Ohio State Buckeyes: Curt Phillips

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.

SportsNation

Which Big Ten backup quarterback most deserves a chance to play?

  •  
    14%
  •  
    57%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,827)

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.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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I labored to put these links together. Get it? Get it? Enjoy the holiday.

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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My dog tried to play with a skunk this week. I think we're all getting stir crazy waiting for the football season.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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"College Football Live" and its Summer Tour stops in Columbus today. Joe Tessitore and Brian Griese will be at Ohio State checking in on Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller and Co. Catch them throughout the day on "SportsCenter" and on CFB Live at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

To the links ...

Big Ten Monday mailbag

August, 12, 2013
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Can we hop in the DeLorean and travel ahead to Aug. 29? No? OK, then, let's just answer some emails.

Justin from Baltimore writes: Hi, Brian. Which of the following outcomes would be most beneficial in boosting the BIG's national rep? 1. Win all nine of the top nonconference games (ND at Michigan, UCLA at Nebraska, MSU at ND, Wisconsin at ASU, OSU at Cal, PSU vs. Syracuse, BYU at Wisconsin, NW at Cal, and Iowa at ISU ... I think it would actually be in the BIG's interest for ND to beat Purdue in game No. 10 as to not totally devalue the other victories against the Irish). 2. Win the Rose Bowl. 3. Place a team in the BCS championship game and lose in a close, competitive game that really could have gone either way?

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Sam RicheOhio State and Braxton Miller have their eyes on the big prize this season.
Brian Bennett: I think we can quickly rule out No. 1. The Big Ten just doesn't have many high-profile nonconference games. If Notre Dame loses to both Michigan schools, that probably means the Irish won't have a great season, and beating teams like Cal, UCLA and Arizona State simply doesn't carry that much weight. A Rose Bowl win would be great, but we don't know who the opponent would be. Is it a highly-ranked Pac-12 champion? Even then, I think the No. 3 item in your scenario is the most important. Winning championships is obvious the most beneficial accomplishment for a league's perception. The second-best way to do that might be playing for a championship and coming really close. Especially if a Big Ten team were to take an SEC champ to the wire, that could go a long way toward improving perception.

Nick from Bay Area, Calif., writes: Suppose the following situation plays out: In the Legends Division, Nebraska finishes 11-1 with its only loss at Michigan. Michigan loses a close one to the Buckeyes and drops another on the road (take your pick, @PSU, @NW, @MSU) to finish 10-2. In the Leaders, Ohio State finishes 12-0 and Wisconsin loses close ones at OSU and Arizona State to finish 10-2. Ohio State destroys Nebraska in the B1G CG. If the Buckeyes go to the NCG, is there a shot that the Badgers could end up in the Rose Bowl again?

Brian Bennett: I see it's a hypothetical day. Yep, we all need some real football around here to talk about. Anyway, it's an interesting question. Of course, there are scenarios where the Rose Bowl could take a non-Big Ten team if it lost the league champion to the BCS title game, but I doubt the game would want to do that in the final season before the playoff and certainly not in its 100th edition. Let's assume all three Big Ten teams you mentioned finished in the top 14 of the BCS standings but not in the top four. The Rose would be free to take its pick of those teams. I actually think Nebraska or Michigan would be more likely to go to Pasadena, both because they'd have stronger nonconference wins in your scenarios (Notre Dame for the Wolverines, UCLA for the Huskers) than Wisconsin, and because the Rose Bowl might have a bit of Badgers fatigue (and vice versa).

Glenn from Leesburg, Fla., writes: Brian, why all the hype over OSU? Realistically, what more do they have than teams like UM, PSU, Wisconsin, and Nebraska? They have Braxton Miller, but except for PSU, there's some pretty good QBs starting for the other three schools. OSU appears to have a good secondary, so does PSU. OSU lacks depth at LB and DL. They have a good OL, so does PSU and UM. OSU has Urban Meyer, PSU has last season's Coach of the Year, UM has Brady Hoke. OSU has a questionable backfield to support Miller, especially the first few games. OSU had a great recruiting year, so did UM which was ranked ahead of the Bucks in that category. Last fall's undefeated season for OSU has nothing to do with this year's upcoming season. So, why all the hype? You and Adam make it sound like we might as well skip the BIG season and send OSU right to the BCS championship game. Biased much?

Brian Bennett: Well, let me tackle the "biased much" question first, since it is so ridiculous. Our job here involves giving informed opinions and predictions at times, and we have both said Ohio State is the league favorite. This is not an absurd opinion, since the Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches' poll and have been picked to win the Big Ten by just about every major publication, writer, etc. Last year, we both picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten. Did that make us biased toward the Spartans? Come on, Glenn.

Anyway, as a guy from Florida, you should know part of the answer here: Urban Meyer. Yes, he's not the only great coach in the league. But he is the only one with national title rings. And in his first season in the conference, he went 12-0. The Buckeyes have had an abundance of talent most years, and they're loaded again in 2013. The offensive line is excellent, Miller finished fifth in the Heisman voting last year, and the skill players are improving, especially with the rave reviews freshman Dontre Wilson has garnered thus far. There are questions on defense, but there are also All-America type players on that side like Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby, plus stars-in-the-making like Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence. I've said I think it will be hard for the Buckeyes to go undefeated again, and let's not forget that they had several close calls last season. But if you're going to predict a 2013 Big Ten champ, Ohio State is the obvious pick right now.

Brian M. from Oregon, Ohio, writes: Brian, I must take exception to your response to Brian from Atlanta. You can't look at it as 25 games in a row. You have to look at it one game at a time. The Buckeyes aren't playing 25 straight games. They're playing one opponent, and then preparing for the next. When you look at it on a game-by-game basis, you're hard pressed to think that Ohio State won't finish undefeated. Further, what happened last season is already in the past. It has no bearing on this season. From here, it's 14 games to go, not 25 (or 26 as it were). Additionally, Brian from Atlanta mentioned some of the close games Ohio State had last year. This seems to be a common misapprehension amongst Buckeye doubters. The Buckeye team that beat that school up north in November, was far better than the one that took the field against Miami (OH) (IO) in September. Certainly other teams have improved as well, but consider the giant leap forward Urban Meyer-coached teams traditionally take in Year 2 of his system. Other teams will have improved, but Ohio State has improved more, and they are better to begin with. Once again, it seems far more likely that Ohio State will finish undefeated than not.

Brian Bennett: While it's true that this season's Ohio State team is different, and it won't have to win 25 games in a row this season, my point was that it's really, really hard to go undefeated in any given year, much less do it two years in a row. You make a good point about Meyer's second-year track record, but also recall that he had only one undefeated season under his belt before last year, and that was at Utah. You also make it sound like Ohio State didn't have close games late in the season, but the Buckeyes won an overtime game in the penultimate game at Wisconsin, as well as that miracle comeback against Purdue on Oct. 20. And remember that they only beat Michigan by five points, at home. Yes, Meyer's team should be favored in at least 11 games this season, but we are saying that based mostly on what those opponents did last year, not the teams that they will become this season. I won't be surprised if the Buckeyes run the table, but I'd give better odds that they slip up somewhere.

Josh from Madison, Wisc., writes: Who ultimately starts for the Badgers this season, Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy?

Brian Bennett: You're giving short shrift to Curt Phillips, who might not have the arm strength of Stave or the athleticism (post injuries) of McEvoy but has a combination of both and serious veteran moxie. It's nearly impossible right now to tell whom Gary Andersen and Andy Ludwig will choose as their starter. McEvoy is at a disadvantage because he didn't arrive on campus until the summer, and his experience at playing quarterback on any level is limited. I'd probably put my money on Stave, just because he has the best chance to help the offense stretch the field with his downfield passing ability, and he played well last season before getting hurt. But I also think McEvoy will play at some point this fall, and I still wouldn't count out Phillips being the last man standing.
Way back in the heady days of the 2012 preseason, we ranked every Big Ten position group from No. 1 through 12. We had to base our thoughts on previous performance and a lot of projections in August.

We're going back now and issuing a final, postseason ranking for each position group, and these will be far less subjective now because we have an actual full season's worth of data on hand.

Quarterbacks, naturally, are up first. (Those guys hog all the glory). You can take a look back and see how we ranked this group in the preseason here. Depth is an important factor in these position rankings, but having a standout main guy under center (or in the shotgun) is the most overriding concern with this group.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteThanks to consistent play by QB Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes finished the 2012 season unbeaten.
1. Ohio State (Preseason rank: 5): We figured Braxton Miller would improve greatly in his second year of starting and in Urban Meyer's system. We didn't know he'd become the Big Ten offensive player of the year or finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. While he didn't always throw the ball with precision, Miller made all the big plays and led his team to a 12-0 record. The biggest preseason worry was what would happen if he got hurt. Kenny Guiton answered that in the Purdue comeback.

2. Penn State (Preseason: 12): The Nittany Lions were dead last in our preseason rankings, and with good reason considering their past performances at the position. But I did write at the time: "Call me an optimist, but I believe Matt McGloin will be more effective at quarterback now that he's got a more modern offensive system and peace of mind that he's the starter." Uh, yeah. McGloin led the Big Ten in passing yards (3,266) and passing touchdowns (24) while throwing only five interceptions. And he stayed healthy, keeping Penn State's youthful backups from getting exposed.

3. Nebraska (Preseason: 3): Taylor Martinez led the Big Ten in total offense and completed a career-best 62 percent of his passes. When he was good, he was as good as there was in the league. But he still struggled with turnovers in key games, including 12 interceptions and numerous fumbles. If he can eliminate the mistakes, the sky's the limit.

4. Michigan (Preseason: 2): The Wolverines are a hard to team to peg in these rankings. Do we rank them based on Denard Robinson's poor showings in big games against Alabama and Notre Dame? Do we rank them based on Devin Gardner's strong finish to the season, when he was as productive as any Big Ten QB? How much do we factor in the team's lack of a solid backup plan in the Nebraska loss when Robinson got hurt early? You have to weigh the good with the bad, which makes this spot feel about right.

5. Northwestern (Preseason: 9): Starting quarterback Kain Colter threw for 872 yards, which was nearly 450 yards less than nominal backup Trevor Siemian. But Colter also rushed for 894 yards and kept defenses off balance with his versatility. Meanwhile, the Wildcats could use Siemian when they needed to stretch the field. The next step for Northwestern is developing a more consistent downfield passing attack.

6. Indiana (Preseason: 11): Who would have guessed in the preseason that the Hoosiers would actually exhibit the best depth at quarterback? After starter Tre Roberson went down in Week 2, Indiana was able to plug in juco transfer Cameron Coffman and true freshman Nate Sudfeld to sustain the league's top passing offense. The three combined to throw for more than 3,700 yards. Coffman got the bulk of the work but needed a better touchdown-to-interception ration than his 15-to-11 mark.

7. Purdue (Preseason: 1): We overrated the Boilermakers' depth in the preseason. It turned out that only one of the trio of former starters performed at a high level, and Robert Marve didn't play enough because of a torn ACL and Danny Hope's misguided insistence on sticking with Caleb TerBush. Purdue actually led the Big Ten in passing touchdowns (30) and finished third in passing yards, but much of that was because the team often had to throw the ball a lot after falling way behind. This ranking could have been higher with a full season of Marve.

8. Wisconsin (Preseason: 8): Danny O'Brien quickly showed that he was not the next Russell Wilson, but luckily the Badgers had some depth. Redshirt freshman Joel Stave showed major promise before his season was derailed by a broken collarbone, and Curt Phillips turned in a nice comeback story by managing the team well down the stretch. Still, Wisconsin ranked last in the Big Ten in passing yards.

9. Michigan State (Preseason: 10): It was not exactly a season to remember for first-year starter Andrew Maxwell, who was benched late in the Spartans' bowl game. But for all his struggles, Maxwell still finished No. 4 in the league in passing and had some nice games in the middle of the year.

10. Minnesota (Preseason: 6): What could MarQueis Gray have done if he hadn't hurt his ankle, prompting an eventual move to receiver? True freshman Philip Nelson took over the reins midseason and broke out with a huge first half against Purdue. However, he failed to throw for more than 80 yards in the team's final three regular season games. Nelson led the team with just 873 passing yards on the season, and the Gophers threw 15 interceptions.

11. Iowa (Preseason: 4): Nobody took a bigger tumble than the Hawkeyes, as James Vandenberg went from a 3,000-yard passer as a junior to often looking lost as a senior. He completed only 57.3 percent of his passes and tossed only seven touchdowns, with eight interceptions, and Iowa showed almost no ability to go vertical. And no other Hawkeye attempted a pass all season.

12. Illinois (Preseason: 7): The Illini had experience at the position with Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole, but they were both part of a wildly dysfunctional offense. Illinois was next-to-last in passing yards in the Big Ten and also had just 11 touchdown passes versus 14 interceptions. In fairness, both QBs were often running for their lives and had very little help.

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's highlight tape of touchdowns might as well be a full-length feature. He entered Saturday with 77, one shy of the FBS all-time record.

Unfortunately for Ball, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier watched most of the movie in the week leading up to Saturday's game.

"He scores plenty of touchdowns," Shazier said. "I watched film on him, and I saw when he gets around the [1- or 2-yard line], he likes to jump. So once he jumped, I jumped, and I punched the ball out."

Shazier's forced fumble against Ball late in the fourth quarter -- just the second lost fumble in Ball's record-setting career -- ended up not meaning much. Wisconsin scored on its next possession to tie the game before Ohio State went on to win 21-14 in overtime.

But Shazier's play epitomized Ohio State's victory, one fueled by defense with a sprinkle of special teams, thanks to Corey "Philly" Brown.

Braxton Miller won't be on "SportsCenter" tonight, but Shazier should be. So should defensive end John Simon, who tied a career high with four sacks. So should cornerback Bradley Roby, who had to cover two players after a teammate blew an assignment and batted down a sure-fire touchdown catch by Derek Watt.

The silver bullets stood tall at Camp Randall Stadium, helping Ohio State secure a Leaders Division title, maintain a perfect 11-0 record and set up a chance for perfection in The Game next week against Michigan.

"Our offense kind of struggled a little bit, but at the same time, it's a team sport, so the defense, we needed to go out and do our thing," said Roby, who wore a Leaders Division championship T-shirt. "Defense wins championships. We thrive on that."

(Read full post)


MADISON, Wis. -- Braxton Miller has carried Ohio State most of the season. The defense did the honors Saturday in holding off Wisconsin 21-14 in overtime to preserve a perfect record.

It was over when: Ohio State safety Christian Bryant broke up a fourth-down pass to Jacob Pedersen in overtime. The Buckeyes had taken the lead on a 2-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown run moments earlier.

Game ball goes to: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier and Ohio State DE John Simon. Shazier continued to sizzle during Big Ten play with 12 tackles, including three for loss and a forced fumble that appeared to seal the win. Simon (four sacks) also had his best game of the season as Ohio State repeatedly turned away the Badgers.

Stat of the game: Wisconsin outgained Ohio State 360-236 but kept stalling in Buckeyes territory. The Badgers had seven drives in regulation either start in or reach Ohio State territory but ended up with only 14 points. Their only drive in overtime ended after four plays.

What it means: Ohio State wins the Leaders Division title -- the only championship it could win with the postseason ban -- and maintains its quest for perfection heading into the Michigan game. Wisconsin drops its second consecutive home game for the first time since the 2008 season after having a 21-game win streak snapped Oct. 27 against Michigan State.

Second guessing: Wisconsin went conservative several times on third down in Ohio State territory, once at the end of the second half and again at the end of the third quarter. Curt Phillips had some success passing the ball, but offensive coordinator Matt Canada stuck with the run despite long-yardage situations, and the Badgers couldn't get into the end zone.

Unsung hero: After saying this week that he hated Wisconsin as much as Michigan, Ohio State WR Corey "Philly" Brown backed it up. Brown provided one of two Ohio State touchdowns in regulation with a 68-yard punt return and had four receptions for 48 yards in the win.

Five storylines: Ohio State-Wisconsin 

November, 15, 2012
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at the hot topics and pressing concerns as Ohio State prepares for a road trip to surging Wisconsin with a chance to lock up the Leaders Division title on Saturday (TV: ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

On the line: The Badgers have already clinched their trip to the Big Ten title game, though the Buckeyes could officially put a damper on that celebration with a win that would clinch the true division championship. Wisconsin was long expected to be the big beneficiary of postseason bans for Ohio State and Penn State, and that has certainly been the case even with some hiccups along the way. But the Buckeyes can still claim the hardware and the bragging rights in the Leaders Division, not to mention keep its perfect record intact heading into the final weekend of the season.

Trophy talk: The late bye week combined with some dynamic individual performances last weekend around the country seemingly put Braxton Miller on the back burner in the Heisman Trophy conversation. But the Ohio State quarterback should have a pretty large audience watching to see what he can do against an elite defense on the road and could get the buzz right back if he can duplicate the outings he posted in hostile environments at Michigan State and Penn State.

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