Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Top 5 Series: Opposing QBs
As part of Hoosier Huddle’s ongoing preseason coverage, we thought it would be fun and informative to take a look at some of the best individuals from each position that the Hoosiers will battle against in 2015. We’re starting with a staff ranking of the five best quarterbacks that Brian Knorr’s defense will be tasked with stopping.
5. C.J. Beathard - Iowa
Junior C.J. Beathard was not a consensus choice amongst our staff and this 5th spot was a difficult one to pick. We ended up opting to put the Hawkeyes signal-caller into this spot based on his potential and a decent stretch of play in 2014. Beathard split time with Jake Rudock (now playing for Michigan) and threw for 645 yards with 5 TDs and 2 INTs in 2014.
4. Christian Hackenberg – Penn State
You may be thinking, “Fourth? That seems really low for a guy projected to be taken in the 1st round of the NFL Draft”. You’d be right, 4th does seem low but the Hoosier Huddle staff was in total agreement on this one and if you look at the numbers, this is exactly where Hackenberg belongs. He’s a very talented QB with a terrific arm but the 2014 season wasn’t a good one for the former 5-star prospect. Hackenberg struggled behind a bad offensive line and with a young receiving corps, throwing for under 3,000 yards (with a 55.8% completion percentage) with 12 TDs and 15 INTs. The completion percentage is particularly concerning because he only averaged 5.1 yards per attempt (for comparison’s sake, Beathard averaged 6.4 yards per attempt). Hackenberg has a lot of talent and looks like the kind of quarterback you would want leading your team but he will need to be much better in 2015.
3. Brandon Doughty – Western Kentucky
Casual college football fans might not have heard of Brandon Doughty and IU football fans might be watching Conference USA’s top gunslinger for the first time when the Hilltoppers visit Bloomington. Don’t let your unfamiliarity fool you though, Doughty can sling it. In 2014, he threw for 4,830 yards with 49 TDs to only 10 INTs with an impressive 8.2 yards per attempt. Doughty’s passer rating was 167.1, behind only Marcus Mariota and J.T. Barrett and he led the nation’s 12th best offense (according to S&P+). Doughty and the Hilltoppers play at IU on September 19 and the game figures to be a thrilling shootout.
2. Connor Cook – Michigan State
The Spartans are known for their stingy defense but the offense was elite in 2014, largely thanks to the play of Connor Cook. Cook has ideal size (6’4”/220 pounds) and he is especially adept at connecting for explosive plays. Michigan State’s top two targets in 2014 (Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery) combined for an average of 18.6 yards per catch and the Spartans produced the nation’s 6th best passing attack (S&P+). Cook threw for 3214 with 24 TDs and 8 INTs with an impressive 8.4 yards per attempt. MSU returns 3 of the top 4 targets from 2014 and Cook will have plenty of weapons to test the young Hoosiers secondary.
1. Any Ohio State Buckeyes QB
We have no crystal ball and we don’t know which of the three Ohio State QBs will be taking snaps when the Buckeyes roll into Bloomington on October 3. Despite that uncertainty, the unnamed Buckeyes signal-caller gets our nod as the top opposing QB the Hoosiers will face in 2015. Ohio State had the #1 offense in the country and they return a staggering 98% of that production plus get the return of Braxton Miller, a former B1G Offensive Player of the Year. Urban Meyer must choose between J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Miller and the statistics show that he really can’t go wrong. Jones is the biggest of the three and helped the Buckeyes knock off Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to win a national title, Miller is the most dangerous running threat and Barrett threw for 2834 yards with 34 TDs before getting hurt. As mentioned, whomever ends up winning the job will have plenty of dangerous receivers and running backs to work with and there’s no reason to think Ohio State won’t rank among the elite offenses once again.
-Caleb Rowe – Maryland
-Austin Appleby – Purdue
-Shane Morris/Rudock – Michigan
-Chris Laviano – Rutgers
-John Wolford – Wake Forest
-Mark Iannotti – Southern Illinois
-Alex McGough – Florida International
Keep coming back to Hoosier Huddle for the best IU football coverage. We will continue to preview the upcoming season with team previews, the Hoosier Huddle Countdown and this new weekly feature on the best individual opponents the Hoosiers will face. Next week, we’ll focus on the ground and rank the top 5 running backs the talented IU front seven will be tasked with slowing down.