Battle of New Quarterbacks: Fields v. Penix
On Saturday, two quarterbacks will take the field with very different backgrounds.
Justin Fields went to high school in Georgia and was recruited heavily. In two years as the starter for Harrison High, he eclipsed 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards. After his senior season, he was named Mr. Georgia Football and was first team all state. According to 247 Sports, he was the second ranked player in the 2018 class, only behind Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.
Michael Penix Jr. did not see that same success. Coming out of Tampa Bay Technical High School, he was a three star recruit, and saw 547 players ranked ahead of him. He wasn't even top 50 in his home state of Florida, landing at number 86. He had only 11 college offers to Fields' 42.
One thing the two men have in common is starting their college careers on the bench. Penix sat behind Peyton Ramsey at Indiana while Fields watched Jake Fromm lead the Georgia Bulldogs to the SEC Championship.
Fields would get the chance to play when Georgia was blowing out their opponents. He made his debut in the season opener against Austin Peay and threw a touchdown. Later in the season against UMASS he added two more scores. In total Fields played in 12 games, accumulating over 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards. After Georgia's 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship, Fields announced he would be transferring from the program.
As for Penix, he did not see the field as often. With Indiana playing closer games, his chances were limited. He made his collegiate in IU's season opener against FIU, completing 8 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. He saw his first big chance in an October matchup with the 18th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. He came in for the Hoosiers third drive of the game, splitting snaps with Peyton Ramsey. He struggled in the game, going 9/19 with 94 yards, but helped lead a drive to put his team up in the third. In that third quarter, he was injured and taken off the field. It was later announced he tore his ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.
That leads us to 2019. Fields transferred to Ohio State and got a waiver to be immediately eligible. He's dominated in two games as the Buckeyes starter, throwing for 458 yards, throwing five touchdowns and running in three scores. He's helped the Buckeyes start 2-0 in their first season without newly retired coach Urban Meyer, and has made them a legitimate threat in college football.
Fortunately for Indiana, they have a more than capable quarterback at the helm of their offense. Coming off the ACL injury, Penix won the starting job for the season over incumbent starter Peyton Ramsey. He put all doubts aside in his first start against Ball State in Lucas Oil Stadium, lighting up the Cardinals for 326 yards. He put up the second most passing yards by a freshman in his first start in school history, only behind Antwan Randle El. He added 197 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against Eastern Illinois before sitting the remainder of the game.
Both players have had hot starts to the season, and both will be put to work Saturday. Both are getting a taste of what starting a Big Ten game is like, and both will be looking to make a statement. Fields and the Buckeyes opened as a 14 point favorite, but Penix and the Hoosiers aren't going to back down from the challenge.
The last time the Buckeyes came to Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers had them on the ropes, taking a lead into halftime. Just last year, IU had a lead in the first half and kept the deficit manageable in the second half. This team can play, and they are ready for an upset.
In the battle of the quarterbacks, whoever has the better game gives his team the edge. Fields has the accolades, but Penix has the work ethic. Unfortunately, only one can prevail Saturday afternoon in Bloomington.