What Big Ten quarterback operates the best under pressure? And who just can’t handle the blitz?
Well, thanks once again to some nifty analytics software, we decided to crunch the numbers and take a closer look at each B1G signal-caller who threw at least 100 passes this season. Some played even better with defenders in their face; some appeared to collapse.
We ordered the signal-callers by QBR. But, again, QBR has its own pros and cons and takes things such as sacks into account -- so we’ve also listed passing stats for each player, so you can make your own judgment.
We start with the top-rated quarterback:
1. Ohio State QBs Cardale Jones (92.7 QBR vs. the blitz) and J.T. Barrett (86.8 QBR vs. the blitz)
We rolled Jones and Barrett into one here because the conference’s top two quarterbacks against the blitz are both from the Buckeyes – and it’s not even close. Jones is the only Big Ten passer with a QBR in the 90s, and Barrett is the only one in the 80s.
Just two quarterbacks in the Power 5 are better against the blitz than Jones: TCU’s Trevone Boykin (98.9 QBR) and injured Baylor QB Seth Russell (94.7 QBR). Jones also has the biggest gap between his performance with the blitz and without. It’s a little mind-boggling. When there’s no blitz, Jones is completing 60.8 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four picks. With the blitz, Jones boasts a 66 percent completion rate and five touchdowns to one interception. Barrett isn’t too shabby either; no Big Ten quarterback boasts a higher completion percentage (68.8 percent) against the blitz.
Moral of the story: Blitz the Buckeyes at your own risk. Here’s Ohio State’s full passing chart against the blitz, but make note that one incompletion here is from punter Cam Johnston:
2. Michigan State QB Connor Cook (78.5 QBR vs. the blitz)
Cook has a reputation as a calm-and-consistent leader, so it should come as no surprise that he really doesn't seem fazed by the blitz.
Sure, we're only focusing on the 2015 season here -- but Cook has been incredible against the blitz in his career. Over the past four years, he's thrown just one interception in 310 passing attempts vs. the blitz, to go along with 31 touchdowns.
It's more the same this season. No one in the Big Ten has thrown more passes against the blitz than Cook, but he's still one of only two conference QBs not to throw a pick here. His 10 passing TDs are also a conference-best. If it wasn’t for his completion percentage (51.7 percent) – which is well below the Power 5 average of 56.4 percent vs. the blitz – he’d be ranked even higher. Take a look at his full passing chart:
3. Michigan QB Jake Rudock (77.3 QBR vs. the blitz)
Only Barrett has a higher completion percentage against the blitz than Rudock (68.6 percent). But, when it comes to passers with at least 40 attempts against the blitz, no one in the Power 5 is more accurate.
In the month of October, Rudock threw only two incompletions against the blitz. (He was 21-of-23 for 223 yards.) And in a three-game span – against Northwestern, Michigan State and Minnesota – he was a perfect 17-of-17. Here’s his full passing chart:
4. Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld (71.1 QBR vs. the blitz): 54-of-91 for 802 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
5. Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner (69.9 QBR vs. the blitz): 48-of-82 for 605 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
6. Purdue QB Austin Appleby (68.9 QBR vs. the blitz): 16-of-31 for 317 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
7. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. (66.4 QBR vs. the blitz): 54-of-97 for 761 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs
8. Iowa QB C.J. Beathard (62.5 QBR vs. the blitz): 47-of-88 for 671 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
9. Maryland QB Perry Hills (55.5 QBR vs. the blitz): 27-of-52 for 353 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
10. Illinois QB Wes Lunt (49.1 QBR vs. the blitz): 47-of-95 for 532 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs
11. Purdue QB David Blough (36.2 QBR vs. the blitz): 40-of-73 for 303 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
12. Rutgers QB Chris Laviano (36.1 QBR vs. the blitz): 53-of-88 for 714 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
13. Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson (31.9 QBR vs. the blitz): 22-of-50 for 212 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
14. Maryland QB Caleb Rowe (30.9 QBR vs. the blitz): 19-of-40 for 189 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs
15. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (29.8 QBR vs. the blitz): 41-of-96 for 626 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
16. Wisconsin QB Joel Stave (25.2 QBR vs. the blitz)
Stave didn’t take quite as many sacks against the blitz as Laviano (12) or Hackenberg (15), who was sacked the second-most in the Power 5. But he was still sacked eight times, which was pretty considerable considering he had just 60 passing attempts.
And, against Northwestern, it was flat-out ugly. He finished 2-of-6 against the blitz, for 35 yards and one interception. That was his worst outing of the season (3.3 QBR) and dropped him into last place. Here’s Stave’s full chart: