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TOC Round Table: Reading the Quarterback Leaves

As promised, more round-tabling:

Who starts at quarterback against Montana State? How about in the Big Ten opener vs. Wisconsin?

Pete: Kirk Cousins will get the start against MSU (OMG SYMMETRY HOW WE TELL WHICH TEAM IS WHICH), mainly because I feel that the battle will still be close, and Cousins will get the nod because of his small, yet still nonexistent amount of game time. However, I think each QB will get roughly the same number of drives that game. Against Wisconsin, I think Keith Nichol will have proved a more valuable QB with his scrambling ability. The right side of the OL is starting from scratch almost, and I think Keith gets the nod because he'll most likely be able to deal with the rush better than Cousins.

LVS: Cousins starts against Montana State, because he's the closest thing we have to an incumbent, and Dantonio's conservative by nature. But Nichol will be the starter by the Notre Dame game, and will remain so for Wisconsin. He's the player who gives our offense the most potential, and creates more defensive problems for opposing teams.

Steve: Kirk Cousins is the answer to both questions. This is not a reflection on Keith Nichol, who I haven’t seen play. But based on the short stints we saw last year, I think Cousins will be a playmaker, and I think (is this too optimistic?) that the WR core will develop the consistency to support him. I hope (and assume) that both QBs will get a lot of playing time early in the season, but if Cousins gets the early nod, I doubt he’ll do anything to lose the job.

KJ: I'll go with the flow and say Cousins holds on and starts the season opener. I agree with Pete and LVS that Nichol is the more likely long-term option, given his higher playmaking ceiling (bigger arm, faster legs). BUT I would not be at all surprised to see a two-quarterback system in place beyond the three nonconference games to open the season (meaning Cousins would be the starter vs. Wisconsin). Both these guys have three years of eligibility left. I think that once Mark Dantonio has made a decision on who the full-time starter is, he's not going to want to change that decision (barring an injury). So he'll take some extra time to sort who gets the #1 spot on the depth chart if he needs to. He may be willing to sacrifice a little stability at the QB slot this season (when MSU looks to be good, but probably not a Rose Bowl contender) to solidify the situation for the following two seasons (when competing for a conference title is a more realistic goal).