- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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When it comes to quarterbacks, the gold standard for a standout season is usually seen as 3,000 yards passing. The proliferation of prolific spread offenses has raised the bar on that, as it's not unusual to find quarterbacks now throwing for 4,000 yards per season. In the Big Ten, however, 3,000 yards remains a rare feat; in the past three years, just one player per season has reached that benchmark. Since 2010, the league has only had eight total players throw for 3,000 yards in a season.
Michigan State's Connor Cook (3,214 passing yards) was the only 3K quarterback last season and is a solid bet to do so again. Which other players could join him in the coveted club? Here's a list of candidates in order of most likely:
1. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg: Consider this: In what most people regarded as a down year for Hackenberg in 2014, he still threw for 2,977 yards. That came after going for 2,955 as a true freshman. It seems it's only a matter of time until he achieves the milestone, and this could well be the year with more experienced receivers on board.
2. Ohio State's starting QB: J.T. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards in 12 games and definitely would have made it to 3,000 had he not gotten injured in Game 12. But he might be the third-stringer right now. Cardale Jones certainly has the arm strength to put up huge passing numbers. Braxton Miller's season high for passing yards is just 2,094 (in 2013) but he's never had these kinds of weapons. The big question is whether any one of these guys will have enough reps as the starter to throw for 3,000 this season.
3. Illinois' Wes Lunt: Bill Cubit's offense turned Nathan Scheelhaase into a 3,000-yard passer in 2013. Lunt has more natural ability than Scheelhaase if he can stay healthy. Missing star wideout Mikey Dudek for at least half the season will hurt, but Lunt will get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball.
4. Indiana's Nate Sudfeld: Sudfeld threw for over 2,500 yards in 2013 while still splitting time with Tre Roberson. If the Hoosiers' young wide receivers can step up, a now-healthy Sudfeld could get back to pitching it around all over the field again.
5. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Jr.: The Cornhuskers have only had two 3,000-yard passers in their history, the last coming from Joe Ganz in 2008. Nobody is expecting Nebraska to turn back to the Bill Callahan era, but Armstrong -- who passed for nearly 2,700 yards in his first full campaign as the starter last season -- should be the focus of the offense in '15 with some uncertainty at running back.