A quarterback — especially in college football — can make or break a team's season, so having a talented signal caller is extremely important. Luckily, a few Big Ten programs have top-notch arms leading their teams.
The Big Ten collectively moved on from only a few of the best quarterbacks in the conference — guys like Mitch Leidner, C.J. Beathard and Tommy Armstrong Jr.
What remains are a few top-tier quarterbacks and many capable starters.
Here's a look at the top 5 quarterbacks in the Big Ten heading into 2017 (stats from the 2016 season):
5. Tanner Lee (Jr.) — Nebraska
Lee, a transfer from Tulane, sat out the 2016 season per transfer rules. At Tulane as a sophomore in 2015, Lee completed 51.8 percent of his passes for 1,69 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while missing three games. The numbers aren't great, but he has two years of starting experience, was able to absorb and learn the offense last year, and should hit the ground running this fall.
4. David Blough (Jr.) — Purdue
57.1%, 3,352 yards, 25 TD, 21 INT
The only thing holding David Blough back is his tendency to throw interceptions. He threw 21 last season, the most in the Big Ten (four more than Indiana's Richard Lagow and nine more than Minnesota's Mitch Leidner, the next two on the list). He did also throw 25 touchdown passes, second only to Penn State's Trace McSorley, and threw 517 passes, the most in the Big Ten in 2016.
If he can cut out the mistakes and clean up his bad habits, Blough could be in for a big season and could entice some NFL teams to give him a look.
3. Clayton Thorson (Jr.) — Northwestern
58.6%, 3,182 yards, 22 TD, 9 INT
Thorson's 3.182 passing yards last season were fourth in the league behind McSorley, Lagow and Blough. He added 22 touchdowns passes — also fourth most in the conference — and threw just nine interceptions — tied for fifth most.
Playing at Northwestern Thorson is often overlooked, but he's a capable starting quarterback who vastly improved last year following a rocky rookie campaign. He's a capable runner when he needs to be, and scored five touchdowns on the ground in each of his two seasons as Northwestern's QB.
2. J.T. Barrett (Sr.) — Ohio State
61.5%, 2,555 yards, 24 TD, 7 INT
Yes, J.T. Barrett is on board for one more year. I know, it feels like he's been at Ohio State forever.
Last season, Barrett threw for 2,555 yards — fifth most in the Big Ten — and 24 touchdowns — third most in the conference — while throwing just seven interceptions, tied for ninth-most in the conference.
Barrett also rushed for 845 yards and nine scores (averaging 4.1 yards per carry) after rushing for 11 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Buckeyes.
Barrett is the most experienced quarterback in the conference and brings a dual-threat skillset that's tough to defend.
1. Trace McSorley (Jr.) — Penn State
57.9%, 3,614 yards, 29 TD, 8 INT
While Barrett is the most experienced, McSorley gets the nod as the best QB in the conference. He has a huge arm and isn't afraid to make risky throws. So far his receivers have rewarded him and come down with a lot of his 50-50 balls.
McSorley led the Big Ten with 3614 yards last year, throwing for a league-high 29 TDs as well. He threw just eight interceptions and finished the year throwing four touchdowns in three straight games, including the Big Ten Championship and the heartbreaking Rose Bowl loss to USC.