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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: Who Is the Best QB Nebraska Will Face in 2019?

August 14, 2019
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Who's the best quarterback Nebraska will face in 2019?

It's a tougher question than you thought, right? My guess is that if you polled Husker fans the consensus answer might be Nate Stanley based mostly on familiarity. Nebraska fans have seen him play twice now and he's lead the Hawkeyes to two wins over the Huskers while earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in his first year as a starter.

But if not him, who?

According to Pro Football Focus and its starting quarterback rankings the best quarterback Nebraska will face in the regular season is presumed Ohio State starter Justin Fields.

Here's PFF's quick methodology for the rankings:

Combing through our play-by-play data ad nauseam, these rankings take into account a quarterback’s PFF grade both from last season, and all other subsequent sets of data that we have on their time in college. The list projects these players as the starter but is also influenced by the situation behind the projected starting quarterback if he were to miss any amount of time going forward.

Fields, a Georgia transfer, was on the field for 84 action plays in 2018 per ESPN's QBR stats. He recorded stats in all but two of Georgia's games last year and his 86.4 QBR, if he'd had enough plays to qualify, would've ranked seventh in 2018. It was actually one spot ahead of Bulldogs starter Jake Fromm.

Of course, it's much easier to do that over 80 plays than it is over the 370 plays Fromm had. Heck, Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr., because he had a pass attempt, shows up on 11 on that list if you don't have minimums for qualification. 

Field is probably going to be pretty darn good, it was just a mild surprise to see him that high already and it’s because of the sample size. Michigan's Shea Patterson was the top Big Ten quarterback overall, ranking 13th nationally. Fields was next at No. 16 and then Adrian Martinez at No. 24.

Here's the list of presumed starting quarterbacks Nebraska will face in 2019 with their national ranking according to PFF.

OPPONENT QB PFF RANK
Ohio State Justin Fields 16
Colorado Steven Montez 28
Maryland Josh Jackson 39
Northwestern Hunter Johnson 48
Iowa Nate Stanley 51
Indiana Peyton Ramsey 54
Northern Illinois Marcus Childers 80
Minnesota Tanner Morgan 86
Purdue Elijah Sindelar 94
Wisconsin

Jack Coan -OR-

Graham Mertz

106
Illinois

Brandon Peters -OR-

Isaiah Williams

107
South Alabama Cephus Johnson 129

A few thoughts:

>>So, Wisconsin. It looks like Coan is going to be the Day 1 starter, but if what you can prove about him (his sample size is small, too, but bigger than Fields') plus what you can project about blue-chip freshman Mertz results in a No. 106 ranking, I might look a little harder at the high-upside freshman. But, maybe that's not what Wisconsin needs right now. The running game should be typically strong and if the defense rebounds from a down year, maybe a Coin-Like quarterback is all the Badgers need.

>>Illinois is in a similar spot. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters was brought in to offer some experience behind center, but you get the feeling that Isaiah Williams, even as an undersized true freshman, might be the quarterback opposing teams would rather not face.

>>As a card-carrying member of the Peyton Ramsey Fan Club, I was personally pleased to see Indiana's under appreciated two-year starter land where he did. That's just a me thing.

>>The two quarterbacks directly behind Martinez might have been as interesting as the one in front of him. Josh Jackson, Maryland's presumed starter, had a brilliant freshman season at Virginia Tech but then missed most of last season with an injury. Then there's Colorado stalwart Steven Montez. He's started 24 straight games for the Buffs and, like Jackson, is dangerous on the ground as well.

>>I'm pretty confident that over the course of this season Martinez will be better than his ranking. That's sort of interesting to think about. If he's 24th now and you think Martinez's play in 2019 will be better than that, what would that mean for the Huskers.

We talk about this season ahead as one that's wide open, particularly in the West Division. Looking at this list of quarterbacks underscores that point. Which team on that list above––which isn't all Big Ten QBs, just the ones on Nebraska's schedule-––do you feel is going to get the best quarterback play in the year ahead? Where would you slot the Huskers?

Might be an important distinction.

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