Inside Blitz: Big 10 Gaining on the SEC Primarily Because of Quarterbacks, or Lack Thereof

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The idea for a sports/media/gambling column was hatched this summer and you can look for it every Wednesday. If you want to yell at me about something that appeared here – because let’s face it, on the Internet, it’s outrage or nothing: Jmcintyre at thebiglead dot com.

If you put stock in conference bowl records, let’s start the Big 10 vs. SEC discussion here: Over the last decade, the SEC has been .500 or above in bowl games every year.

In that same time span, the Big 10 has had one year above .500 (2009-2010) and one .500 record (2004-2005).

You’ve probably already forgotten the one year the conference had a winning bowl record, so here’s a quick refresher: Terrell Pryor led Ohio State over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and a few days later, the great Ricky Stanzi threw two touchdown passes to lead Iowa over Georgia Tech.

Here are the signal-callers the SEC lost after the 2013-2014 season: Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Connor Shaw (South Carolina), AJ McCarron, (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and James Franklin (Missouri). Four were drafted, and three started NFL games as rookies. Statistically, this group was tremendous in 2013.

The dropoff was noticeable in 2014. The top six QBs in the conference had completion percentage of 64.8% or better in 2013; only two did in 2014. The top five SEC passers in 2013 had a QB rating of 158 or better; none did in 2014.

A year after having four QBs drafted, the SEC could have none selected in 2015, although Auburn’s Nick Marshall and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (who has one year of eligibility left) – both excellent athletes who could transition to special teams or defensive back in the pros – could be mid-late round selections. Bo Wallace of Ole Miss might latch on somewhere as an undrafted free agent.

Meanwhile, with Connor Cook claiming he’ll stay at Michigan State and Christian Hackenberg entering his junior year at Penn State, the Big 10 has two better QBs than anyone in the SEC. Ohio State – for the time being – has three QBs, all of whom would start most places in the SEC next year: Braxton Miller, JT Barrett and Cardale Jones. Further down the list, Wes Lunt (Illinois) and Tommy Armstrong (Nebraska) had solid seasons to build on.

It’s about damn time. Here is some shocking information about Big 10 QBs that you may want to sit down for. The last Big 10 QB drafted in the 1st round? Kerry Collins in 1995. Yes, Drew Brees (Purdue) went in the 2nd round, and Russell Wilson (Wisconsin, though technically, he could be an ACC QB) went in the 3rd. But largely, the conference hasn’t had quality QBs. The Big 10 has been beat up for years for playing archaic football – but part of that is because it hasn’t been able to recruit QBs. Look at these “leaders” from 2008. And 2012.

Quick: Who’s the best returning QB in the SEC after Dak Prescott?

Brandon Allen of Arkansas? Maty Mauk of Missouri? Josh Dobbs of Tennessee?

Yikes.

That’s the reason to worry, SEC.

Of course, there’s far too much talent on SEC rosters for the conference to take a tumble. Yes, the Pac-12 is ascending. Yes, the Big 10 has two of the sport’s best coaches in Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. But next time you hear a Big 10 fan chirp about their best bowl season in years, quickly remind them: Uh, you guys went 6-11 against the other five power conferences this year. Pipe down.

NFL PLAYOFF PICKS

With college football down to its final game of the season, we’ll shift to NFL picks in this space until the season’s over. In case you’re wondering how the college football season went: 26-26 in the regular season, and then 7-5 in the bowl games with Ohio State +7 remaining. What an average season. After going 3-1 in the NFL last week, I actually feel better about this week’s games.

New England -7 vs Baltimore. History says the Ravens not only have a shot at the cover, but the win, too. Three factors lead me to the Patriots: 1) Revis. He’ll erase Torrey Smith or Steve Smith, or one side of the field. 2) Gronk. He didn’t play in the 2013 playoff loss. 3) Tom Brady has 3 TDs and 7 INTs in his last three playoff games against the Ravens at home. There’s no way that happens against the 3rd/4th string Baltimore secondary.

Dallas +6.5 at Green Bay: The Packers don’t have the Lions DL to slow the Dallas running game, so pencil DeMarco “Spray Tan” Murray in for 125 or 150. Wouldn’t shock me if the Cowboys won outright. Lots of scoring. Whoever has the ball last wins?

Seattle -11 vs Carolina. How healthy is Cam Newton going against a rested, rabid defense? Seattle bludgeons teams at night at home. Feels like 20-6 or 24-9 with the Seattle defense surely good for two turnovers. Some worries about the Seattle offense struggling, but the defense can carry them here.

Denver -7 vs Indianapolis. The Colts have suffered only three losses in the last three months, all on the road: 51-34 at Pittsburgh, 42-20 at New England, and 42-7 at Dallas. All are playoff teams. Love Andrew Luck. Still don’t like the defense. Feels like Broncos by a 38-24 or 31-20 margin.

ODDS & ENDS

Johnny Manziel has had a drinking problem in the past, so why can’t Skip Bayless call him an alcoholic on TV? … the New York Knicks are so bad, the NYT has pulled its beat writer from covering the team … longtime columnist Ed Hinton, best-known for his auto racing work, has retired … this piece on ‘viral stories’ was in the roundup last week, but please read it. Eager to see the reaction in the comments. We’ve discussed it internally as a staff and man, it’s depressing … and even though Stuart Scott remembrances have been in the Roundup the last couple days, here is another one for you … longtime sports columnist is now going to become a fan as his son is playing high school basketball … enjoyed this best of/worst of recap of sports media in 2014