B1G QB rakings entering Week 8: Stock rising in Aidan O'Connell after shredding Iowa
Jeff Brohm rolled the dice by naming Aidan O’Connell the starter for Purdue’s showdown against No. 2 Iowa last week despite the quarterback throwing 5 interceptions with just 4 touchdowns in the previous 3 games. Against the nation’s most opportunistic defense, it seemed like a risky move.
O’Connell completed 30-of-40 passes for 375 yards and accounted for 3 total touchdowns in a 24-7 win. Brohm’s record against Kirk Ferentz improved to 4-1 over the past 5 seasons.
That was undeniably the most impressive performance from a quarterback in Week 7 in the B1G. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some movement in the rankings, though.
Here’s what the latest Top 10 looks like as we prepare for Week 8 of the college football season:
Unranked this week
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Michael Penix Jr./Jack Tuttle, Indiana
Brandon Peters/Art Sitkowski, Illinois
Noah Vedral, Rutgers
10. Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Last week vs. Rutgers: 18-of-33, 267 yards, 2 TDs
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A Northwestern quarterback has made the cut! Hilinski didn’t win the starting job but he’s actually done a pretty good job after starting the year as the No. 3 guy on the depth chart. He’s thrown for 645 yards and 3 touchdowns with a completion rate over 57% this season. That’s obviously not great, but it’s not terrible, either. Hilinski has shown the ability to hit some big plays, too. He’s not the most dynamic or dangerous quarterback in the B1G, but if he continues to play consistently, he can be good enough to win a few more games.
9. Cade McNamara, Michigan
Last week: OFF
Thanks to some stellar performances from a few quarterbacks behind him last week, McNamara falls a few spots in this week’s list. He gets a chance to climb back up with Michigan playing Northwestern next week.
8. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Last week vs. Nebraska: 20-of-24, 209 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
The first half against Nebraska was the best Morgan has played all season. He completed 14-of-15 passes for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. The second half was … not so good. Morgan has looked a little bit better in the Golden Gophers’ last two wins over Purdue and Nebraska. But he’s still only thrown 114 passes this season, lowest among 6-game starters in the B1G. It’s not clear that the Gophers can rely on Morgan frequently to win a game, but he has done enough to get his team to 4-2.
7. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Last week vs. #2 Iowa: 30-of-40, 375 yards, 2 TDs (1 rushing TD)
Have a day, Mr. O’Connell. Obviously, sharing a field with David Bell helped O’Connell quite a bit on Saturday against Iowa’s opportunistic defense, but he still had to get the ball there and avoid the Hawkeye secondary. Now that Jeff Brohm seems to have settled in on a primary starter, O’Connell has the potential to skyrocket up the rankings in the second half of the season, especially with how much Purdue throws the football. He’s still a little low because of the number of picks he’s tossed, but he played about as well as anyone could’ve imagined in Iowa City.
6. Spencer Petras, Iowa
Last week vs. Purdue: 17-of-32, 195 yards, 4 INTs
After his performance against Purdue, you might wonder why Petras is still in the No. 6 spot. He’s still played pretty well this season and won’t have one game hinder his status too much. Until Saturday, Petras had 9 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions and was doing a good job of taking care of the football. He wasn’t the primary source of offense, but he was finding his targets at a 60% clip and had the Hawkeyes sitting at 6-0. The Iowa starter gets knocked out of the Top 5, but only a few spots. Let’s see how he responds in two weeks with a few extra days to recover.
5. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Last week: OFF
Tagovailoa is back in the Top 5 despite not playing. Will he stay there? The Maryland star needed a week off to recover after losses to Iowa and Ohio State. Taking care of the football is going to be the key against Minnesota on Saturday.
4. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last week: OFF
If he’s healthy, Clifford is still one of the best quarterbacks in the B1G. He’s thrown for 1,482 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. How he responds after being banged up against the Hawkeyes a few weeks ago will dictate how far this Penn State team can go.
3. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Last week vs. Minnesota: 18-of-33, 241 yards, 1 TD
There’s no question Martinez struggled early against Minnesota, but he was able to find a bit of a rhythm in the second half. Scott Frost said the quarterback has been playing beat up, which is probably why he finished the contest with negative rushing yards in the loss. While it might be unpopular to have the quarterback of a team with a 3-5 record at No. 3, Martinez is a huge reason Nebraska has been so competitive. He’s scored a total of 20 touchdowns this season and is still the biggest part of the Husker offense. It’s hard to keep him out of the Top 3.
2. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Last week vs. Indiana: 14-of-26, 126 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Saturday was easily Thorne’s worst performance of the season. He tied his season interception total in the win over Indiana, threw for just 1 touchdown and had a lowly 126 yards through the air. Indiana’s defense was prepared for the big-play and stifled the Michigan State offense. But Thorne won’t take a dip this week because he’s played so well through the first 6 games of the year. The Spartans get a week off, then Thorne will face his greatest test to date in a rivalry game against Michigan.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Last week: OFF
Stroud sat idly by last week, but there’s still no quarterback in the B1G who is playing as well has the Ohio State freshman right now. The competition gets a lot tougher out of the bye week for Stroud and the Buckeyes, though. We’re about to see if he deserves that No. 1 spot.