Big Ten QB Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks

The Big Ten has a historical reputation for being a “black and blue” type conference like the old NFC Central in the NFL. Woody Hayes and his “3 yards and a cloud of dust” comes to mind. But today, it’s all about the spread-option, and having a quarterback who can run the ball almost as well, or better than he can throw it. The Big Ten’s best are the guys who can beat with you with their legs in addition to beating you with their arm.

1. Ohio State- Terrelle Pryor.
He’s the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and will only get better. The only question remaining is, why wasn’t he one of the three players selected by THEEEEEE Ohio State University to attend Media Day in Chicago? Instead OSU brought one mediocre player, one guy that might not start, and another who’s scout team level in talent.

2. Illinois- Juice Williams and Penn State- Darryl Clark
It really is a toss-up between these two mobile QBs. Both have led their team to the Rose Bowl, both got smoked in that Rose Bowl, and both have developed towards the back-end of their collegiate career. Juice is a better runner and will put up bigger numbers this fall, but Clark is a better decision maker and commits less mistakes.

4. Minnesota- Adam Weber
Like the first three, he’s mobile and he’s got a gun. But does WR supreme Eric Decker make him look better than he really is? Guess we will find out next year when Decks is gone.

5. Northwestern Mike Kafkajuice-williams-arrelious-benn-440
He’s known as “the guy who broke that QB rushing record” to most, as he really hasn’t done much else outside of… the record shattering 217 yards he scrambled for in a season-defining win at Minnesota last fall. But he has potential, and now with C.J. Bacher’s departure, he has a chance to be the man and carry this team.

6. Iowa- Ricky Stanzi
Has high potential to rise above this spot; playing with the luxury of his stellar defense and the great blocking in front of him will help him get there.

7. Michigan State- Kirk Cousins/Keith Nichol
Cousins looked ok when he got some playing time in the Citrus Bowl last year (if the credit card company that bought the rights to that game wants publicity, they can give me a cut, until then it’s the Citrus Bowl to me!). Nichol is yet another qb transfer who bails on his program when he finds himself lower on the depth chart. But when you realize that he had to contend with Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, can you blame him? They’ll name their starter in a couple days.

8. Indiana- Ben Chappell
He’s got a good arm, but he’s no Antwaan Randle El. He’s not even in the same class as Kellen Lewis.

9. Purdue- Joey Elliot
He’s the like the Chester Frazier of Big Ten football- already focused on coaching once his college career ends. Last year, the Joe Tiller era ended. This year ends the era of Purdue QBs putting up good passing numbers and having draft potential.

10. Michigan ???
Familiar with the term “hot mess”? I don’t really know where to begin, expect by asking them to start over with whoever is the highest rated youngster at the position in their program.

11. Wisconsin ???
The Badgers deserve this spot simply because of what happened today with Bret Bielema’s “depth chart” release, an extreme let-down that said nothing. Junior Scott Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips were listed as co-starters ahead of senior Dustin Sherer, who started the final seven games in 2008. They won’t bother telling us who’s winning the position battle. But we can figure out that Sherer is JUST AWFUL.

Mike Kafka: Northwestern’s Record Setting QB

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By Paul M. Banks

This fall Northwestern breaks in a new starting quarterback, one with a few starting games under his belt. One of those games was extraordinary.

“All Mike Kafka did last year with his opportunity was run for a Big Ten single-game record (for a quarterback) 217 yards. You’ll see if you come out to practice that he’s throwing the ball as well as he has in his career and we’re excited to have a Chicagoan, a St. Rita graduate leading our program,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said at Northwestern Media Day.

Because of his performance in that single game, a 24-17 win at nationally ranked Minnesota, Kafka was named an AT&T All-America Player of the Week candidate, Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week and earned an ESPN College Gameday “Helmet Sticker.”

Because of that publicity, and the fact that it’s the only major national ink Kafka has acquired to date, he’s earned a reputation as a Randall Cunningham type, run-first style quarterback. I asked him what he thinks of that designation. “It’s a nice little label, but…everyone’s going to have opinions on you, and I can throw the ball too,” he responded.

Coach Fitz vouched for Kafka’s passing ability, as a complement to the scrambling that he’s known for. “We’re going to ask Mike to run our offense and if that involves running then that’s what we’re going to do. But as I’ve said, he completed more passes than anyone wants to give him credit for last year, right around 70 percent. Mike can throw it well, we’ll spread it out and I think he’s a true definition of a dual-threat quarterback.”kafkadualthreat

But that credit is slowly trickling in for Kafka, as he’s just one of 20 quarterbacks nationally, three from the Big Ten, named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list. And his passing accuracy is reflected by the fact that he’s completed 62 percent of his career pass attempts. Kafka’s QB role model is a player who was certainly not known for scrambling.

“One of the guys I look up to is Brett Favre, I love the way he plays the game and I try to model my game around his.” This fall, Kafka will have a chance to disprove (or re-affirm) the idea that he’s strictly a “running quarterback.” So I asked him if there was anything else he had read or heard about himself in the mainstream media which he found grossly inaccurate.

“I leave that up to my parents, a lot of parents like reading that kind of stuff, but I really don’t read into it. I’m pretty confident in my abilities, I know I what I need to do. I know my teammates got my back, and I got their back, so that’s all that matters to me,” he responded.

Of course, in this age and day of web 2.0 and social media; opinions, facts, rumors, hints, allegations and things left unsaid, but implied get around more rapidly than ever. I asked the NU QB if he gets involved with things like Facebook, Twitter and the like.

“In the past I’ve had one. I still have a Facebook page, but I don’t check it that often, I’m thinking about just erasing it because it’s kind of a waste of time…I don’t care about it that much and it would kind of be a distraction throughout the season,” he replied.