There is probably no more difficult position to compare across more than 125 years of a football program than quarterback. The style of the game has changed dramatically through the years, and making comparisons based on raw statistics can of course be misleading.
There are different styles of quarterback at the college football level as well. The dual-threat and the pro-styles are difficult to compare in and of themselves. As you might have imagined, there will be a dual-threat quarterback later in this list.
For our money, the best pro-style quarterback in IU history is none other than Nate Sudfeld. Some will immediately jump to Trent Green as an alternative, and there is no doubt that he was a great IU and NFL quarterback. But when you look at it in the context of their performance at Indiana alone, there is really no comparison.
Playing the most important position on the field, as the most prolific passer in IU history, leading what was perhaps the best offense in IU history, Sudfeld has to be on this list.
For starters, at 7,879 yards, Sudfeld is the all-time leader in passing yards in program history by more than 400 yards. Were it not for a 2014 injury, that margin would have been well into the thousands.
It isn’t just about the yards. Upon closer examination, it becomes clear why he is worthy of this list. He’s not only the all-time yardage leader, but he got there despite having fewer attempts than the next three guys on the list.
The California native had a better than 60% completion percentage every year, and a career percentage of 60.3%. Only one other of the top IU quarterbacks can claim that — Ben Chappell. Sudfeld could make every throw on the field and routinely threw the deep ball — he wasn’t look just for completions — he was looking to attack — and win.
To put his accuracy into perspective, there have only been nine seasons where an IU quarterback had a better than 60% completion percentage — and Sudfeld owns three of them.
Sudfeld didn’t just move the team down the field either — he got the Hoosiers in the end zone as reflected by his all-time passing touchdowns record of 61, or 13 more than the next guy on the list. Quite simply, Sudfeld led the most prolific offense in the history of Indiana football.
It was one of the best offenses in college football at the time. Indiana ranked 9th and 14th in the country in total offense in 2013 and 2015, Sudfeld’s two primary seasons leading the team without injury.
With a better defense his Hoosier teams would have been a legitimate threat to win eight or nine games.
But Sudfeld did win ball games despite the defense, leading IU to its first bowl game in eight years in 2015. That might have also been accomplished a year earlier as well had he not been lost to injury midway through the 2014 season.
Nate Sudfeld’s name is all over the IU passing record book:
- 2nd in career completion percentage
- The best single season yardage total with 3,573
- Three of the top 10 single game yardage totals
- The most ever 300 yard games with 11, and 200 yard games with 20
- In total Sudfeld produced 8,011 yards, third most in program history
- His 144.1 passing efficiency mark ranks ninth in Big Ten history
Nate Sudfeld was drafted in the 6th round by the Washington Redskins in the 2015 NFL Draft and currently plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Prior IU greats on the list:
#10 — John Isenbarger
#9 — Dan Feeney
#8 — James Hardy
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