Nearly all of the offseason talk surrounding the Big Ten has centered around the Ohio State scandals—but it's now time to take to the football field and evaluate Kirk Cousins and the top five quarterbacks that will lead the Big Ten in 2011.
The Big Ten will see multiple quarterbacks in 2011 that can beat opposing defenses through the air and on the ground.
Some of these guys may not have the prototypical size or mechanics for the quarterback position, but that's not what always defines a great college quarterback. A true leader who is willing to sacrifice his body for an extra yard goes a long way in being successful at the college level.
Let's look at the top five quarterbacks that should have the most productive seasons in the Big Ten this year.
2010 stats: 1,631 yards passing, 965 yards rushing, 22 total touchdowns.
Nathan Martinez got off to a blazing start in 2010, throwing and rushing for at least 100 yards through his first three games. The only problem for Martinez was that as good as his first three games started, that's how bad his last three games ended.
Martinez should be able to have a more consistent overall year in 2011, which will bode well for the Cornhuskers' first year in the Big Ten.
2010 stats: 1,825 yards passing, 868 yards rushing, 22 total touchdowns.
More than any quarterback on this list, I am confident that Nathan Scheelhaase will end up the biggest surprise of all the Big Ten quarterbacks in 2011.
During his freshman year in 2010, Scheelhaase was able to give the Fighting Illini hope for the future with an impressive first year for Illinois.
At 6'3'' and 200 pounds, Scheelhaase has a good pocket presence, but he's even more deadly on his feet—as he demonstrated when rushing for over 100 yards on four different occasions.
2010 stats: 2,570 yards passing, 1,702 yards rushing, 32 total touchdowns.
Denard Robinson came out of no where last season and took the college football world by surprise with his superior rushing and steady passing.
During non-conference play, Robinson accumulated over 1,400 yards of total offense while accounting for 10 touchdowns, despite missing most of Week 4's game against Bowling Green.
The Wolverines were 5-0 through the first five games of the season, but after that things fell apart—they lost six of their next eight.
Robinson struggled at times during that stretch and was even benched against Ohio State, but if he stays healthy and consistent in 2011 he could put up numbers we've never seen before.
2010 stats: 2,581 yards passing, 519 yards rushing, 24 total touchdowns.
Dan Persa is the kind of guy most fans just want to see succeed. He's undersized at 6'1'', doesn't have the best throwing mechanics and isn't the fastest player—yet he finds ways to win games.
Persa stuffed the stat sheet all around in 2010, including a 73.5 completion percentage for the Wildcats.
Northwestern was 7-3 before Persa missed his final three games due to injury, which resulted in the Wildcats finishing the year 0-3.
With Dan Persa, the Wildcats will have a fighting chance in every game they play this season, thanks to his pure desire to win.
2010 stats: 2,825 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
Kirk Cousins led the Michigan State Spartans to a share of the 2010 Big Ten Title and an 11-1 regular-season record. The debacle in the Capital One Bowl at the hands of Alabama put a bit of a damper on the 2010 season, but the success Cousins was able to attain in 2010 has led him to being the top overall quarterback in the Big Ten for 2011.
Cousins is by far the best pure throwing quarterback that will take the field in the Big Ten next year. A 3,000-yard passing season should be in the making.