The Big Ten finally broke its decades-long streak of not producing a first-round quarterback this spring but perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the upcoming season is the fact that the conference isn't skipping a beat at the position with a deep group of signal-callers back in 2019. Whether it's via transfer or recruitment, the league's coaches have certainly stepped up their game when it comes to grooming productive players under center and that has not surprisingly led to plenty of optimism from one to 14.
While we don't quite know yet if one of the QBs out of the Big Ten can rise up and join the other elite players at the position this year, there are a ton of potential candidates to join the short list and that speaks volumes to how competitive the conference title race could be. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best matchups of quarterback vs. quarterback throughout the Big Ten:
1. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Justin Fields (Ohio State) — Nov. 30
Patterson didn't have a completely awful game against the Buckeyes last time out but that final score no doubt left a bad taste in his mouth. He’ll have the opportunity for revenge at the Big House while Fields, the highly touted Georgia transfer, gets his first taste of one of college football's best rivalries. Both have the chance to put up some monster numbers this year in new systems and could be playing for the right to go to Indianapolis on the final weekend once again.
2. Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) vs. Justin Fields (Ohio State) — Sept. 28
Scott Frost's first season with the Cornhuskers didn't go as planned but there was one silver lining in finding out he had a QB of the future in Martinez, who dazzled as a true freshman with his legs and his arm. He'll have a big test at the Horseshoe against Fields in a game that should tell us a whole lot about both signal-callers' development in 2019.
3. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Oct. 26
Neither of these two QBs would be confused with Kyler Murray but their ability to extend plays outside the pocket and show off some touch down the field is a good reason why both sides are being touted as playoff contenders this season. Book has already been to a semifinal of course and will be looking to deliver a huge road win in a hostile environment during one of the marquee non-conference games of the season.
4. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Nate Stanley (Iowa) — Oct. 5
This game is a looming obstacle for both teams' desires to make it to the conference title game and the opposing QB's ability to make plays — and provide veteran leadership running the offense — is a good reason why. Both are entering their third year as a full-time starter and will be counted on to secure big wins like this one figures to be.
5. Nate Stanley (Iowa) at Brock Purdy (Iowa State) — Sept. 14
The Battle for the Cy-Hawk will be closely contested again this season in large part because of the two signal-callers involved. Stanley has a perfect record against his in-state rivals so far as a starter but this year's edition will be a little different with the stellar Purdy under center for the Cyclones instead of watching on the sidelines.
6. Shea Patterson (Michigan) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) — Nov. 16
These programs have split their last two meetings, neither of which would be confused for an offensive masterpiece. While terrific defenses have played a part, both Patterson and Lewerke know they will need to step their games up for one final go around in this bitter rivalry.
7. Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) at K.J. Costello (Stanford) — Aug. 31
Johnson won't be eased into the starting role with the Wildcats as the former five-star recruit from Clemson has to hit the road for a huge early test on the Farm against a Pac-12 quarterback who very well could wind up as an early-round draft pick next spring. While both guys play within their somewhat conservative offenses, each will still be a joy to watch throw the football around given their big arms and ability to read defenses.
8. Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) vs. Nate Stanley (Iowa) — Nov. 29
We're all in for a Black Friday treat when these two square off again in a contest that very well could determine the Big Ten West race. Martinez nearly led an improbable comeback against the Hawkeyes in 2018 and will no doubt be looking to finish the job at home. Stanley is a grizzled old Big Ten veteran though and understands what it will take to get a win in a hostile environment.
9. Justin Fields (Ohio State) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) — Oct. 5
Lewerke was partially benched during last year's meeting with the Buckeyes for inconsistent play and knows he'll need to step his game up if he wants to out-duel Fields at the Horseshoe. Both of these QBs check all the boxes in terms of size, arm and ability to take off and run, which will hopefully translate into a fun back-and-forth of this key East Division contest.
10. Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) vs. Justin Fields (Ohio State) — Oct. 18
Johnson was once a top-ranked five-star QB of the future who eventually had to transfer due to a potential first-round pick in front of him. Fields was once a top-ranked five-star QB of the future who had to transfer due to a potential first-round pick in front of him. Now the two will square off against each other in a vastly different conference as their new teams play in a rematch of last year's Big Ten title game.
Best of the rest:
- Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) at Steven Montez (Colorado) — Sept. 7
- Adrian Martinez (Nebraska) vs. Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) — Oct. 5
- Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) vs. Nate Stanley (Iowa) — Oct. 26
- Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) vs. Brian Lewerke (Michigan State) — Sept. 21
- Josh Jackson (Maryland) vs. Shea Patterson (Michigan) — Nov. 2
- Nate Stanley (Iowa) vs. Elijah Sindelar (Purdue) — Oct. 19
- Justin Fields (Ohio State) vs. Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) — Sept. 7
- Elijah Sindelar (Purdue) vs. Peyton Ramsey (Indiana) — Nov. 30
- Josh Jackson (Maryland) vs. Tommy DeVito (Syracuse) — Sept. 7
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.