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Top Big Ten QB's & RB's

Top Big Ten QB's & RB's

Top Big Ten QB's

1. Braxton Miller - Ohio State

Miller was the class of the Big Ten last year, finishing with 2,094 pass yards (63.5%), 24 pass TD, and only 7 INT. He also rushed for 1,068 yards (6.2 YPC) and 12 TD. He would've been a top Heisman candidate if he hadn't missed the better part of two games early in the season with an injury. There is still quite a bit of unfinished business for the senior at OSU. Despite gaudy numbers and two undefeated regular seasons in a row, he has yet to lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title or a bowl win. Another year under Urban Meyer should prove beneficial for the dual-threat quarterback, as will having his top three receivers back from 2013. Ohio State will open the season as one of the favorites to advance to the new College Football Playoff, and Miller will be one of the top Heisman hopefuls. Expect a big season. Stock: Hold

2. Christian Hackenberg - Penn State

Surprised he's No. 2 on this list? Don't be. Hackenberg put together one of the best freshman performances in the nation last season, throwing for 2,955 yards (58.9%) and 20 TD's in the Nittany Lions' 12 games. His 246.3 passing YPG ranks him second in terms of returning quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He closed out the season on a high-note, with 339 yards (70%) with 4 TD and 0 INT in a win at Wisconsin - a notable victory considering very few road teams come away with a victory in Madison. PSU is going through a coaching change from Bill O'Brien to James Franklin. Franklin has worked wonders with overachieving quarterbacks in his years at Vanderbilt, and we expect that to translate well in State College. We expect that Hackenberg will only get better with a year's worth of experience and to improve on his stellar 2013 numbers. Stock: Buy

3. Connor Cook - Michigan State

Arguably no quarterback in the nation silenced his critics more than Cook in 2013. Cook split time with Andrew Maxwell through the first four weeks of the season and stated publicly that he was upset that he didn't get snaps in crunch time during the 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. He got his wish and took sole possession of the starting gig from Week 5 on and he never looked back. Cook finished with 22 TD and only 6 INT, leading Michigan State to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl win, earning MVP honors in both games. The Spartans' receiving corps has a few question marks heading into the season and it never has been a team strength, but Cook made due last season and we don't expect any fall-off from last season's remarkable production. Stock: Buy

4. C.J. Brown - Maryland

Brown is back for yet another season at Maryland as a sixth-year senior after receiving a medical waiver last spring in the wake on an injury that cause him to miss 2012. Brown started hot, throwing for 210+ yards in each of the first four games with 7 TD and just 1 INT. An early injury against Florida State in the fifth game caused him to miss two full games and better parts of two others and he was never the same player after that, finishing with just 6 TD and 6 INT over the final seven games. In his defense, he lost his two top receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, to injury in the same game on October 19th. Brown will need to improve his accuracy a bit, but with Diggs and Long returning, giving the Terps their top five pass-catchers back from 2013, this passing attack could be one of the top units in the Big Ten. Stock: Buy

5. Nate Sudfeld - Indiana

With Tre Roberson transferring to Illinois State this summer, Nate Sudfeld will be the main main at Indiana. Sudfeld is more of a pocket-passer, amassing 21 TD and just 9 INT last year while averaging 210 pass yards per game in 2013. These two split time under center in 2013 with great results, Sudfeld airing it out and Roberson leading the way with his feet. The Hoosiers offense ranked 10th in total yards, 17th in pass yards, and 16th in scoring. Now if only that defense would show up once in a while. Stock: Hold

6. Trevor Siemian - Northwestern

While battling injuries and sharing time with Kain Colter last season, Siemian got uneven results. He finished with 2,143 yards (59.7%) with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. This season, he's the only quarterback remaining on the Northwestern roster to have actually completed a pass. He doesn’t have much of a dual-threat ability as he rushed for just 33 yards last season and that could present a problem for the Wildcats as they would bring in Kain Colter to add that dimension to the offense in season’s past. But with three of his top four receiving threats from 2013 returning, we expect Northwestern becomes more of a passing team in 2014. Off the field, he has voiced his opposition to the players’ union at Northwestern, which is interesting as he is a leader in the locker room and that could become an issue with other players that support it. But for now, we expect a strong season from Siemian. Stock: Buy

7: Devin Gardner - Michigan

Gardner didn’t get a lot of help from his running backs or offensive line last year, leading to some uneven performances. Still, he is capable of putting up huge numbers as evidenced in games against Notre Dame (294 yards, 4 TD), Indiana (503 yards, 2 TD), and Ohio State (451, 4 TD). Now his two best linemen from 2013 are gone and the unit remains a bit of a question mark. During spring, he was still recovering from a broken foot suffered against OSU that caused him to miss the bowl game and that allowed backup Shane Morris to garner more attention as a possible replacement. Despite losing five of the last six games in 2013, Gardner has the most experience on the roster and has the dual-threat ability that should keep him #1 on the depth chart. But if things start to go south in Ann Arbor, don’t be surprised if coach Hoke starts giving Morris more looks. Stock: Hold

8. Joel Stave - Wisconsin

With RB Gordon and four of five returning offensive linemen back from 2013, whoever wins the starting QB spot in Madison is in a good position to succeed. The leader on the depth chart right now is Joel Stave. Stave had a decent 2013 campaign and would figure to be higher on this list, but we're not convinced that he will absolutely be the starter for the Badgers this fall. Speaking to team insiders, coach Anderson favors backup QB Tanner McEvoy's dual-threat ability over Stave's pocket-passing style. We're also concerned that whoever takes the QB job in Madison won't have a ton of options in the receiving corps now that WR Jared Abbrederis has departed. Stave might not be on this list by season's end. Stock: Sell

9. Jake Rudock - Iowa
Rudock returns for his redshirt sophomore season after a solid 2013 campaign in which he threw for 2,383 yards (59%) with 18 TD and 13 INT. He is not likely to make any "wow" plays but is the prototypical Iowa quarterback. The numbers will never wow you with Rudock, but he can develop into a quality game-manager. He'll need to get better in the "big" games as he completed less than 54% with just 6 TD and 7 INT in Iowa's five losses last season. If Iowa wants to make the jump into the top-tier of the Big Ten, it starts with a better season from Jake Rudock. Stock: Hold

10. Wes Lunt - Illinois

Lunt is still a bit of an unknown. He transferred from Oklahoma State after the 2012 season and had to sit out last fall due to NCAA transfer rules. Lunt threw for 1,108 yards (61.8%) with 6 TD and 7 INT in limited duty as a freshman at OK State and now looks to take over an offense in complete overhaul. He's not guaranteed the starting spot but he has just as much, if not more, experience than his two competitors, Aaron Bailey and Reilly O'Toole (combined 21 pass attempts last season) despite sitting out an entire season. He has favorable size (6'5" 210 lbs) and a live arm and could turn a few heads. We'll have to see a bit more of him before he rises on this list, but for now we like his potential. Stock: Buy

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Re: Top Big Ten QB's & RB's

Top Big Ten RB's

1. Melvin Gordon - Wisconsin

In just two years, Gordon has built up quite the reputation despite never being "the guy" for the Badgers. As a freshman third string RB, Gordon tallied 621 rush yards on just 62 carries (10.0 YPC). As a sophomore splitting time with James White last year, Gordon ranked 2nd in the Big Ten with 1,609 yards (7.8 YPC) and 12 TD. He bypassed the NFL and a potential high draft slot to return for his redshirt junior year in Madison. He has the perfect combination of size and speed and is a true home run threat every time he touches the ball (led the nation in runs of 60+ yards and 70+ yards). He'll be working behind a classic, veteran UW offensive line and we expect huge numbers from Gordon this season. Stock: Buy

2. Ameer Abdullah - Nebraska

Abdullah elected to bypass the NFL draft for one final season at Nebraska, where he led the Big Ten with 1,690 yards (6.0 YPC) on 281 carries as a junior in 2013. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he was able to do this without consistent play at quarterback and opposing defenses would focus on stopping the run to little or no avail. Abdullah was also adept at receiving out of the backfield, catching 26 passes for 232 yards and 2 touchdowns. The one thing working against Abdullah this fall is that backup Imani Cross, a bowling ball at running back, will likely steal goal line carries away (10 rush TD in 2013). Still, QB play expects to be better in Lincoln this year and that's a good sign for Abdullah. Stock: Hold

3. Jeremy Langford - Michigan State

In 2013, there weren't a lot of people who expected Langford to match the production that Le'Veon Bell had in 2012. Langford did just that with 1,422 yards (4.9 YPC) and 19 total touchdowns. Langford got off to a slow start, averaging just 62.2 yards per game over the first five weeks, never once exceeding 100 yards on the ground. He took off after that, however, with 123.4 YPG over the final nine, exceeding 100 yards rushing in eight of the nine games. Fourteen of Langford's 18 rushing touchdowns came in those nine games. With MSU fresh off of a Rose Bowl win and most of the offense back intact, expect 5th year senior Langford to pick up right where he left off. Stock: Buy

4. Tevin Coleman - Indiana

Coleman really emerged as a sophomore last season after seeing minimal duty as a freshman. He provides big-play ability as evidenced by his 7.3 yards per carry on 131 attempts in 2013. His final tally was 958 rush yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing the final three games of the season with an injury. He scored a touchdown every game he was active and was also a threat coming out of the backfield with 19 receptions for 193 yards. Indiana's offense relies heavily on the pass and that allows opposing defenses to overlook the talented Coleman. As of right now, there's no one challenging to unseat him on the depth chart and we expect Coleman to have another big season for the Hoosiers. Stock: Buy

5. Corey Clement - Wisconsin

Too high for a backup running back with 67 carries to his name? We don't think so. Clement was the third-stringer behind James White and Melvin Gordon last year, seeing mostly mop-up duty in Wisconsin's blowout wins. He still managed 547 yards on a ridiculous 8.2 YPC average with 7 TD. With James White and his 1,444 rushing yards from 2013 gone, the 5-11, 210-pound Clement figures to step up, and there's never a shortage of carries to go around in the Badgers' backfield. After all, Gordon and White both rushed 200+ times last year, combining for over 3,000 yards. With White gone,expect Clement to receive his share or carries and yards opposite Gordon. He's a special talent. Stock: Buy

6. Ezekial Elliott - Ohio State

The state of the Buckeyes' backfield is still a bit unsettled. Gone are Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall (combined 2,057 yards, 23 TD), leaving a group of unproven RB's for coach Urban Meyer to sift through. Meyer loves running the football on offense and we expect rising sophomore Ezekial Elliott to get a lot of looks. The speedy Elliott rushed for 262 yards and 2 TD with a remarkable 8.7 YPC in minimal duty last season. He has all the intangibles you look for in a star RB and has the size (6'0", 218 lbs) to make him durable in the rugged Big Ten. QB Braxton Miller gets a lot of attention from opposing defenses for both his arm and legs, but soon it will be Elliott whom opponents will put their focus on. Stock: Buy

7. Josh Ferguson - Illinois

The dynamic Ferguson was one of the lone bright spots on an Illinois offense last season. Ferguson tallied 779 rush yards (5.5 YPC) and seven touchdowns in 2013. He also was able to add 50 receptions for 535 receiving yards and four touchdowns, making him a threat both in the running attack and passing attack. In fact, there were games in which he didn't achieve much in terms of rushing yards, but was able to leave his mark on the game through the air. With the arrival of new QB Wes Lunt, expectations are that Ferguson will see more holes in the running game while also making an impact as a receiver. He has seen his stats improve every year with more chances and we expect another strong year from the Illini running back. Stock: Buy

8. Venric Mark - Northwestern

Mark entered 2013 as one of the Big Ten's top backs with mile-high expectations after becoming NU's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 in 2012 (1,366 rush yards and 12 TD). Injuries ruined his season and Mark finished with just 97 rush yards on 31 carries, playing in just three total games. Much of Northwestern's struggles in 2013 could be attributed to the fact that they were without Mark, their top offensive threat, for the majority of the season. Mark missed Spring practice after surgery and his frame (5'8", 175 lbs) makes us worry that he won't be able to remain healthy for an entire season. He will also have to fight off RB Treyvon Green, who rushed for 736 yards (5.4 YPC) and 8 TD in Mark's absence last year. Durability concerns put him at No. 8 on our list. Stock: Sell

9. David Cobb - Minnesota

Cobb had a solid sophomore campaign last year, rushing for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns. He would figure to be higher on this list if the RB position wasn't so crowded in Minnesota. Cobb is the starter for now, and a good one at that, but behind him are proven veterans Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr., as well has highly touted redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards and decorated recruit Jeff Jones. Cobb will get the majority of the carries early, but we expect Minnesota to turn to a running back by committee approach as the season rolls on. We wouldn't be surprised to see one the RB job seized by one of his backups by season's end. Stock: Sell

10. Zach Zwinak - Penn State, Sr.

Zwinak tallied 1,000 rush yards as a sophomore in 2012 and nearly reached that total again with 989 rush yards in 2013. Respectable numbers for an upper-classmen that has split carries with fellow RB Bill Belton. At 6'1" and 240, he's the thunder to Belton's lightning - a bruising back that has averaged 4.8 YPC over the past two seasons. Zwinak saved his best for last in 2013, closing out the season with four consecutive games of 115+ yards on the ground. He'll still have to battle with Belton, along with rising sophomore Akeel Lynch (who rushed for 358 yards on just 60 carries last year). We're not absolutely sure what the RB rotation will be like under coach James Franklin and on top of all that, the offensive line depth at PSU is extremely thin - a couple of main reasons why he is this low on the list. Stock: Hold

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