ankle. If he’s healthy, coach Luke
Fickell just might use Miller more often.
”I think you saw him play with a lot more confidence,” Fickell
said, referring to Saturday’s game. ”He can throw the football, he
understands the game of football and he’s getting better every
The problem at other schools is that the quarterback carousel
continues to spin.
Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) started freshman Max Shortell the last two
weeks because starter MarQueis Gray was slowed by a toe injury. The
Golden Gophers lost those games by a combined score of 103-17.
Injuries have forced Purdue and Indiana to juggle lineups,
The Boilermakers lost projected starter Rob Henry with a torn
ACL in August, then started Caleb TerBush because last year’s
starter, Robert Marve, was not fully recovered from last year’s
season-ending knee injury. Now that Marve is back, coach Danny Hope
must determine who gives Purdue (3-2, 1-0) the best chance of
beating Penn State on Saturday.
At Indiana, the mastermind of Oklahoma’s high-scoring offense is
still searching for answers, too. Wilson gave Ed Wright-Baker the
starting job on opening day. When he sprained an ankle, Dusty Kiel
stepped in for two starts and now Kiel is hurt. That opened the
door for freshman Tre Roberson last week, though it appears
Wright-Baker will start this weekend when the Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2)
visit No. 4 Wisconsin.
But Wilson needs more out of his offense, and, like the other
struggling conference teams, more consistent play from the cadre of
”We still play the game with a little too much doubt, and
that’s what we’re trying to sew up,” Wilson said. ”That’s our
short-term fix, those are things we control, and again our kids are
doing it. They are doing reasonable, positive things through the
week in practice, but we need some game success. We need some guys
to click in on Saturday, realize it’s not that hard.”