2015 Big Ten QB Notes

Submitted by MCalibur on August 25th, 2015 at 10:00 AM

[Ed-S: Bumped from diaries]


Who needs a football fix? Every year I like to size up the relevant QB competition to Michigan in an effort to convince myself that we’ll go undefeated. Please see the following links for the ghosts of seasons past as well as an overview of the general thought processes behind these projections (2010, 2013, 2014). I was unable to post diaries for 2011 and 2012. This exercise is pretty hit and miss but its fun so let’s get to it.

I don’t actually expect anyone to click through to all those links so here’s a summary of the foundational ideas I’ve developed over the years:

1. As far as I’m concerned, the feel good year end rating for a QB is about 140. It’s a tough standard but that’s what the subjective good looks like. Great starts setting in above 145.

2. I treat player skill as a ratcheting riding-a-bike type thing. You don’t just forget what you once “knew” When performance recedes, its because of other factors outside of skill. Therefore, performance must be parsed in order to not over assign skill to a given performance.

3. I strive for an accuracy of +/- 4 points in passer rating. I.e. 131 vs. 135 and 135 vs. 139 are acceptable but 131 vs. 139 is a miss. Below 130 is bad and if I put you in that category and you score at or below 130, I claim a hit.

4. Barring injury, if I pick the wrong starter the a priori assessment carries over to the replacement. More on this later.

5. I use Bill Connolly's RB Rating system to guide my commentary regarding specific players. I had developed a version but, the data streams I needed dried up and his method accounts for most of the factors I did so its good enough for me.

[Hit the Jump for a post-mortem of 2014 QBs] 

2014 Post Mortem

The following table summarizes my comments from last season’s attempt at perfection.

School Prediction Rating Scorecard
J.T. Barrett OSU 130-135 169.8 MISS
Connor Cook MSU 135 149.4 MISS
Gary Nova Rutgers 130-135 145.3 MISS
Mitch Leidner Minnesota 130-135 123.8 HIT
Wes Lunt Illinois 135 141.6 HIT-ISH
Jake Rudock Iowa 135 133.5 HIT
Devin Gardner Michigan 145 118.8 MISS
Joel Stave Wisconsin 140 113.2 MISS
C.J. Brown Maryland 140-150 114.2 MISS
Christian Hackenberg PSU 135-140 109.4 PASS
Trevor Siemian NW 135 105.9 MISS
Austin Appleby Purdue 125-130 101.7 HIT
Tommy Armstrong Jr. Nebraska 135 - 140 133 HIT
Everett Golson Notre Dame 140 143.6 HIT
Travis Wilson Utah 135 134.7 HIT
Andrew Hendrix Miami (OH) 135-140 121.3 MISS


So, 7 – 8 – 1 doesn’t blow my socks off but, bear in mind that I have two opportunities to  be wrong (guy over-- or underperforms my expectation) whereas I only have 1 chance to be right (+/- 4 points of my prediction). In 2013 I was able to hit 10 out of 12 through the strike zone so this is a let down of sorts. But, whatever, predicticating is hard.

I’m taking a pass on Hackenberg because of the depth and injury issues PSU faced last year. My thesis on him identified all of the legit factors against a good performance out of him last year but somehow I thought it’d be a good idea to ignore all of them.  As for the misses, here’s my best at reconciling the gaps. The main rationalizations are Defiance of Gravity (Barrett, Cook), Injury (Brown), WTF (Stanzi, Gardner, Stave, Siemian, Hendrix).

The fact that so many experienced QBs pooped the bed is a severe indictment on the state of coaching in the B1G in my view.

School Thesis Post Mortem
J.T. Barrett OSU File Not Found, Man. When I find myself in a desert of data I turn to Proxy analysis…[OSU's] two leading rushers (Miller, Hyde) are gone and though Ezekiel Elliot and Bri’onte Dunn are talented, they’re inexperienced…and so is everybody else! …  I think this is the second toughest schedule in the conference behind Maryland...We are dealing with Ohio State so maybe things come together. Proxy range was anything between meh to wow, I guess we got wowed. Guessed wrong but a priori assessment is within reason.
Connor Cook MSU His [2013] rating is probably inflated due to the INT rate....he should be able to post some nice numbers but I’m not seeing anything better than early Kirk Cousins just yet. Cook earned his DAP re: INT Rate and I didn't see Tony Lippett coming.

Rutgers Unfortunately, I think Nova is what he's going to be: a mediocre QB. For the record, I said similar things about Ricky Stanzi going into 2011 and he threw an egg at my face. #oopspowsurpise
Devin Gardner Michigan Mountains of hope. No regerts and I’m not sorry. Sometimes when you're wrong, you're reeeally friggin wrong
Joel Stave Wisconsin ...the Badgers return 4 on the OL and Melvin Gordon is definitely the next great Badger running back...he'll have to overcome is the loss of all of his primary pass catchers ...schedule is pretty QB friendly  he could get better and not change his rating see wha-ha-happen was…

Perhaps losing out to Tanner McEvoy messed with his mojo?

C.J. Brown Maryland [dynamic runner]…[established system]…[tough schedule] cue Rilo Kiley again

wasn’t the same player after he hurt his back

Trevor Siemian NW I think NW's B1G West schedule will be QB friendly and Trevor should put in his best performance yet. …um, I, uh…was sippin’ on some purple???

…and the haters sing along cause they hate you…

Andrew Hendrix Miami (OH) I think Miami can have a decent offense this year and Hendrix should do well. [crickets]

Song’s played out, bruh…


Devin Gardner, man. Dude gave everything there is to give. Two head coaches, 3 offensive coordinators / schemes, 2 position changes, 3 jerseys one of which might as well have been a crown of thorns, an OL that gave up 63 (!!!) sacks in 2013 and 2014, what else is there? Last year sucked on many fronts but seeing Devin go out like that was ba-rutal to watch. I really do believe se could have been awesome almost anywhere else in the country. Seeing him get shit on by so many pisses me off but it is what it is. Devin joins Brandon Graham in MCalibur’s Courage Hall of Fame. Whatever, on to the next one.

The 2015 B1G Noobs

Team Situation Estimate
Northwestern Northwestern's new QB will have a good level of experience returning on the OL and in the receiving corps so he should have some decent support around him. But, that schedule is a nightmare and dude might struggle. 130
Rutgers Rutgers' new starter has good skill position players around but the OL needs to rebuild a bit. The schedule is of nominal difficulty and I expect them to rely on their quality running backs a lot so this QB should be OK. 130
Maryland The Terps need to fill in some holes on the Oline but that should be a manageable process. Brandon Ross is a capable RB and while losing Diggs from the receiving corps will undoubtedly hurt, they get Jacobs back from suspension which should help reduce the sting of Diggs loss a bit. The schedule looks QB friendly to me. Caleb Rowe is competing with Daxx Garman for the job but Rowe looked OK filling in for Brown last year. He needs to stop throwing so many INTs but having a full offseason to prepare for the starting role should help him do that. 135





Michigan’s 2015 OOC Opponents

Team Situation Estimate
Utah Travis Wilson is a solid QB with reasonable accuracy and good decision making; much like Rudock in fact. This will be his fourth season with significant playing time so he'll need to make the Stanzi leap in order to break out of the 135 range.

OL is experienced but needs to replace 2 starters. Devontae Booker is a solid but unremarkable RB. Receiving Corps doesn’t seem very threatening based on last season's numbers.

Oregon State Mannion graduated and Del Rio got outta dodge with the regime turmoil so there's an open competition at QB. QBs usually have significant growing pains let without learning a new scheme. That said Oregon State returns their top 2 receivers from last season and a decent RM in Storm Barrs-Woods. The OL only needs to replace 1 starter so the the overall support for the new QB should be solid. 130
UNLV UNLV's Head Coach was coaching a High School team last season. No big deal, we all start somewhere, I'm just sayin’. The Rebels need to fill 3 spots on their OL but return some experience at the skill positions. Devonte Boyd is the guy Michigan's secondary will want to keep close tabs on. Blake Decker returns from his first year as starting QB so he should be able to take a step forward though regime and scheme change always puts a damper on progress. 130
BYU As the Texas Longhorns know all to well, Taysom Hill is a bit of a handful. He's a senior that has played every year but he's gotten injured twice including last year. His completion percentage and INT rate were very good and his passing skill and devastating mobility make him very difficult to stop. Mitch Mathews is a legit receiver and the OL replaces 4 starters but they also have 4 players with starting experience so I think they'll be fine. We'll need our defense to do well in order to win this game. 140

Austin Appleby,Purdue


2014 Rating: 123.8





Expected Values 0.529 5.768 0.034 0.039
Actual Values 0.515 5.327 0.037 0.040
Single Factor Rating 104.3 93.0 109.8 105.4
Appling unseated Etling but he was a first year starter and the support around him was bad, same as it was for Etling. That pretty much sums up last year's performance. This year the O-line and Receiving corps return virtually intact which helps tremendously. Purdue will need to find a RB but I think Appling will improve significantly over last year.

Projection: 130

Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

clip_image002[10] 2014 Rating: 123.8 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.575 6.895 0.052 0.030
Actual Values 0.515 7.586 0.046 0.034
Single Factor Rating 98.0 137.2 122.2 118.9
Not surprising for a first year starter, particularly a dual threat guy. Accuracy needs to come way up or Kill needs to get him some of those "oh, wide open" type of throws RichRod generated for Denard. The OL returns a  lot of experience but new skill position threats need to be identified. I don't see Mitch breaking through to the upper 130's this year.

Projection: 130

C.J. Beathard, Iowa

clip_image002[16] 2014 Rating: 129 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.587 7.160 0.056 0.028
Actual Values 0.565 7.011 0.054 0.022
Single Factor Rating 119.9 126.0 132.5 170.9
Displaced Ruddock who I consider solid. Showed good decision making (low INT rate) but accuracy needs to improve. The OL needs to fill two holes but the 3 return 69 starts. Skill position players weren't very frightening last season.  An good schedule should help Beathard put up decent numbers.

Projection: 135

Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska

clip_image002[20] 2014 Rating: 133 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.596 7.364 0.059 0.027
Actual Values 0.533 7.812 0.064 0.035
Single Factor Rating 106.0 141.7 144.6 116.8
Improved decision making (INT rate) significantly but accuracy (completion pct.) is lagging significantly. Still has a ways to go on decision making. Massive losses around him with Abdullah on top of that list. The OL needs to replace 3 starters and the Husker's top receiver last year is gone. There's a regime change too which will probably ask Armstrong to be more of a passer. Tough to see Tommy doing much with all that but his running ability should help him avoid INTs, unless he's coached otherwise.

Projection: 130-135

Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

clip_image002 2014 Rating: 126.6 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.582 7.038 0.054 0.029
Actual Values 0.605 6.892 0.036 0.018
Single Factor Rating 137.1 123.7 108.7 190.7
Nate injured his shoulder last year and the Hoosiers needed to replace some good WRs in Hughes and Latimer from 2013. This year, the OL is very experience but they lose Tevin Coleman which is kind of a big deal. On top of that the WR corps is gutted. Still, Kevin Wilson's offense can put up numbers and without Coleman as a crutch, the schemes might be more pass oriented. Schedule looks favorable. Taking a wide range here.

Projection 135-140

Jake Rudock, Michigan


[Eric Upchurch]

2014 Rating: 169.8 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.598 7.390 0.060 0.026
Actual Values 0.617 7.061 0.046 0.014
Single Factor Rating 142.6 127.0 122.2 208.9
Ruddock posted a stellar INT rate and a reasonable completion rate last year. His YPA and TD Rate are low but QBs need some help to get those numbers right. He got benched regardless and that's good for Michigan. His presence ensures that we will have a competent QB at the helm. If he gets beat out by Morris or whomever, at least there was a reasonable hurdle to jump. All 5 positions on the OL have an experienced player available and they'll have better coaching. The RB corps looks stacked IMO. The only potential concern is the WR corps but I expect the run game to take pressure off the passing game and give the starter the opportunity to look respectable. That said, it’s a pretty tough schedule with PSU, OSU, and MSU lurking in the B1G East.

Projection: 135

Wes Lunt, Illinois

clip_image002[6] 2014 Rating: 141.6 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.616 7.803 0.066 0.023
Actual Values 0.635 7.315 0.058 0.012
Single Factor Rating 150.2 131.9 137.3 219.6
The CMP% and INT% are great the other two factors are heavily influenced by the support around the QB. Josh Ferguson looks like a good compliment out of the backfield and the WR returns intact. The OL needs to fill some holes and improve upon their performance from last year. The schedule is fairly easy so Wes should be able to do some damage.

Projection: 140

Joel Stave, Wisconsin

clip_image002[8] 2014 Rating: 113.2 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.551 6.355 0.043 0.034
Actual Values 0.534 6.553 0.044 0.049
Single Factor Rating 106.3 117.0 118.7 89.0
Feels like I'm falling into a trap again here but I don't understand how/why Stave's numbers fell off a cliff last year. Maybe he lost his mojo and started pressing to hard when Tanner McEvoy won the job from him. Not sure but I cant think of anything else. Wisconsin loses an awesome RB and needs to fill some holes on the OL bit like, that's what they've been doing for 15 years so, like, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, homie. BQG West schedule should prove to be quite favorable. They have a new coach but Chryst is as Wisconsin as it gets. The drop off and regime change give me pause but I'm going to go ahead and just push play.

Projection: 135 - 140

Connor Cook, Michigan State

2014 Rating: 149.4 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.634 8.201 0.072 0.020
Actual Values 0.581 8.805 0.066 0.022
Single Factor Rating 126.7 161.1 147.2 170.0

Connor is conundrum to me. His greatest asset is avoiding mistakes as evidenced by the ridiculously low INT rate two years running but his completion percentage is lagging big time. I've chalked this dichotomy up to good decision making (i.e. throw the ball away or tuck and run rather than force it into a tight spot) but its hard to say. The YPA and TD rate indicate that he does a good job getting the balls to his play makers (read: Lippett) and they take care of the rest. That's the QBs job, and that's what Cook does.  The low completion percentage bothers me though. It makes me wonder what guys like Nate Sudfeld, Wes Lunt, or even Jake F. Rudock would look like if they were in the pocket for MSU. It doesn't matter, it's Cook's gig and he's doing a great job.

This year MSU's OL should be  better than it was last year but they need to find a replacement for Langford and Hill at RB. It seemed like they had a good one in Delton Williams (who might be better than both Hill and Langford) but he was busted/suspended for brandishing a gun in public. He's since been reinstated so I bet he's the guy who gets the lion's share of the carries this season -- Bill Connolly's metrics are a fan, heads up. At WR MSU needs to find a replacement Mumphrey and cope with the loss of Lippett. I think they can do that between the likes of Kings, Burbridge, Arnett, and Kilgore. That said,  I suspect Connor will have to do more on his own particularly early in the season.

Projection: 140

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

clip_image002[12] 2014 Rating: 109.4 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.542 6.161 0.040 0.036
Actual Values 0.558 6.151 0.025 0.031
Single Factor Rating 116.7 109.1 94.3 124.4
Hack's 2014 campaign was a nightmare. The team had to transition into a new coaching regime and the learning curve that comes with it. On top of that he lost a great receiver in Alan Robinson and had *no* support around him. No OL, no RB, no WRs. Nothing. Then people started getting hurt and the scholarship reductions PSU was dealing with really had their impact then. He was sacked 44 times which is more that Gardner got hit in 2013. Those hits have an affect; one which I don't think Gardner ever recovered from. I expect significant mean reversion here because he's is just too good and this year he has everyone around him coming back--for better or for worse. I'm doubling down on Hack; I think he's the best pocket passer in the conference. Someone please figure out a way to break that Rilo Kiley file...

Projection: 140

JT Barrett, Ohio State

clip_image002[14] 2014 Rating: 169.8 CMP% YPA TD% INT%
Expected Values 0.681 9.241 0.089 0.012
Actual Values 0.646 9.025 0.108 0.032
Single Factor Rating 155.2 165.4 202.1 122.7
For me, JT Barrett should be the guy for the Buckeyes this year. Obviously Cardale did aiight (/s) but Barrett had better accuracy over more attempts and is a better runner. Barrett did well last year and still has room for improvement. The INT rate is still pretty high but it was at a reasonable level for a first year QB. Based on my previous work, I estimate that a properly executed and coordinated spread-and-shred can enhance a  QB's passer rating by 15-20 points; that's what it was worth to Denard's numbers.Take it away and Barrett’s still a kick ass QB. Whatever though guys, it'll never work in the B1G.

With all the talent OSU has coming back from last year's team and with Braxton Miller being on the field as an additional weapon to Zeke Elliot, whichever candidate wins the starting gig under center is in the Heisman conversation. He'll have to outperform some of his teammates in order to win it though. Hurray.

Projection: 150




August 23rd, 2015 at 10:40 AM ^

I can't speak to all the Big 10 QBs UM plays but I watched a few Purdue games and liked Appleby as a prospect.  He just is not surrounded by much talent.  

I'd rank the "scary factor" of the QBs on our schedule like this

  1. JT Barrett - I like him more than Cardale Jones personally...
  2. Taysom Hill - way too many UM fans are complacent on how scary this guy is.  Before he got hurt last year he transformed from Denard 2 years ago to a Denard with a 65%ish completion rate in 2014.
  3. Connor Cook - Cook has a much better OL than Hackenberg even though I think Hackenberg is the better QB.  Cook can go through entire games without having a grass stain on his jersey and has an amazing ability to throw balls opposing DBs drop.  I would expect completion rate to finally rise this year to over 60%.
  4. Hackenberg - I expect PSU OL to be like UM btw 2013 to 2014 - to jump from atrocious to just meh.  Hack flashed in the bowl game some amazing #s and if played behind OSU or MSU's OLs the story on him would be diff.  He also will be in year 2 with his coordinator. 
  5. Sudfeld - due to system and he is decent
  6. Caleb rowe - he actually posted some impressive stats in limited time last yr but has gone thru multiple ACLs.  If he gets hurt this year I could see Maryland winning only 4 games.  They lost their talent at wide receiver and their running game is horrid.
  7. Wilson - you nailed it; he is Jake rudock of the Pac 12.  In that league he is a bottom third QB.  In our league he'd be middle of the pack.  He doesnt win games for you - but he is modestly efficient.
  8. Leidner - Mitch is not a good QB.  He lost his star TE and his star running back and will be asked to do more.  His whopping 53% completion rate (shared by Tommy Armstrong Jr) represents a lot of sad sack Big 10 QBs.

Then everyone else

  • Oregon State is changing to a spread and might be starting a 2 star freshman dual threat.  UM fans overstate this team - they could be the Pac 12s worst this year.
  • Northwestern has an open competition among guys with no experience
  • UNLV is UNLV - Decker had 18 INTs last year vs 15 TDs and 57% completion rate.  Meh.
  • Gary Nova was somehow the 3rd best QB in the Big 10 last year statistically although we made him look like the best.  I have not researched rutgers enough yet to know their situation but on initial glance it looks like a step back with 2 rs freshmen battling - Laviano had the better spring game but who knows.


August 24th, 2015 at 1:06 PM ^

I am plenty scared of Taysom Hill.  While Hill is not as fast as Denard, he is more athletic in overall performance, including a TD against Texas where he jumped over a defender.  He has a very good arm.  While his drop-back throwing motion has a hitch that reminds me of ex-Michigan QB Steve Smith, he has an irratitingly quick and efficient motion while on the run.  He also has great touch.  

Bottom line: Hill reminds me of pretty much every QB who has made me want to throw things at the TV over the last thirty years while watching Michigan games.  


August 25th, 2015 at 12:37 PM ^

Big kid, good footspeed, great option read skills, and he can be lethal when passing.  Second level players simply cannot bring him down.

The problem with BYU is they don't stop opponents not named Savannah St. from racking up lots of points, especially throwing the ball.  Matters will be worse this year in my view, since BYU's LB corps has been rehabbing during the offseason and their secondary has been decimated by graduation with very little experience. Also, they'll be test driving a new punter and PK this fall, so that's always fun.

I do think HC Bronco Mendenhall has balls of brass though for putting up with the schedule of road games against Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan this fall.  


August 25th, 2015 at 1:47 PM ^

I agree about Hill.  I also added in my column that the dude is 25 years old!  He's actually older than Denard Robinson, who's entering his third year in the NFL.  So he's a big, fast guy with extreme physical maturity compared to some of the guys he's playing against.  That guy scares me, and that feels like a game where UM gives up 30 points but, maybe, wins because BYU's defense can't slow down UM either.


August 23rd, 2015 at 6:40 PM ^

Stave had "the yips" last season--some kind of psychological issue that made him unable to complete basic, easy throws to open receivers. It was odd.


August 23rd, 2015 at 10:05 PM ^

Thank you for the analysis. It is a fun read. I hope Rudock is transformed into a NFL draft pick. I feel like he has somewhat similar skills to Cook, with less supporting cast. I hope that changes this year.


August 25th, 2015 at 10:14 AM ^

I think you're way too bullish on all these teams.  And, frankly, not really going out on a limb here.  Basically every prediction is 130-135 minus the top dogs

NW 130
Rutgers 130
MD 135
Utah 135
OSU 130
UNLV 130
BYU 140
Purdue 130
Minn 130
Iowa 135
Neb    130-135
Ind 135-140
Mich 135
Illinois 140
Wisc 135-140
MSU 140
PSU 140
tOSU 150

Average 136 +/- 5

When you average all our opponents last year, we get an average of 128.7 +/-18

I'd like to see the predictions take more a a firm stance, up or down.


August 25th, 2015 at 7:02 PM ^

I understand what you're saying but I don't think we're on the same page as to what my intentions are. My goal isn't to go out on a limb, it's to be accurate while also being plausible. I want to categorize guys into expected tiers based on what I think history has shown given what I think I know about the player today. I dont want to bag these guys I just want to size up their skill and their context. Indeed, I'm generally expecting guys to be better than they were last year because that what I think happens when a player gets more experience and development time. Its cool that you disagree and I'd like to hear more about why that is.

Known Knowns:
  1. Skill == starting experience + recruiting profile + previous perfomace
  2. Support == surrounding talent + experience (RBs, WRs, OL)
  3. System == offensive scheme + regime tenure
  4. Schedule == expected quality of defenses that will be faced 
Known Unknowns: Future events
Unknown Unknowns: I don't know
The Tiers:
  1. Work In Progress: 130 and under; historically roughly 60% of QBs with at leat 100 attempts
  2.  Solid QB: 135; 10%
  3. Good QB: 140; 10%
  4. Great QB: 145+; 20%
Predicting worse than 130 is just mean and that's not a goal of mine. A perfomrance at or below level requires an unskilled player or a lot of bad things to stack on each other. Either way I dont expect the guy to be a significant threat. I simply reference those things in the thesis about my expectation. Likewise predicting over 145 takes a really good situation. Precision beyond this is just asking to be wrong.
Adjacent tiers overlap which I think makes sense. Can we REALLY tell the difference between 136 and 139? Probably not. 136 vs 141? I think so.
Hope this helps you understand what I think this this is and what it isnt. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.
Where do you think these guys will end up?