Will Devin Gardner or Taylor Martinez Have the Stronger 2013 Season?

Randy ChambersAnalyst IMay 14, 2013

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs past defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins #56 and defensive end Craig Roh #88 of the Michigan Wolverines during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska beat Michigan 23-9. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is coming off the best season of his career, while Michigan's Devin Gardner is still somewhat of a question mark at the position.

With both leading teams that hope to compete for a Big Ten title this year, the performance of each signal-caller will play a big part in how things turn out.

This being the case, Wolverines fans would be excited to know that their leader will step up in a big way. Although Martinez is the senior and has the household name, Gardner has the upside and will have the stronger performance this season.

Martinez has been under center for three years now and you get the feeling that what you have seen is what you will continue to get. He is an athlete first and can truly be considered a quarterback second.

His completion percentage has always been below average and he has struggled throughout his career with accuracy issues.

Last season was his best, as he completed 62 percent of his passes and threw for 2,871 yards and 23 touchdowns. This was good enough to wake up the neighbors, but then Martinez reminded you that he was the same quarterback when he threw four interceptions in the final two games.

The Nebraska signal-caller is a runner first and passer second, which would explain the 2,858 career rushing yards.

Even though Gardner only played quarterback in the final five games last year, he still displayed tremendous ability. Showing off terrific arm strength, being able to put the ball right on the money and knowing when to run, Gardner was a key reason why Michigan won three of its final five games. He also nearly led his team to victories over Ohio State and South Carolina.

In a small sample size of playing time, Gardner passed for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 101 yards and seven scores.

His completion percentage of 59.5 percent could certainly improve, but remember that this was somebody who spent much of his career as a running back and wide receiver. Imagine how he will perform with a full offseason and training with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. under his belt.

While both quarterbacks have shown their athleticism and ability to make plays with their feet, it is what is done throwing the ball that will put one of these guys over the top.

Gardner was able to pick up 39 percent of the passing first downs Martinez produced in a full season. As for big plays throwing the ball, the Michigan quarterback had nearly 45 percent of Martinez's passing plays of more than 25 yards.

Remember, this was just in five games compared to a full season.

As for the returning offenses, Michigan has one of the deepest backfields in the Big Ten with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson and Derrick Green. The Wolverines also have two of the best offensive tackles protecting Gardner in Mike Schofield and Taylor Lewan.

Nebraska, on the other hand, returns a line that allowed 35 sacks last year and has a backfield that lost Rex Burkhead and Braylon Heard.

Gardner has the players around him and the upside to become even better than he was last year in limited playing time. Unfortunately, we have seen the best from Martinez, which will likely not be good enough.

All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Graphs were made using onlinecharttool.com.