MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Joel Stave #2 of the Wisconsin Badgers throws a pass during the second quarter of the college football game against the Troy Trojans at Camp Randall Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Is Joel Stave Really One of Big Ten’s Best QB’s?

Joel Stave and Big Ten’s best aren’t exactly words that have gone hand-in-hand throughout his career at the University of Wisconsin. That was especially the case after last season’s performance.

What a difference a year and a new lease on life makes.

It’s no secret that the Wisconsin Badgers offense is currently running through the arm and decision making of senior quarterback Joel Stave. However, there’s a difference between winning games and becoming an elite quarterback in a league full of some impressive gun slingers.

There’s J.T.  Barrett and Cardale Jones at Ohio State, don’t forget about Nate Sudfeld at Indiana or Wes Lunt at Illinois. One definately can’t forget about the two biggest names at the quarterback position heading in to the season — Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.

Maybe Joel Stave would’ve been an afterthought to names like Sudfeld, Lunt, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong and even Jake Rudock at Michigan.

However, after three weeks and a decent look at the stat sheet, one could argue there are few quarterbacks better than Stave in the Big Ten.

Just how good as Stave been? He has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns to two interceptions. Stave is currently second amongst all eligible passers in the Big Ten in completion percentage, second in touchdown passes and third in passer efficiency rating (150.86) per CFBStats.com.

His 666 yards put him at sixth in the Big Ten, while he is tied for fourth in yards per attempt at 7.7. That’s a number ranking him just behind the likes of Nate Sudfeld and Connor Cook.

Impressive numbers indeed, but even more so considering how Stave has gotten there. This season isn’t just the Stave to Erickson show in the passing game. Head coach Paul Chryst has shown more confidence in a number of players early this season and has transformed the passing game.

There are running backs getting involved in more than just wheel routes, multiple tight ends are getting in on the passing game action and names like Rob Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy have stepped up in a major way at the wide receiver position.

No doubt those things have helped Stave become a better player, but it isn’t jus the supporting cast. It is also what is happening to himself that has flipped the script.

How did Stave go from a dismal 2014 season to the heights of Big Ten quarterbacking in just nine months time? The answer may be as simple as Stave returning to “having fun” with the game of football again.

According to that ESPN.com article by Jesse Temple, Stave began to let loose in spring practice and began trusting himself more than ever before. It all led to Stave finding the fun in football once again.

“More than anything, it’s just been a lot of fun for me this year,” Stave said. “I think I’m having more fun playing football than I have maybe in years past. A lot of that is just going down and trusting your guys, trusting your coaches and just cutting it loose.”

If this is Stave having fun, the Big Ten West division could be in some serious trouble, because the “fun” version of Stave is also the deadly accurate and deadly smart version of himself.

With the impending return of star running back Corey Clement, the Badgers could have themselves one of the most potent offenses in the Big Ten. It doesn’t need it with the defense it has showcased the past two weeks, but it sure is a lot more “fun” to watch when Stave and Co. are also clicking on all cylinders.

If this can keep up as the competition increases, look out the rest of the Big Ten.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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