- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The backup quarterback has been a big topic around the Big Ten so far this season, thanks mainly to Ohio State's Kenny Guiton, who stepped in seamlessly when Braxton Miller injured his knee in Week 2. Guiton's splendid performances the past three weeks -- he has 12 passing touchdowns, including a team-record six last week against Florida A&M, to go along with 180 rush yards -- are sparking debate about whether he should continue to play even after Miller returns, most likely Saturday night against No. 23 Wisconsin.
Other Big Ten quarterback situations are fluid, and several changes have been made at the starting spot. Today's poll question asks: Which current Big Ten backup is most deserving of playing time? We're limited to five choices, and we didn't include Minnesota because Philip Nelson's injury situation is a big factor there.
Before you vote, a quick look at the candidates (in alphabetical order) ...
Austin Appleby/Danny Etling, Purdue: Appleby and Etling are listed as co-backups behind Rob Henry, who is completing just 56.3 percent of his passes with more interceptions (4) than touchdown passes (3) through the first four games. Both Appleby and Etling had chances to beat out Henry for the starting job in the offseason, but the coaches went with the veteran. Henry is a good story and a popular leader in the locker room, but Purdue's season appears to be going nowhere fast. Appleby and Etling both have freshman eligibility, and Henry is a senior. So if Purdue decides that the future is now, it would seem to make sense to go with one of the young guys.
Kenny Guiton, Ohio State: That we're even having this debate regarding a former Big Ten offensive player of the year (Miller) underscores how far Guiton has come. He has steered one of the nation's most dangerous offenses the past three weeks and shown the type of accuracy (68.4 percent completions) that Miller lacked last season. It's important to note that Guiton hasn't exactly faced elite defenses, and he's surrounded by a much larger supporting cast at Ohio State than Miller had in 2012, when he was often a one-man show. Miller is the superior athlete and can break long touchdown runs, but if he's not 100 percent healthy, does it make sense to go with Guiton on Saturday night against Wisconsin?
Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State: Yes, Spartans fans, we're serious. Maxwell might not get many votes here, but head coach Mark Dantonio had seen enough of Connor Cook on Saturday against Notre Dame to insert Maxwell for the team's final drive with 2:11 left and the Spartans down four points. Dantonio said Tuesday that Cook remains the team's No. 1 quarterback, but the coaches clearly want to see more out of that position when Big Ten play begins. Fan favorite Damion Terry is headed toward a redshirt season and the staff seems to have written off Tyler O'Connor. There's a strong case against Maxwell, who certainly has had his chances to claim the job. But is Cook doing enough to keep it?
Curt Phillips, Wisconsin: Phillips might be the most intriguing possibility here. Remember that little separated Phillips and Joel Stave during their offseason competition to start, and some Badgers insiders felt Phillips, a sixth-year senior who has battled back from multiple knee surgeries, should have had the top job coming out of camp. Stave hasn't exactly been lighting it up, passing for just 190 yards a game with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Coach Gary Andersen said Monday that the passing game is a concern but said the issues go beyond Stave. Phillips brings more mobility to the pocket. He lacks Stave's arm strength and ability to stretch the field, but he also takes better care of the ball.
Tre Roberson, Indiana: Roberson technically entered the season as the starter, and coach Kevin Wilson has been hesitant to name a clear No. 1 signal-caller. But Nate Sudfeld has taken the lion's share of snaps through the first four games, and until last Saturday against Missouri, he had performed well, firing 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. But when the competition level went up, Sudfeld took a step backward, throwing three interceptions and completing just 53.8 percent of his passes in a blowout loss to Missouri. Sudfeld and Roberson have different strengths, but Roberson brings more experience that could be beneficial when Indiana opens Big Ten play Oct. 5 against Penn State.
It's time to vote. Make yours count.