BRR's B1G QB top five

Big Red Report's Kyle Phillippi examines the top five quarterbacks in the Big Ten conference this season.

While the conference has never been a breeding ground for quarterbacks, the Big Ten usually garners a handful of talented and efficient passers each season.

This year, though, there are only two nationally known commodities under center with the remaining group being a bunch of unknowns who have potential to breakout. Because of this, it's nearly impossible to project how the quarterbacks not named Braxton Miller or Taylor Martinez will perform in 2013.

Nonetheless, let's take a look at how Big Red Report views this year's Big Ten quarterback class:

1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

The head of the Big Ten quarterback class, Miller is coming off a sensational sophomore season in which he amassed over 2,000 passing yards with 15 touchdowns, while eclipsing 1,200 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. His breakout season earned him a spot in the Heisman voting, falling shy of Johnny Manziel's historic freshman campaign.

Now entering his second year in Urban Meyer's system, Miller will have the nation watching him not only because of what he did last year, but because Ohio State is bowl eligible this time around. Leading his squad to an undefeated season was bittersweet as it looks terrific in the record books, but didn't result in a National Championship berth due to the NCAA sanctions. After seeing how successful the Meyer-Miller reign was in year one, expectations can't get much higher than they are entering 2013 in Columbus.

The Big Ten knows what the junior quarterback brings to the field, but stopping his dual-threat ability is nearly impossible. As Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson's Taj Boyd receive national media attention and NFL recognition, there's a very good chance that by season's end, Miller is being discussed among the best in the nation.

2. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

It's his fourth and final season in Lincoln and all eyes are on Martinez. He knows this. But is he ready to finally deliver a Big Ten championship and a BCS bowl win to Nebraska?

There's no reason Martinez shouldn't be able duplicate junior season numbers in 2013, if not better them. He has one of the best wide receiver groups Nebraska has ever touted and he has already proven that Big Ten defenses aren't an issue for him.

If he is to finally lead the Cornhuskers to the Promised Land, he'll need to work on ball control. Last season, he spent his time working on his throwing mechanics. He showed noticeable growth in that department, so there's no reason he shouldn't be doing the same in protecting the ball in 2013.

Nonetheless, Martinez is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in college football and he very well could string together an impressive Heisman campaign if he guides Nebraska to a Big Ten Championship.

3. Devin Gardner, Michigan

After Miller and Martinez, the Big Ten's quarterback class takes a major drop. Nothing against Gardner, but compared to the two ahead of him, he's got a lot of proving to do. With that said, 2013 should be a breakout season for senior. After taking over for Denard Robinson midway through 2012, Gardner wound up throwing for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He has a ton of upside entering this season which should come to fruition with a first-year offensive system that favors passing-first dual-threat quarterbacks. Gardner will also have the benefit of playing in his home confines against Nebraska and Ohio State, two of the heavy favorites in the Big Ten.

With a full offseason working with the first-team under his belt, he shouldn't have a turnover problem as he showed signs of late last season. In the final five games of the year, Garnder threw one interception in every game as Michigan went on to go 3-2 in that stretch.

4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

He's only a freshman, but fans believe Hackenberg can be the savior in Happy Valley. While the hype is monumental, it's not without a reason. A five-star recruit, Hackenberg will have the opportunity to take over the surprising No. 1 passing attack in the Big Ten from 2012, one that was led by a good, but nothing special quarterback in Matt McGloin. Second year head coach Bill O'Brien went out and put all his chips in Hackenberg. He views him as the perfect fit for his offensive scheme, something that resembles what he orchestrated in the pros with New England.

As of now, it's not even set in stone that Hackenberg will be the opening day starter. Still, though, whenever he gets his chance, he'll take it and run with it. That's how good he looks. Labeled by as someone who has "all the physical tools one could ask for," the Virginia native should have no trouble putting up big numbers with the weapons he's surrounded with. Allen Robinson had an eye-opening season in 2012, leading the Big Ten in receiving yards and touchdown, and could do even better with the blue-chip recruit under center. Hackenberg also has a bevy of tight ends to work with, including fellow five-star prospect, Adam Breneman.

The O'Brien-Hackenberg duo could prove to be as successful in their first season just as Meyer and Miller were last year in their first time together.

5. Kain Colter, Northwestern

On a list of most dangerous players in the conference, Colter could very well be third right behind Miller and Martinez. Unfortunately for him, head coach Pat Fitzgerald is utilizing a two-quarterback approach which often utilizes Colter's playmaking ability at other positions on the field. Under center, Colter completed a career-high 67.8% of his passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. He did his most damage, of course, with his legs, running for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns, both of which were career-highs.

Unlike in 2011, Colter didn't have as much of an impact at wide receiver, catching only 16 passes for 169 yards. The year before, he racked up 43 receptions and three scores.

While he's not a prototypical quarterback, Colter's impact on the field can't be overlooked. Defenses have to plan for him the week before or else they'll be chasing him from behind more often than not. He can attack the opposition from every angle on the field and he could very well take a game over if not accounted for.

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