When it was time to name our award for the best quarterback in the MAC, there was really only one name that came up: Ben Roethlisberger. .When it comes to MAC quarterbacks, you'll never find a player as successful in the MAC and the NFL as Big Ben. The former Miami RedHawk orchestrated one of the best seasons in MAC history in 2004 when he threw for 4,486 yards, 37 touchdowns and led Miami to a Top 10 ranking in the final AP Poll. In the NFL it didn't take long for Big Ben to correlate his MAC success to NFL success, winning a Super Bowl in his sophomore season, his first of three so far.
In 2013 the Roethlisberger Golden Arm Award went to the best pure passer the MAC has seen in sometime, Ball State's Keith Wenning. The Cardinals' senior threw for 4,148 yards, 35 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 154.4. He led Ball State to one of its best seasons ever and had them closer to a bowl win than ever before.
But Wenning is now in the NFL, battling for a backup spot behind Joe Flacco. And Ohio, Toledo and Northern Illinois also lost multi-year starters making this year's crop of quarterbacks a crap shot of sorts at this point. Certainly, someone will emerge from the unknown to have a bust out year, but for now these are the five quarterbacks we think are in the best position to win the Roethlisberger Golden Arm.
In his redshirt freshman season Colin Reardon was thrust into the starting role for a Kent state squad coming off its best season ever. It was a tall task considering the Golden Flashes spent a good chunk of the season without their All-American, Dri Archer. Despite all the challenges, and the obvious learning curve, the dual-threat signal caller did well. he had some bad games, but more often than not he was on point, and added in the ability to make plays with his legs. If he can have more performances like his 19-for-24 two touchdown game against Ball State, he'll be in store for an impressive sophomore season.
Like Reardon, Rush was thrust into the starting role in 2013, albeit under different circumstances. The true freshman quarterback started 10 games last fall after junior starter Cody Kater suffered a busted collarbone in week one, and his backup Alex Niznak underperformed. Rush struggled at times, but showed flashes of brilliance in others. Starting the final 10 games of CMU's season he led the Chippewas to a 5-5 record, but really hit his stride in his final six starts where he went 4-2. Overall Rush accounted for 2,349 yards, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, but nine of those TDs came down the stretch. He's not guaranteed his starting role this fall with Kater back, but the push behind him could force him to make the jump.
This Buffalo hurler put together the best season by a Bulls quarterback since Drew Willy was in the blue and white. After taking over the starter's role in the final four games of his redshirt freshman season, Licata followed up with a 2,824 yard, 24 touchdown year, and led the Bulls to an 8-5 season and just their second bowl season ever. Licata is losing his top targets and All-MAC back Branden Oliver, so he'll need to step up his individual performances this fall to keep Buffalo competitive in the East.
The Akron right-hander jumped into the spotlight with his gutsy performance against Michigan last fall. While one of our staffers (cough, Jesse, cough) thinks Pohl is overrated, when Pohl was on, he was one of the MAC's best quarterbacks in 2013. He did have his bad games (which tended to be cringe-worthy) but in games against Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette, Bowling Green, Miami, UMass and Toledo he was unstoppable. If he can limit those awful games, and level out his performance a bit, he should cement himself as a star in the MAC this fall.
Matty J. We all know his name, and his accomplishments. He won the MAC, picking apart NIU's defense in the MAC championship. He displaced a three-year starter just a few minutes into the Falcons first game. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns. Now mix in Dino Babers' explosive offense and its no secret he's the favorite to win this award this fall.