That... can't be great form. And yet he still lit Northwestern up.
On Thursdays on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send them to Big Ten lead blogger Adam Jacobi via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @Adam_Jacobi or at email@example.com.
This is an interesting question, and I'm glad you asked. Generally, I'm loath to set minimums as precursors for larger success, because they're by definition arbitrary and football is so unpredictable (and subject to unusual or contradictory outcomes) that you can't say "if Team X accomplishes this, Player Y must accomplish this first" with any reliability.
That said, there is a good amount of truth to this question, which is this: Nebraska probably needs Taylor Martinez to be a better passer than last year. Now, Nebraska can win games when Martinez has a terrible day throwing the ball (11-22, 116 yards, 0 TDs vs. Chattanooga) and can lose games where Martinez lights it up (28-37, 289 yards, 2 TDs vs. Northwestern—all season highs), but passing efficiency is hardly a detriment to the Huskers' success.
It took Martinez 13 games, but he did crack 2,000 yards passing last year (I love the NCAA's stat site, by the way), and Nebraska didn't make the Big Ten Championship, even with a win over Michigan State. That took 288 throws and 162 completions, for a per-throw average of 7.25 yards, a per-completion average of 12.9 yards and a completion percentage of 56.25 percent. Those numbers are...not so great.
So let's assume Martinez doesn't throw the ball any more than last year. He averaged 22 throws a game, and I'd rather not assume that Nebraska needs more throws from him to break through to the next level.
What we can adjust upwards, though, is the efficiency. Martinez famously said he plans to complete 70 percent of his passes this season. Ho ho ho, that is not going to happen. But let's say that Nebraska needs him about halfway from 2011's rate to there: that'd be roughly 63 percent.
And let's say Martinez ups his per-completion rate just a bit. Not by much—if his completion percentage goes up that much he's likely hitting more short, high-percentage throws—but as a reflection that his overall throwing prowess improves Nebraska's downfield opportunities. Here, an even 13.0 yards per completion.
Do a little math, carry the five, reverse the polarity, solve for X, and we've got 2,359 yards in 13 games. But ah! Remember, Nebraska makes the Big Ten Championship in this scenario. One more game of action, and it's 2,540 yards.
So here is the answer to your question: No, Taylor Martinez does not have to reach a certain passing yardage threshold for Nebraska to win the Big Ten. If there is a number he must meet, however, it is 2,540 yards. The Oracle has spoken.
@adam_jacobi How bad a high school QB was Dennis Quaid in "Breaking Away" that he couldn't even make the IU team?— Dennis G (@bigpumpkin4real) August 9, 2012
I'm glad you asked. I've never seen that movie—I have a general distaste for Dennis Quaid and I suspect most moviegoers do too—but if he couldn't make it as a quarterback at Indiana (where the best quarterbacks in school history are Antwan Randle-El, Trent Green and, like, Gibran Hamdan), then I have to assume he spends most of the movie getting sacked by Simeon Rice or firing footballs through his neighbors' windows on accident.
@adam_jacobi So, the mandate that the B1G logo will be on all of the fields and all of the jerseys this year, does it bother you?— Craig D. Barker (@cdbarker) August 9, 2012
I'm glad you asked. The answer is I don't care. I really don't.
I don't mean that in a "everyone check out how detached I am, aren't I cool" way, either; I generally dislike logo creep as much as everyone else and I'm glad there's more resistance to it stateside than in Europe. You can always tell the Americans who watch European club soccer by how well-versed they are in who sponsors who and who the hell those sponsors are. What the hell is Vodafone? I don't know Vodafone. I know Vodkaphone. Vodkaphone is a bad, bad idea.
Anyway, the Big Ten logo is benign. It's the conference these teams play in and get buckets of money from. It's not buying any extra influence or anything with these logos. Like, it's not as if each team's helmets get their logo on one side and the Burger King logo on the other. It's just a conference insignia. It's fine. It's even color-coordinated on the uniforms.
Put it this way: there are tons of things more worth complaining about in collegiate athletics than this. Tons.