B1G QB Power Rankings, Week 7: Iowa continues to win without quality QB play
Breaking down everything you need to know about the Big Ten’s quarterbacks.
1. Justin Fields (Ohio State)
With a week to stew over the worst performance of his career, it will be fun to see how Fields responds. After just 3 interceptions in his first 17 starts, he had 3 in his most recent outing against Indiana. It’s unknown when Ohio State will play or even which players tested positive and caused the game against Illinois to be canceled. If the Indiana game didn’t eliminate Fields from the Heisman, this cancellation probably did.
(Last week: 1)
2. Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana)
You have to feel for Penix, who suffered a torn ACL against Maryland on Saturday. This is 3 years in a row that his season has ended with an injury. He has been a huge part of Indiana’s rise over the last year and a half, as he has played well when he’s actually been on the field. Even though Penix’s numbers have dipped this season (his completion percentage is down to 56.4 from 68.8 and his yards per attempt is down to 7.5 from 8.7), there’s no denying that Penix is a gamer, capable of rallying from a rough start and stepping up in the biggest moments. Ask Penn State and Notre Dame about that. Jack Tuttle will get his long-awaited chance since transferring from Utah.
(Last week: 2)
3. Graham Mertz (Wisconsin)
It’s strange to think that Mertz has only played 2 games since that huge opening game against Illinois. In the Michigan game, Wisconsin was up big almost right away, and Mertz was able to shift into cruise control. The Northwestern game was a struggle, but keep in mind that Mertz was without two starting wide receivers. Mertz still has attempted just 84 passes this season; Penix, in comparison, has completed 124.
(Last week: 3)
4. Jack Plummer (Purdue)
Plummer looks like he’ll be the starter moving forward with Aidan O’Connell out. Plummer wasn’t near as good against Rutgers as he was against Minnesota in his first start of the season, as he wasn’t able to get David Bell going aside from one TD. Plummer completed just 20 of 35 passes for 237 yards against the second-worst pass defense in the Big Ten.
(Last week: 6)
5. Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
It’s been a frustrating season for Morgan, who has been better than his stat line (4 TD passes, 4 INTs) would indicate. Coming off a 2019 season in which he threw 30 TD passes, it doesn’t look great. But Morgan is still making the most of his opportunities, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt (third in B1G). He’ll be without star wideout Rashod Bateman, though, as he has opted out again due to COVID. It’s unknown when or if the Golden Gophers will even play again this season, as the team is dealing with an overwhelming number of positive cases.
(Last week: 7)
6. Peyton Ramsey (Northwestern)
Ramsey is being asked to carry this Northwestern offense that is averaging just 1.67 yards per rush over its last 3 games. Unless it’s Patrick Mahomes, that’s asking an awful lot out of a QB. Ramsey didn’t play a perfect game by any means in the loss to Michigan State, completing only 21 of 43 passes for 210 yards and 2 INTs, but he also didn’t get any help from his teammates. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman has been terrific, but he came back to Earth with several bad drops. Ramsey is a solid Big Ten QB, but asking him to throw it 43 and 44 times, which is what he has had to do the last 2 weeks, is probably too much.
(Last week: 4)
7. Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland)
The time off clearly hurt Tagovailoa, who wasn’t nearly as sharp as he had been the last 2 games. It also hurt that Tagovailoa was going against an Indiana defense that leads the country in interceptions. Freshmen will have games like this (17-of-36 passing with 3 interceptions) when they have adversity like this (23 players were out due to COVID) against defenses like that (Indiana has multiple INTs in every game this season). Best to forget about this one and move on.
(Last week: 5)
8. Cade McNamara (Michigan)
After providing a spark off the bench in the previous 2 games, McNamara finally got his first start in the loss against Penn State. You could tell how much it meant to him, as he was clearly hurting with a shoulder injury but didn’t want to come out. He went back to the locker room at one point, returned to the game and then had to come out again. McNamara still has 5 TD passes and no INTs on 71 pass attempts this season.
(Last week: 8)
9. Sean Clifford (Penn State)
Clifford returned to the starting lineup against Michigan and helped Penn State get its first win. The most encouraging sign? Clifford broke a streak of 6 straight games with at least 1 interception. Penn State, which is still last in the Big Ten in turnover margin per game, didn’t have any turnovers. Clifford scored once on the ground, but didn’t have a passing TD. He has a blossoming connection with true freshman Parker Washington.
(Last week: 9)
10. Brandon Peters (Illinois)
Oddly enough, Peters missed out on going against the Big Ten’s worst pass defense (at least statistically) when the Ohio State game was canceled. Peters has only played in 2 games this season, and he would be PFF’s third-highest graded B1G QB if he had met the minimum snap requirements. Peters will be playing to save Lovie Smith’s job these next few weeks.
(Last week: 11)
11. Art Sitkowski/Johnny Langan/ Noah Vedral (Rutgers)
Sitkowski and Langan teamed up to lead Rutgers over Purdue while Vedral sat with an injury suffered late in the Michigan game. While Vedral may be back soon, it is pretty remarkable that Sitkowski and Langan led a 10-point comeback on the road, with Sitkowski throwing 2 TDs and Langan also throwing 1. Langan is Rutgers’ version of Taysom Hill.
(Last week: 12)
12. Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State)
No QB has as wild of swings as Lombardi, who will look terrific on one possession and just awful the next. Against Northwestern, one of the top defenses in the country, Lombardi launched 2 beautiful TD throws but still completed only 11 of 27 passes, his third straight game under 50 percent. But all anyone will remember about this game is that Lombardi gave No. 8 Northwestern its first loss and ended the Wildcats’ CFP hopes.
(Last week: 14)
13. Adrian Martinez (Nebraska)
Martinez returned to the starting lineup and provided a passing presence that has been missing in completing 18 of 20 for 174 yards. Since Luke McCaffrey couldn’t hold onto the job, this could be a week-to-week thing. It may be until the offseason until one of them truly runs with this job.
(Last week: NR)
14. Spencer Petras (Iowa)
Iowa continues to win without Petras excelling at any point in its 4-game winning streak. Kirk Ferentz downplayed any sort of competition from backup Alex Padilla and reaffirmed his belief that Petras is the guy, saying, “We’re good with him. He’s doing fine.” That’s even though Petras is completing only 56.3 percent of his passes (11th in B1G) and has more INTs (5) than TD passes (4). Petras makes several interception-worthy throws a game and clearly needs more seasoning.
(Last week: 10)