Big Ten Football Q&A: Danny Hope Drama, Breakout B1G QBs and Gophers Gophin'!

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2013

No guff taken here.
No guff taken here.Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Every week (or so) on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have questions 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

Hello again, friends. February is just about dead and gone, and let's be honest: Nobody likes February. February is that roommate of yours who eats your pretzels while you're gone then when you come home is all, "hey, those were good pretzels, you should get some more." ASK FIRST ABOUT THE PRETZELS, FEBRUARY.

Um, sorry. We're a little stir-crazy with all the snow here over the last couple days. Don't mind us. Let's just get to the questions.

I'm glad you asked. This question requires a bit of context. A few months after being unceremoniously dumped by the Purdue administration, Danny Hope finally relented to interview requests and laid some of the blame for his firing at the feet of athletic director Morgan Burke and Purdue's systemic inability to sell tickets. Is there any other way to interpret a statement like this, via WLFI TV?

"It came down to ticket sales. But ticket sales have been dropping here since 2000. It's not all about what happens just behind the whistle. You have to have some accountability behind the necktie as well," Hope said.

"I know it wasn't an easy thing for Morgan (Burke) to do," Hope said. "But I felt like if he had been a little more accountable then he would not have had to...exercised the responsibility of dismissing me. We had finished strong. And the players wanted us to be there. We hoped we had done enough. But I knew it was close. We had a tough stretch there and didn't come through at a critical time of the season and, obviously, had lost the support of our administration, athletic administration, and fan base."

Here's the thing: Hope is right. Purdue is basically a loser of a job. Oh, some coaches can certainly win at Purdue, and a few can even win regularly. Joe Tiller did just fine in West Lafayette, after all.

But remember that Hope wasn't even one of the worst coaches in modern Purdue football history. He was fourth of 10 post-war coaches in winning percentage and he went to two bowl games in three years, minor as they may have been. That's a middle-of-the-road coach, in other words...and he survived all of three years before getting the axe. And like Hope said, it was mainly because of factors that had been going on since well before Hope was named head coach.

That's a raw deal, plain and simple. Hope has every right to seethe about that. Where Hope made his mistake, however, is pointing any of that out, right as he may have been.

"Now hang on," you're probably saying. "Are you saying professionalism trumps honesty?" Yes we are. Hope just tossed dirt on what Purdue's athletic department is trying to accomplish, and in a sport that depends heavily on selling the ideal of competitiveness and future success to potential ticket-buyers, Hope's words are like a bucket of cold water on a fire the athletic department is trying desperately to stoke.

Future athletic departments will notice this, especially since the ones who might be hiring a head coach who just got fired at Purdue probably aren't coming from a position of great economic strength. They want to see someone who, even if he doesn't succeed, isn't going to toss wrenches in the gears on his way out. Yeah, it's hard to put on a cheerful face when nobody's paying you to anymore. But if professionalism were easy, everyone would do it.


Now, this question can be interpreted a number of ways, but all the same I'm glad you asked. Braxton Miller is not exactly "bursting onto" any scenes in 2013 after the dynamite year he had; he was fifth in Heisman voting in 2012, after all. But he is literally bursting out in that latest Sports Illustrated cover (still laughing at a college QB getting an SI cover in March in such a deliberate middle finger to basketball, by the way), so we can interpret the question as "who's going to be a nationally relevant QB in 2013."

Fortunately, we have a few candidates for having their first true standout year in 2013.

Indiana QB Tre Roberson is back and "full-go" for spring practice, per The sophomore got off to a rocket-fast start in 2012 before a badly broken leg ended his season. The most immediately obvious comparison for Roberson is Antwaan Randle El on account of the Indiana connection, but Roberson plays more like a Troy Smith or Charlie Ward than Randle El. Yes, we did just mention two past Heisman winners.

Roberson's future probably doesn't include a Heisman unless he's been secretly using his medical redshirt season to transfer to a powerhouse program, but with an offensive mastermind like Kevin Wilson calling his shots, there's serious potential for a monster season as soon as 2013.

Devin Gardner at Michigan will be coming into his first full season as a starting quarterback, and if his starts under center for the Wolverines last year are any indication, he's ready to be one of the Big Ten's best QBs right now. Gardner led all Big Ten quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt and passing efficiency, though he spent too much time at WR to qualify for season statistics.

Here's the thing, though—while efficiency is not always sustainable over the grind of a 12-14 game season, Gardner's starts all came against Big Ten or SEC competition. So it's not as if he loaded up on MACrifices and the soon-to-be-extinct FCS cupcakes. Thus, let's extrapolate Gardner's 2012 numbers out to a 13-game schedule (yes, we're confident in assuming Michigan will earn a bowl bid) to get a sense of what's coming in 2013.

Year Att. Comp. Pass% Yards TDs Int.
2012 75 126 59.5 1219 11 5
2013 (proj.) 195 327.6 59.5 3169.4 28.2 13


Mind you, if anything, this is conservative; Michigan's nonconference slate has only one tough game, and this assumes no improvement over the offseason, which is a little unfair to Gardner. So these numbers should be his baseline, not his goal. Sounds like a breakout year to us.

Last, we don't know who's going to start out there in Madison—there are four completely legitimate candidates—but whoever takes it is going to have earned that role over the offseason better than basically anybody else in the conference, and that guy should be expected to thrive.

Let's keep rolling.

I'm glad you asked. A little context here: The Big Ten placed all of two teams in the top 50 of passing offense last season; the third-place team, Purdue, came in at No. 55. That's brutal.

So seeing that the Big Ten struggled so mightily to throw the ball last year, is there any reason to expect that trend to reverse well enough that another team joins Indiana in the top 30? And the answer is: not really.

Penn State is the nearest competitor, coming in at No. 35 in passing yardage per game. And pretty much every pass-catcher is back for the Nittany Lions. But—and we can't believe we're about to say this—Penn State is probably going to miss Matt McGloin more than you'd expect.

Steven Bench was a lightly recruited QB prospect who redshirted in 2012, and his only serious competition is a pair of talented true freshman recruits. We love Christian Hackenberg's game, but asking a true freshman QB to throw for about 290 yards a game (which would qualify for No. 28 nationally last year) is an awfully tall proposition.

As mentioned before, Purdue was third last year. It loses basically every receiver and Rob Henry has never been a great passer. Top 30 ain't happening there, and that's not even mentioning offensive coordinator John Shoop coming into town.

MIchigan State, ranked 85th in the nation in passing offense in 2012, was fourth in the Big Ten. Feel free to make jokes about this. Jim Bollman is the new offensive coordinator in East Lansing. We'll be lucky if the Spartans complete a single pass. 

If anyone's poised for a surge, it's Philip Nelson and Minnesota, as Nelson will be coming into his sophomore year and easing into the role of thrower. Top 30 is too much to ask, obviously, but the Gophers' passing attack should be borderline competent next year.

So to answer your question: no.

One more.

The answer is 19. Nineteen golds gophed. I'm glad you asked.