staff, June 5, 2013

If we had told you prior to last season that Matt McGloin, Taylor Martinez, Robert Marve, Braxton Miller and Cam Coffman would finish 1-5 in touchdown passes, you would have thought we were crazy. Point is, at this time of year, it's difficult to predict a category like this.

One year ago, in fact, James Vandenberg was the popular pick to pace the Big Ten. He went on to throw a disappointing seven scores. See our guys' picks in this post.

2012 leader: Matt McGloin, Penn State – 24
2013 returning leader: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska – 23

Tom: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska – He ranked second in the Big Ten last season with 23 touchdown tosses. That number will only get bigger this fall. Martinez has had a chance to mature in coordinator Tim Beck?s offense. The senior signal-caller knows what he?s doing. And while Martinez never will be confused with being Dan Marino, he has improved as a passer after working extensively with a personal tutor in California in recent years. Martinez also will benefit from working with the top receiving corps in the Big Ten. The Huskers will feature the likes of Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa. And redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore are promising. Sprinkle in the threat of a good running game led by Ameer Abdullah that often will draw the attention of defenses, and it?s easy to see why Martinez will excel and have myriad opening passing opportunities in 2013.
Dark horse: Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State

[ RELATED: View all of our preseason stat predictions ]

Brent: Devin Gardner, Michigan – Between the way Taylor Martinez has improved as a passer (62%, 2,871 yards, 23 TD in 2012) and the level of receivers at his disposal, Nebraska's signal-caller is the easy pick. But, as I did Tuesday in my passing yards prediction, I find it hard to discount what Gardner accomplished late last season. I focused on some of the numbers in that post, but here's another: 2.2, as in the TD passes Gardner averaged in five starts – Minnesota (2), Northwestern (2), Iowa (3), Ohio State (1) and South Carolina (3). Not bad, even if it is a small sample size. I also favor Gardner in this race because he doesn't have, say, Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross in his backfield. As a result, he should receive more opportunities to throw for scores, particularly in the red zone (hello, Devin Funchess), where others teams – Nebraska, for one – are confident pounding it in. Remember, no Michigan running back ran for more than five scores last season.
Dark horse: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

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