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Big Ten Football: Ohio State, Penn State & Northwestern QB-RB Duos on Maxwell Award Watch List
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10 Jul 2017 02:27 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Penn State’s Trace McSorley drops back to pass in the Rose Bowl. (Image Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Maxwell Football Club released their preseason Maxwell Award watch list, which included 11 players from the Big Ten. Among the B1G selections where three quarterback/running back duos, here’s how they rank as potential Maxwell Award winners:

1. QB Trace McSorley/RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State:

Arguably the most dynamic playmaking duo in the country. Saquon Barkley is considered by most to be the best player in the Big Ten, while Trace McSorley is as explosive as any quarterback in the country. While few of you will push back on Barkley you might believe I’m overstating it on McSorley. If you do, you’d be incorrect. A playmaker who can make things happen with his feet, the signal caller excels at scrambling and extending plays while keeping his eyes downfield. That’s how he averaged a nation-leading 16.1 yards per completion. This will be the duo’s second year in Joe Moorhead’s offense and the offensive line continues to improve as they get scholarships back.

2. QB J.T. Barrett/RB Mike Weber, Ohio State:

Had J.T. Barrett progressed the way we thought he would after his fabulous freshman campaign, he’d be the favorite out of the B1G to take home the Maxwell Award. Instead, in some ways he’s regressed over the past couple of seasons. Nevertheless, the dual-threat is still just seven scores away from breaking the touchdowns-responsible-for record set by a guy named Drew Brees. If he can rediscover his mojo, Barrett could have a busy banquet season. As talented as Mike Weber is he remains a longshot. In part because he will have to hold off very talented runners like Demario McCall, J.K. Dobbins, and Antonio Williams, who are all hungry for carries. While PSU is banking on continuity on offense, OSU brought in former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to bolster their attack. It doesn’t hurt that Barrett and Weber will be working behind the B1G’s best offensive line.

3. QB Clayton Thorson/RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern:

Having duos from Ohio State and Penn State shouldn’t surprise anyone, but you didn’t think Northwestern would be the third team, did you? Justin Jackson is coming off three-straight 1,000-yeard seasons and is on the cusp of breaking the school’s all-time rushing record. Of course, the Maxwell isn’t a career award. He’s a workhorse and if he can build on his 1,524-yard, 18-total touchdown, 35-reception season of 2016, it’s possible Jackson could emerge as a dark horse. Coming into his own as sophomore Clayton Thorson really stepped up his game after the team’s 1-3 start, connecting on 17 touchdowns to five interceptions in the final nine games. As if a switch was turned on, he played with improved confidence and made some of the best throws of any B1G QB in 2016. Now he must continue to progress without his go-to receiver Austin Carr.

Other Big Ten Players on the Maxwell Award Watch List: WR Janarion Grant, Rutgers; RB LJ Scott, Michigan State; RB Rodney Smith, Minnesota; QB Wilton Speight, Michigan; RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: danmogollon@gmail.com.

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