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Quarterback Replicas: Connor Cook And Kevin Hogan

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The Big Ten championship galvanized Connor Cook, but Michigan State will need yet another big performance from its quarterback if it wants to upset Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
The Big Ten championship galvanized Connor Cook, but Michigan State will need yet another big performance from its quarterback if it wants to upset Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

Defenses and running backs have gotten media attention in preparing viewers for the Rose Bowl. So what about the signal callers for each team? Quarterback is the most important position in football, right?

The quarterback position is just as valuable to Stanford and Michigan State as it is to Oregon and Auburn, just for different reasons. Quarterbacks Kevin Hogan and Connor Cook both are products of their system. Their numbers are volatile as a result of the game plan.

Coaches David Shaw and Mark Dantonio have taught their quarterbacks to put aside pride. These two players understand when the game will be won with Tyler Gaffney or Jeremy Langford’s yardage. They throw for important first downs, which is all the more difficult considering they throw so sparingly it’s a challenge to get into a rhythm. They put their own stats aside so their teams win games.

Cook has thrived this year in the Big Ten. He is dissecting defenses in a way that waters down MSU's division name, "Legends." He whooped Northwestern with 293 yards and took down No. 21 Michigan with 252 yards, a touchdown and interception. He even threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns while toppling Ohio State. However, Cook has thrown for less than 200 yards six times this year.

Hogan has thrown for less than 200 seven times. He did torch Cal with 329 yards and five touchdowns — but every team did that to Cal. He showed up big in the clutch against Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and throwing for 277 and one touchdown. He managed to complete 72 percent of his passes in a close battle against UCLA.

So their season stories look the same. Cook went for 2,423 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions this season; Hogan for 2,487, 20 and 9. They are almost mirror images of one another. They size up the same at 6-foot-4 and about 220 pounds. They both even had one-possession games with Notre Dame. Though Stanford beat the Fighting Irish and MSU lost, both quarterbacks struggled. Hogan had two interceptions in Stanford’s meeting. Cook threw for only 4.2 yards per attempt.

At the end, it’s a tale of two conferences.

The team's schedules could not look more different. The Pac-12 overpowers the Big Ten. Stanford has faced and beaten seven ranked opponents this year. MSU has faced three. So while they appear quite similar, Hogan’s numbers seem to rise above Cook’s when considering context. Hogan’s crafty running helps too, as he has rushed for 314 compared to Cook’s 91.

The comparison is still close. The Rose Bowl will be the perfect arena for these quarterback replicas to prove not just who is the better signal-caller, but perhaps which conference is tougher.