Big 10's West Division Will Come Down to Quarterback Play

By Tyler Fenwick
joel stave wisconsin
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As we draw nearer to the 2014 college football season, it’s looking more and more like the Big 10‘s West Division is going to be a two-horse race between the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers. Both teams possess two of the best running backs in the nation, but they will also both be starting two quarterbacks who have the potential to hold them back, meaning this division is going to come down to the play of the field generals.

Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, Jr. first needs to win the starting job from fellow competitor Johnny Stanton, but I think the job will eventually be his by the time this season rolls around. And even if Stanton is the starter, the situation doesn’t change.

In his redshirt freshman season of 2013, Armstrong became the Huskers’ starter in the second of the season for the injured Taylor Martinez. It was an erratic season for Armstrong, as he tossed only one more touchdown than he did interceptions, and he often looked uncomfortable and even out of place within the offense. That wasn’t all the time, though. Other times, you could see a high ceiling for the kid, and he looked like a special talent.

Wisconsin’s Joel Stave faired a little better than Armstrong, and that was with a full season’s sample. Stave’s ability to manage the game seems to come more naturally than it does to Armstrong, but was also working with a few more weapons outside. Despite that, you probably wouldn’t mind seeing a little more from your quarterback.

At the disposal of Armstrong will be all-world running back Ameer Abdullah, who is regularly cited as one of the best running backs in the Big 10. In a sense, Armstrong’s job is fairly simple: He has to make defenses respect what he can do in order for Abdullah to be completely utilized.

Basically the same applies to Stave. He has Melvin Gordon lining up in his backfield, but he can’t possibly be used at maximum capacity if teams are able to load the box and practically forget about a struggling passing game.

When looking at these two quarterbacks and considering every weapon that surrounds them, my pick for success is Joel Stave,  but there are pending factors here. The bottom line is one of these quarterbacks will have to step up and become a more prevalent part of the offense. Whoever does that puts their team in the driver’s seat in this West Division.

Tyler Fenwick is a Big 10 writer for Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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