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Big Ten Quarterback Named Surprising Heisman Candidate By Sports Illustrated

A general view of the field before the game between the Oregon Ducks and Michigan State Spartans.

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 12: A general view of the field before the game between the Oregon Ducks and Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 12, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Ohio State and Penn State may be the two top teams in the Big Ten East. Michigan has a ton of intrigue, especially with the addition of Shea Patterson. However, Michigan State is still a consistent contender, and shouldn't be totally counted out.

The Spartans got pretty good quarterback play last year, and hope that will progress this season. Brian Lewerke took over as starter last year, and threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He also ran for 559 yards and five scores.

Those are solid numbers, especially coming off of a horrible 2016 season. MSU improved from 3-9 to 10-3, with a bowl win over Washington State.

Sports Illustrated writer Chris Johnson thinks Lewerke could take a big leap this fall.

Brian Lewerke was included on a list of Heisman Trophy sleepers.

Johnson argues that Michigan State's tough divisional schedule could work to Lewerke's advantage.

If the Spartans can put up some big wins in division, the quarterback will likely be a big reason. From the article:

Lewerke will begin his second season as the Spartans’ starting QB in a favorable position to build up Heisman momentum. Not only does Michigan State look set to mount a challenge to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in arguably the toughest division in the Power 5 leagues (the Big Ten East), it brings back its top three receivers and four starters on the offensive line from the group that rebounded from a dismal 2016 season to win 10 games last fall. Lewerke’s output as a runner and passer could keep him in the Heisman mix, provided the Spartans make good on their preseason expectations by staying in the playoff hunt.

Lewerke could be one of four quarterbacks from the division in that discussion this season.

Penn State's Trace McSorley has been one of the top quarterbacks in college football for two years, and will take on an even bigger role with Saquon Barkley in the NFL. Dwayne Haskins is the likely starter at Ohio State, and is a big-time talent playing for a huge program. Shea Patterson has shown to be a potential top-flight starter at Ole Miss, and will get plenty of attention if he does the same at Michigan.

[Sports Illustrated]