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Ranking the quarterbacks Ohio State will face in 2015

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Who are the most polished signal-callers that Joey Bosa and co. will have to worry about? Who are the easy targets for a defensive explosion?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There's a lot to be afraid of at the top, but the rest of the QBs the Buckeyes will have to face are far from inspiring. Let's count down, from least likely to cause trouble to most likely to give Buckeye fans nightmares. All data is courtesy of Sports-Reference and Football Study Hall.

The bottom six

12. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

This is not to say that Laviano can't or won't be a quality starter for a Rutgers team struggling to find its identity in a loaded Big Ten. But he's largely an unknown commodity, having sat behind incumbent Gary Nova last season during an up-and-down Scarlet Knights campaign. In his five appearances last year, Laviano threw for an uninspiring 107 yards on 11 of 28 completions, with no touchdowns and one pick. 3.8 Y/A is not going to get it done in the Big Ten, though having Desmon Peoples with him in the backfield and Leonte Carroo catching passes should take some of the pressure off of Laviano in 2015.

11. Ikaika Woolsey, Hawaii

Woolsey took 38 sacks last year while throwing for 13 TDs and 13 interceptions for the Rainbow Warriors in a weak Mountain West division. He's mobile enough -- last season saw him rush for 444 yards on 72 carries, with three lost fumbles -- but he's still a long way from being a complete QB. There's also a chance Woolsey doesn't even win the starting job, as USC transfer and former four-star recruit Max Wittek will be champing at the bit to get on the field for Hawaii. Hawaii's new OC, Don Bailey, could help Woolsey make the leap, but he's no Timmy Chang or Colt Brennan.

10. Shane Morris, Michigan

Morris, like Laviano, hasn't really seen the field enough to show much of anything as a quarterback. Still, the results so far haven't been promising. Morris is more known for becoming the poster child for people with concussions forced to stay in games than for anything he's done with his arm at this point. That makes sense, given his 35% completion rate last year in five appearances for Brady Hoke's stagnant offense. Morris has yet to record a touchdown as a Wolverine, and Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock is there threatening to take the job from him. If Rudock wins the job, the Buckeyes could have a much tougher time containing Jim Harbaugh's offense. Don't be surprised if Morris doesn't start the whole season, even though he has the edge coming out of spring camp.

9. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

Two big questions surround the Golden Gophers' signal-caller heading into the fall. First, can he improve on his ghastly 51.5 completion percentage? Second, will the loss of David Cobb and Maxx Williams expose Leidner to be even less capable than previously thought? Big Ten Coach of the Year Jerry Kill will need to show that last year's success wasn't a fluke in order to keep that title, and with the loss of his two best skill-position players, Leidner will need to grow up fast in order to hang with defenses like Ohio State's. Leidner did put up 10 TDs on the ground last year, so he's got some versatility, but a lot of question marks remain.

8. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois

Given that Hare threw for 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 2014, this might seem unfairly low for the heir-apparent to Jordan Lynch. But while Hare proved masterful at avoiding turnovers last season, he also didn't do an awful lot to create good opportunities for the Huskies for a long stretch of the year. As Bill Connelly points out, Hare's highs "might be as high as Lynch's, but his lows were lower." And that resulted in an awful lot of passing downs where NIU was in trouble. He was certainly good enough last year to help the Huskies advance to a MAC title, but Hare will need to demonstrate a lot more consistency in 2015, particularly against a defense as unforgiving as Ohio State's.

7.  Caleb Rowe, Maryland

Rowe is another guy who we just haven't seen an awful lot of. In four appearances for the Terps in 2014, Rowe put up pretty decent numbers: 9.1 yards per attempt, 63% pass completion rate, more TDs than INTs. Rowe played in seven games the year before last, and showed a marked improvement across those two seasons. Still, Maryland's best player from 2014, Stefon Diggs, is now a Minnesota Viking, and so Rowe will have to achieve in a loaded Big Ten East without his best receiving option from 2014. Rowe has the ability to finally fulfill his potential in 2015, and could very well be ahead of the next guy on our list when the year is finished, but for now we just don't know.

The credible threats

6. Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech

Brewer was of course the only quarterback to beat the Buckeyes last year, doing what even Marcus Mariota couldn't. Of course, Mariota had to deal with the fully-weaponized version of Ohio State, while Brewer got to face a redshirt-freshman making his second-ever appearance and an offensive line that was in shambles. After a hot 2014 start, though, Brewer and the Hokies fell apart. The only QB to best the national champs lost to the likes of East Carolina, Pitt, and somehow Wake Forest. He finished with 18 TDs and 15 INTs, with a 59.4% completion rating. So it remains to be seen which version of Brewer we get in 2015: the one who tossed two touchdowns against Ohio State and walked off victorious, or the one who couldn't get the job done against one of the worst teams in college football.

5. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

You read that right. One of the best quarterbacks Ohio State will face in 2015 comes not from the Big Ten, but from the Midwest's most beloved conference, the MAC. Zach Terrell had a great year for the WMU Broncos in 2014, though their MAC West title hopes were snatched away by the aforementioned Drew Hare and Northern Illinois. Still, Terrell is a more productive QB than Hare. He threw for 26 TDs and 10 INT last season, and led the Broncos to a brilliant six-game stretch in which they clinically dismantled their MAC foes. The Buckeyes still don't have much to worry about from Western Michigan as a whole, but in terms of sheer quarterbacking ability, Terrell is pretty darn good.

4. Wes Lunt, Illinois

Lunt has a high ceiling, though plenty of questions still abound for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. He has dealt with serious injuries twice already, has been inconsistent as a starter, and hasn't lived up to his four-star potential. Yet. Insiders peg Lunt as a sleeper candidate among the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and there is potential for him to put together a massive season if he can stay on the field. Lunt didn't play against Ohio State last year, which was probably in his best interests -- you may remember that the Buckeyes won that one 55-14, with a then-unheralded Cardale Jones playing the entire second half for Ohio State. With Reilly O'Toole gone, the reins belong to Lunt. Coach Tim Beckman has faced a nightmare of an offseason, but Lunt and running back Josh Ferguson could be a fearsome combo nonetheless.

The best of the rest

3. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

It should be an interesting year for Kevin Wilson's squad, now that do-it-all running back Tevin Coleman is gone to the NFL. The Hoosiers were beyond disappointing despite having one of the best backs in college football in 2014, so how could Sudfeld possibly be ranked this highly? The answer is that Indiana's signal caller has shown a consistent ability to complete passes at just over 60%, and at 6'5, 228 pounds, he has the physical tools to succeed both at this level and the next. The question remains whether or not the rest of the team can put things together competently enough for Sudfeld to be successful. Injuries sidelined him for much of 2014, ceding the reins to former male model Zander Diamont for several games, but if Sudfeld can stay healthy, he could be in for a big year.

2. Connor Cook, Michigan State

Cook comes in at No. 2 despite undoubtedly having put together a more productive career than the quarterback at No. 1 on this list. He led a Spartan attack that put up 37 points against a staunch Buckeye defense last year, and across the past two seasons has thrown for 46 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions. He also led Michigan State to a bowl win against favored Baylor, a team who many thought should have earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Cook has improved every season as a passer, posting career highs in yards per attempt (8.8), yards passing (3214), and QB rating (149.4) last year. 2015 should prove an interesting test for a passer coming into his own: top targets Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery are both gone to to the NFL, as is star RB Jeremy Langford. Mark Dantonio is no slouch at recruiting and developing talent, and the Buckeyes will surely be in for a dogfight when the Spartans come to Columbus in November. It's hard not to be intimidated by what Cook has already shown himself capable of on the field.

1. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

Hackenberg spent 2014 running for his life. Penn State's offensive line was in shambles for the better part of the season, and their quarterback regressed mightily after an impressive freshman campaign because of it. After throwing twice as many TDs as INTs in 2013, Hackenberg actually threw for more picks than scores as a sophomore. Still, he strung together a decent game against Ohio State, helping take the Buckeyes to double overtime in an eventual loss. Hackenberg is another QB with the physical tools to succeed at the pro level, and is being touted as a possible top draft pick next year. With a retooled offensive line and a more comfortable James Franklin at the helm, Penn State could cause problems for a lot of teams in the Big Ten East this year. How far they go depends on Hackenberg refusing to get gun-shy after being so abused last season (remember Joey Bosa's walkoff suplex sack?), and continuing the trajectory that seemed so certain his freshman year.

Reminder: these rankings are designed to directly offend you and your team, against whom the author is definitely biased. Sound off in the comments.