Michigan State and Michigan figure to be in the hunt for the Big Ten title this season, thanks to loads of talent returning from a season ago. And, thanks also to what projects to be strong quarterback play.
For Michigan State, it’s Brian Lewerke, who enjoyed a breakout in his first full season as a starter in 2017. For Michigan, it’s more than likely Shea Patterson, who’s eligible for the 2018 season after transferring from Ole Miss.
Both are in the Sporting News’ college quarterback rankings, posted Thursday, with Lewerke at No. 8, and Patterson at No. 15.
Lewerke, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound rising junior, was a dual threat for the Spartans last season, completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns (against seven interceptions), while rushing for 559 more — second on the team only to running back LJ Scott’s 898. Lewerke also rushed for five touchdowns.
He became the first MSU quarterback to pass for more than 2,500 yards and rush for more than 500 in a single season.
“Lewerke might be the best all-around quarterback Mark Dantonio has ever had,” writes Bill Bender, a national college football writer for the Sporting News. “He took control of the starting job last season and led the Spartans to a 10-win season, all the more impressive considering their offseason distractions and 3-9 record just a year prior.
“... He’ll keep the Spartans in the hunt in the Big Ten East.”
Patterson, meanwhile, figures to be the favorite to emerge from a crowded and talented Michigan quarterback room that includes Brandon Peters — who started a handful of games last season — redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and freshman Joe Milton.
The 6-2, 203-pound Patterson started 10 games at Ole Miss over two seasons — last season was cut short because of a knee injury — and totaled 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He’s already projected in some early NFL mock drafts as a first-round pick in 2019.
“(Patterson’s eligibility) has regenerated excitement in Ann Arbor as the fourth year of the Jim Harbaugh era begins,” Bender writes. “Patterson still has to win the starting job, but he’s the Wolverines’ most talented playmaker at the position in some time. Provided he shows that same mobility coming off PCL surgery last season, Michigan will now be expected to compete for a Big Ten championship.”
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley tops the rankings. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins checks in at No. 16.