Most lists of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks begin with Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. The Buckeye signal caller was instrumental in the team's run to the national championship in 2014, and after being embroiled in the high-profile position battle with Cardale Jones last season, he eventually won the job at mid-season and the team was better for it. According to analytics-based site Pro Football Focus, however, Barrett is not the conference's best quarterback. That distinction goes to Iowa's C.J. Beathard.
The site used its advanced grading system to rank the five best returning Big Ten starting quarterbacks. Here's how they came to C.J. Beathard as the controversial No. 1 selection.
His adjusted accuracy percentage (our advanced completion percentage stat that accounts for drops, throwaways and spikes) of 71.9 not only leads all returning Big Ten QBs, but also ranks him 11th among Power-5 conference returnees. He also leads Big Ten veterans in completion percentage under pressure, and his impressive 103.1 NFL QB rating when having at least 2.6 seconds to throw in the pocket is 26 points higher than his next closest competitor.
As for Barrett, PFF argues that aside from the Rutgers game, he was pretty average last season.
His first official start of the 2015 season against Rutgers was virtually flawless, as he was 14-of-18 passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns, earning him a near-perfect NFL QB rating of 157.9. However, he could not come close to matching his passing production against the Scarlet Knights for the remainder of the season, posting a passing grade of just -0.5 over the final four games (0.0 for the season, which is our definition of average), instead relying on his legs and those of 2016 fourth-overall draft pick RB Ezekiel Elliott to move the ball consistently.
Barrett was definitely not as dynamic last season as he was in 2014, when he finished fourth in Heisman voting. However, we probably wouldn't argue against the Ohio State star as the league's best quarterback heading into 2016. C.J. Beathard is an interesting choice, but we're not sure it'll bear out once the season begins.