Predicting The 2018 Offensive Statistical Leaders in the Big Ten

By James Grega on July 28, 2018 at 1:07 pm
Jonathan Taylor
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, the college football season is just about a month away and I am sure you can barely contain your excitement. 

With Big Ten Media Days behind us and fall camp approaching, it is time to start making even more predictions for the upcoming season. Today, we take a stab at which Big Ten athletes will lead the conference in the three major offensive statistical categories: passing, rushing and receiving yards.

We start with the gunslingers, which on this list, features a Buckeye. 

Passing: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

A Buckeye quarterback has not led the conference in passing yards since 1995 when Bobby Hoying threw for 3,269, but this could very well be the year Ohio State re-claims the top spot in passing yards. 

Of course, Ohio State is a run-first team with a two-headed monster at running back, but when you look around the conference, the teams that were near the top last year lost plenty of offensive talent. 

Dwayne Haskins

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley led the league in passing yards last season, but also had Saquon Barkley setting up the play-action pass and also catching passes out of the backfield. Barkley, along with DaeSean Hamilton, are gone to the NFL, and McSorley will be forced to do more with less in 2018. 

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was also near the top of the conference in passing last season, but suffered an ACL injury in last season's bowl game and his availability for the start of the season is still in question. Staying on the Big Ten West side of things, only one team threw the ball more than Purdue in the Big Ten last season, but since the Boilermakers look as though they might deploy a two-quarterback system again in 2018, having one player lead the league in passing will be too tall of a task. 

All of this brings us to Haskins, who is a pass-first signal caller with perhaps the biggest arm in the Big Ten. Flanked by a pair of elite running backs and a veteran wide receiver unit, Haskins has a chance to beat defensive backs downfield on play-action passes with his big arm, much like Cardale Jones did in 2014. If Haskins stays healthy, there is a very good chance he can lead the Big Ten in passing, as Ohio State's offense figures to look different than in years past. 

Rushing: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Last year's leading rusher and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Taylor was leaned on heavily to get Wisconsin's offense working consistently. 

His 299 carries ranked fourth in the nation, and his 1,977 yards rushing ranked third. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook doesn't exactly have a strong arm, and Taylor is relied on a ton to open up passing lanes for the veteran QB, helping set up the play-action passing game. 

Ohio State could very well lead the conference in total rushing with the likes of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber both getting carries, but since they figure to be split, it will be difficult for either of them to get by Taylor, who will once again be the featured back in Madison. 

If he can stay healthy, Michigan State senior LJ Scott could also push Taylor for the top spot, but this leaderboard will be Taylor's to lose from day one of the college season. 

Receiving: Felton Davis III, Michigan State

Last season, two of the top three receivers in terms of yards per game were from Nebraska in Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman. With veteran Tanner Lee gone and a new offense being implemented by Scott Frost, along with a freshman quarterback, I don't see either of them atop the Big Ten leaderboard. 

Instead, I am going with Spartan wide receiver Felton Davis III, who ranked sixth in the Big Ten in receiving yards last season with 776 on 55 receptions. At 6-foot-4, Davis III is one of the most physically dominant receivers in the conference and combined with a veteran quarterback in Brian Lewerke, is poised for a breakout season in East Lansing, Michigan.

Parris Campbell is tabbed as a top draft prospect after this season, but questions about his ability to catch passes downfield remain. In addition, he will likely have to split reps at the H-back position with the likes of K.J. Hill, making it difficult to reach the top spot in the conference. 

Other candidates to lead the league include Juwan Johnson at Penn State and Donovan Peoples-Jones at Michigan, who now has an above-average quarterback throwing to him in Shea Patterson. 

Check back tomorrow for our defensive predictions. 

View 46 Comments