3 B1G QBs I'm buying and 3 I'm selling heading into 2022
The Big Ten didn’t have a ton of hype coming into this season in terms of quarterbacks. CJ Stroud and Cade McNamara were untested. Aidan O’Connell wasn’t even starting.
But those guys all had very good seasons. And now, their stocks are sky high. They would’ve been good investments before last season.
If this current crop of Big Ten quarterbacks were stocks, here’s who I’d be buying and here’s who I’d be selling:
1. Payton Thorne (Michigan State)
While Kenneth Walker III got all the attention, and understandably so, Thorne quietly put together a terrific season. His 2.7 TD/INT ratio was the second-best in the conference, behind only CJ Stroud. His 8.3 yards per attempt and 248 passing yards per game both ranked in the top 5 of the conference.
I’m buying Thorne because I think there’s room to grow, since he only completed 60.4 percent of his passes. Bump that up a few percentage points, and he could be in for a monster second season as the starter. With his best buddy Jayden Reed back, as well as No. 3 wideout Tre Mosley, Thorne is set up well — especially since the Spartans will likely need more from him without Walker.
There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting will be officially launching on January 1, 2023. Ohio will join other Big Ten states where sports betting has become legalized such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and more.
2. Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
I know, it’s been a tough couple of seasons for Morgan. He hasn’t looked at all like he did in 2019, when he was one of the top QBs in the country for a team that finished in the top 10. But the good news is that the offensive coordinator from that season, Kirk Ciarrocca, has returned. He’ll have his top 4 wideouts back, including veteran Chris Autman-Bell. On a personal level, he dealt with the loss of his father due to cancer a few months before this past season, which had to affect him on some level.
Minnesota wants to run the ball, and it will with Mohamed Ibrahim back. But Morgan did make plays when called upon last season; his 8.2 yards per attempt were more than Taulia Tagovailoa, Cade McNamara and Sean Clifford.
3. Casey Thompson (Nebraska)
This is just a guess, but a player with the arm strength of Thompson is really going to enjoy playing in Mark Whipple’s offense; Kenny Pickett sure did. Thompson comes to Lincoln with a year’s worth of starting experience under his belt, and he’s certainly the early favorite to start for Nebraska in 2022. He’ll have Omar Manning, Zavier Betts and LSU transfer Trey Palmer as weapons.
1. Sean Clifford (Penn State)
It will be Clifford’s fourth year as the starter, and we know what he is at this point. He’s tough, but injury prone. He makes big plays, and he makes big mistakes. He hasn’t built off that 2019 season in which he threw 23 TDs against 7 INTs with an average of 8.3 yards per attempt. His numbers have gone down each season since then, and now without one of the best wideouts in the country in Jahan Dotson, that’s going to be tough to reverse.
The bigger issue in regards to Clifford is that I think 2022 is a transition year for Penn State. That may not be what fans want to hear after the team has gone 11-11 the last 2 seasons, but it’s true. James Franklin has to look to the future and figure out how he is going to contend for the East in 2023 when CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are off the NFL. That means getting Drew Allar and Christian Veilleux more reps, which obviously come at the expense of Clifford.
2. Graham Mertz (Wisconsin)
There was no second-year leap from Mertz. Instead, he got worse. He was the only B1G starter with more interceptions (11) than TD passes (10). His completion percentage went from 61 percent in 2020 down to 59 percent in 2021. His adjusted yards per attempt went down from 6.2 to 5.9. The Badgers clearly didn’t put a ton of faith in Mertz as the season wore on, as he attempted more than 23 passes just once in the final 10 games after averaging over 31 through 3 games.
And to make matters worse, Mertz loses his top 3 targets (Danny Davis, Jake Ferguson and Kendric Pryor). We’ll see who Wisconsin hires for its open offensive coordinator position, but either way, it means Mertz is learning some new concepts. Wait, considering Wisconsin’s offense the last 2 years, that may be a good thing.
3. Spencer Petras (Iowa)
If Petras is Iowa’s starter next season, I just don’t see how this offense is going to get better. Of the 11 B1G QBs with 100 or more pass attempts, he had the lowest completion percentage (57), second-fewest TD passes (10), second-lowest yards per attempt (6.5) and second-lowest QB rating. He didn’t get better from his first season as the starter to the second, which is a red flag. The offense is also losing a couple NFL guys in running back Tyler Goodson and center Tyler Linderbaum.