Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2013

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2013

Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2013

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    Ohio State is a heavy favorite to run the table this season because of its talent, coaching and schedule.

    The Buckeyes drop Michigan State and Nebraska from last year's more difficult slate, replacing them with Northwestern and Iowa. While those two games will both be difficult in their own right, they seem preferable to games against the Spartans and Huskers.

    Nowhere is Ohio State's schedule advantage more evident than at quarterback. The list of signal-callers it plays is laden with inexperience or sheer lack of talent.

    In a quarterback-driven sport, that should make the Buckeyes' path to Pasadena all the more favorable.

    There are still a few guys they should watch out for, though. 

5. Zach Kline, California

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    Kline hasn't been named the starter yet, battling with Jared Goff and Austin Hinder for the job. But if he isas many believegiven the keys to Sonny Dykes' offense, he could be in for a big year.

    Kline was the No. 3 overall quarterback in 247Sports.com's class of 2012, trailing just Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston. He doesn't do any one thing particularly well but has no discernible faults, much like another former Cal QB at this stage of his career.

    He won't have much time to adjust to the speed of the game before facing Ohio State. The Bears host Urban Meyer's boys on Sep. 14, just the third week of the season.

    But Kline, from a pure talent perspective, would be one of the toughest passers OSU plays all year.

4. Cameron Coffman, Indiana

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    Like Kline and the third quarterback on this list, Coffman has yet to be named the starter this season, facing close competition from Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson for the job.

    Again, that's how weak the Buckeyes' opposing QBs are this season.

    Coffman is the tentative favorite to win the job in Bloomington, though. If he does, he could be poised for another big year. In 407 pass attempts last season, he finished less than 300 yards shy of 3,000.

    Indiana plays the most unabashed spread offense in the Big Ten and returns 10 starters from last year's unit. If Coffman, who has a lot of moxie and doesn't scare easily, wins the job, he would not shy away from challenging OSU's back end.

3. Christian Hackenberg/Tyler Ferguson, Penn State

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    Hackenberg and Ferguson are embroiled in one of the nation's best, and perhaps most high-profile, QB competitions.

    Not knowing the starter this close to the season might be a problem for Penn State. If it is, this is a good problem to have. Whoever wins the job and starts in Week 1 will have beaten a worthy competitor—and thus, by extension, is a worthy competitor himself.

    Hackenberg is the slight favorite, if for no other reason than public support. He was 247Sports' top-ranked quarterback in 2013 and has poise beyond his years.

    But that precociousness might not be enough when he travels to the Horseshoe on Oct. 26. That is not a safe environment for any true freshman.

2. Kain Colter, Northwestern

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    With Taylor Martinez off the schedule, Colter is the most explosive playmaker Ohio State will face at quarterback all season.

    He took dual-threat quarterbacking to a new level of balance in 2012, finishing the year with 894 rushing yards on 170 attempts and 872 passing yards on 149 attempts. He is (almost) literally a 50-50 proposition to run or pass on each snap, and he is equally adept at both.

    Because Colter takes a lot of hits and often finds himself out of the lineup in addition to ceding a lot of reps to talented backup Trevor Siemian (who threw more passes than Colter last year and also almost made this list), the totals are diluted.

    However, perhaps no QB on the Buckeyes' schedule will require more game-planning than Colter will.

1. Devin Gardner, Michigan

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    Big things are expected from Gardner this season, and if he plays anything like he did down the stretch in 2012, the junior QB is poised to meet those demands—and then some.

    He's gifted enough athletically that the Wolverines started him at receiver last season. Unlike most who transition from pass-catcher to snap-taker, though, Gardner isn't necessarily an out-of-the-pocket guy.

    He did his best work last season with his feet planted on dropbacks, using his mobility only when the situation called for it. That type of discretion is rare for a player of Gardner's ilk, but it's also very impressive.

    He had his worst game of the season at Ohio State last year, completing just 11 passes for 171 yards. But this year's game is in the Big House and Gardner, with (hopefully) 11 more games of experience behind him, should fare considerably better.