Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, June 5, 2013

Often, the most popular player on campus is the backup quarterback. The guy holding the clipboard and wearing a baseball cap typically is perceived as being the answer to every struggling offense. On that note, here?s my ranking of the Big Ten backup quarterback situations.

1. Northwestern. Actually, the Wildcats have two starters: senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian. It doesn?t really matter who begins the game under center. Colter typically gets the call, starting 12 of 13 games last season. But Siemian plays often in what is the rare two-quarterback system that thrives.

2. Ohio State. Senior Kenny Guiton showed his acumen in engineering a stunning comeback win over Purdue last year after Braxton Miller left the game with injury. Guiton has a nice arm, poise and escapability.

3. Wisconsin. The Badgers still must pick a starter-and are loaded with options. Sophomore Joel Stave probably is the favorite. Seniors Curt Phillips and Danny O?Brien bring plenty of experience; and each has started. JC transfer Tanner McEvoy teems with potential. Redshirt freshman Bart Houston may have the best arm.

4. Indiana. No starter has been officially tabbed. But the Hoosiers have three capable signal callers in sophomore Tre Roberson, junior Cameron Coffman and sophomore Nate Sudfeld. Few teams can go this deep under center.

5. Michigan State. Senior Andrew Maxwell is the starter-for now. Sophomore Connor Cook is a more athletic option who showed in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl he can lead the Spartans to victory. Redshirt freshman Tyler O?Connor is another intriguing prospect. Uber-talented incoming freshman Damion Terry also may figure in.

6. Illinois. Junior Reilly O?Toole has shown some flashes when he?s played behind senior Nathan Scheelhaase. In fact, if the strong-armed O?Toole had to play for an extended stretch, it wouldn?t be tragic.

7. Nebraska. There isn?t much proven depth behind senior Taylor Martinez. But redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong has been a fan favorite and showed some flashes in the spring game. He may be the best passer on the roster. The future is his.

8. Penn State. Bill O"Brien has yet to tab a starter. Whoever it is will have taken zero snaps in the Big Ten. That, of course, means the backup situation still is to be determined. JC transfer Tyler Ferguson-who took part in spring drills–and highly-decorated incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg will battle.

9. Michigan. The Wolverines better hope and pray junior Devin Gardner stays healthy, as depth is unproven with sophomore Russell Bellomy out for the season with a knee injury. Touted true freshman Shane Morris may end up being the backup. Redshirt freshman Brian Cleary also is around.

10. Minnesota. Philip Nelson started the last seven games in 2012 and showed promise as a true freshman, but he remains a work in progress. His backups–redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner and true freshman Chris Streveler-have zero experience. Streveler-who take part in spring drills–may be the best fit for this offense.

11. Iowa. The Hawkeyes haven?t picked a starter from among sophomore Jake Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. Rudock seems to be the front-runner-but none of these guys has any experience. Sokol did come from a JC.

12. Purdue. The Boilermakers are another school that hasn?t picked a starter. But, senior Rob Henry may have the inside edge given his experience. The backups? A true freshman (Danny Etling, who took part in spring practice) and a redshirt freshman (Austin Appleby). Yikes.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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