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Rose Bowl Performance Has Connor Cook Poised to Be Big Ten's Best QB in 2014

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans drops back to pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2014

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook just put the nation on notice with his monstrous performance in the Spartans' 24-20 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. Get used to seeing Cook in the spotlight, and don't be surprised if he emerges as the Big Ten's best signal-caller in 2014.

The sophomore from Ohio, who's rated by CBS Sports as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL draft class, torched the Stanford Cardinal defense to the tune of 332 yards, a season high, and two touchdowns. 

Stats from Big Ten Quarterbacks in Bowl Games
SchoolPlayerBowl GameComp/AttPass YardsPass TDINT
MichiganShane MorrisBuffalo Wild Wings Bowl24/3819601
NebraskaTommy Armstrong Jr.Gator Bowl6/1416321
IowaJake RudockOutback Bowl9/2210201
WisconsinJoel StaveCapital One Bowl9/138021
MinnesotaMitch LeidnerTexas Bowl11/2220520
Michigan StateConnor CookRose Bowl22/3633221
ESPN

Those numbers are the best that any Big Ten quarterback has put up in the bowl season so far, with only Braxton Miller from Ohio State left to play. 

With Miller possibly going to the NFL, the stage is set for Cook to take the throne as the conference's best gunslinger. 

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates after their 24-20 win over the Stanford Cardinal in the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In all honesty, he was widely underrated in the 2013 season. He didn't have a single multi-interception game all year, he threw for at least 200 yards eight times and had seven games with two or more touchdown passes. 

In the Big Ten, among quarterbacks who attempted at least 300 passes (seven players), Cook threw the fewest interceptions with just five. 

Before the Rose Bowl, his best showing was against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship, when Ohio State was one win away from a national title berth. 

In that game, Cook threw for a then-season-high 304 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 34-24 win. 

Among Cook's competitors for the title of the conference's best quarterback will be Christian Hackenberg from Penn State, Nate Sudfeld from Indiana and either Devin Gardner or Shane Morris, whoever ends up winning the Michigan job in the offseason. 

But all of those teams are on a downslide, while Michigan State is looking like a possible national title contender next season. 

If the Spartans want to have a chance at playing for a national title next season, it'll be Connor Cook to take them there. 

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