Huge passing games have been few and far between in the Big Ten this season.

Minimalist passing games? Those have come in bunches.

So it was nice to see Michigan’s JJ McCarthy and Penn State’s Drew Allar post truly stellar lines last weekend to get the hype ratcheted up for the Wolverines’ trip to Beaver Stadium for a national and B1G East showdown on Saturday.


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McCarthy threw for a season-high 335 yards in a rout of Purdue, his 1st 300-yard game of the season and the first in the B1G in nearly a month. Allar threw for 240 and 4 TDs, including 2 to transfer receiver Dante Cephas, who finally had a breakout game after a loooong  acclimation period.

On the other end of the QB spectrum, the starters this season for Iowa, Nebraska, Rutgers and Minnesota have not topped 200 yards passing a single time. The Gophers’ Athan Kaliakmanis threw for exactly 200 a couple weeks ago against Michigan State. Speaking of the Spartans, they’ve gone 7 straight games without a 200-yard passer. Maybe Noah Kim wasn’t the problem, or at least not the primary one. Northwestern quarterbacks also have failed to hit the 200-yard mark in 7 of their 9 games.

Yes, it’s ugly out there in Big Ten country, where some of the worst QB play in the land can be found. Next week we’ll tally up the sub-100 yard passing games. (That’s fair warning for the easily shocked and appalled among you.)

Will McCarthy and Allar, both former 5-star recruits, put some lipstick on the B1G pig and deliver a show for FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff? Maybe. But there’s a problem. The CFP No. 3 Wolverines and No. 11 Nittany Lions are Nos. 1 and 2 in total defense in the country. Michigan is also No. 1 against the pass, while Penn State ranks No. 12 against the pass and No. 2 in sacks.

McCarthy can boost his Heisman case with a big day. Allar will get an early start on next year’s campaign if he somehow leads the Lions to their first victory over a top-5 team since 2016.

From bad to good, here’s where the current starters in the B1G stand with 3 weeks of regular-season play remaining.

14. Deacon Hill, Iowa

Week 10: at Northwestern (W, 10-7), 10-15, 65 yards, TD, INT
Season: 61.5 ypg, 41.6%, 3 TDs, 4 INTs, 79.84 rating

The 6-3, 258-pound redshirt sophomore completed his final 2 passes for a combined 31 yards to set up the winning field goal in the final minute. You can do the math and understand what that means for the rest of the game. The Hawkeyes’ 25-yard TD drive was set up by a blocked punt, as Team Ferentz continues to defy modernity and get away with it.

Up next: vs. Rutgers

13. Athan Kaliakmanis, Minnesota

Week 10: vs. Illinois (L, 27-26), 11-22, 167 yards, 3 TDs
Season: 143.3 ypg, 54.1%, 10 TDs, 7 INTs, 116.28 rating

Kaliakmanis did enough to have the Gophers on the brink of victory before a backup quarterback converted a 4th-and-long and led the Illini 85  yards for the winning TD.

Up next: at Purdue

12. Katin Houser, Michigan State

Week 10: vs. Nebraska (W, 20-17), 13-20, 165 yards, TD
Season: 84.3 ypg, 58.7%, 3 TDs, 2 INT, 116.07 rating

Making his fourth start since replacing Noah Kim, the 2022 4-star recruit played most of the snaps, though true freshman Sam Leavitt got a couple of series. Houser’s steady performance helped the Spartans get a morale-boosting victory.

Up next: at Ohio State

11. Braedyn Locke, Wisconsin

Week 10: at Indiana (L, 20-14), 21-41, 243 yards, 2 TDs
Season: 155.4 ypg, 50.0%, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 102.47 rating

Starting a 3rd time for injured SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai, Locke tried to carry an offense that was also without leading rusher Braelon Allen. But Indiana made an early lead stand up, containing and frustrating Wisconsin’s injury-limited offense.

Up next: vs. Northwestern

10. Hudson Card, Purdue

Week 10: at Michigan (L, 41-13), 12-28, 144 yards, TD, INT
Season: 206.8 ypg, 57.8%, 9 TDs, 8 INTs, 113.41 rating

B1G reality is setting in for the transfer from Texas, who fell to 2-7 at Purdue as the Boilermakers became the league’s first team to fall out of the bowl-eligibility race. He took just 1 sack and managed 26 yards as a runner, better than a lot of quarterbacks have done against the top yardage and scoring defense in the country.

Up next: vs. Minnesota

9. Brendan Sullivan, Northwestern

Week 10: vs. Iowa (L, 10-7), 12-19, 81 yards, TD
Season: 89.3 ypg, 63.6%, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 140.18 rating

Starting again for injured Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant, Sullivan found the going tough against Iowa’s defense. He took 5 sacks for the 2nd straight week and wound up with 24 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Through 3 quarters, Sullivan had 35 passing yards and his Wildcats had no points. It was that kind of game.

Up next: at Wisconsin

8. Gavin Wimsatt, Rutgers

Week 10: vs. Ohio State (L, 35-16), 10-25, 129 yards, TD, INT
Season: 140.3 ypg, 49.0%, 8 TDs, 5 INTs, 108.49 rating

The Scarlet Knights led the Buckeyes 9-7 in the third quarter before a deflected pass turned into a pick-6, starting a snowball effect. Wimsatt added 49 rushing yards, but his offense had no chance to go score-for-score with the Buckeyes.

Up next: at Iowa

7. Heinrich Haarberg, Nebraska

Week 10: at Michigan State (L, 20-17), 12-28, 129 yards, 2 INTs
Season: 107.4 ypg, 50.0%, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 110.75 rating

Haarberg has been playing with fire in the form of turnovers for 7 straight starts, and this time he and the Huskers got burned. His dual-threat game, which featured a 43-yard run Saturday, couldn’t make up for his 3 turnovers (2 INTs, fumble lost). Ball security has been a problem all season for Nebraska, first with Jeff Sims and now with Haarberg. He had 2 lost fumbles last week, 2 interceptions the previous week and 2 fumbles in another game that Nebraska was able to recover. The Adrian Martinez routine will have to stop for the Huskers to resume their feel-better first season under Matt Rhule.

Up next: vs. Maryland

6. Brendan Sorsby, Indiana

Week 10: vs. Wisconsin (W, 20-14), 19-31, 186 yards, TD
Season: 125.0 ypg, 55.4%, 7 TDs, 1 INTs, 123.46 rating

A week after a strong effort in a loss to Penn State, Sorsby solidified his hold on the starting job with a hot start that had the Hoosiers up 17-7 at the break.

Up next: at Illinois

5. Luke Altmyer, Illinois

Week 10: at Minnesota (W, 27-26), 24-31, 212 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Season: 209.2 ypg, 64.8%, 13 TDs, 10 INTs, 131.88 rating

Backup John Paddock stole the show after Altmyer left late after taking his 5th sack of the game. Paddock entered the game cold on a 4th-and-11, converted with a 22-yard completion, and finished 3-for-3 or 85 yards and the winning score. Altmyer, a transfer from Ole Miss, had his 1st career 3-TD passing effort before exiting. If he’s healthy, he should continue to start. But Bret Bielema probably feels better about the backup plan now.

Up next: vs. Indiana

4. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland

Week 10: vs. Penn State (L, 51-15), 29-39, 286, 2 TDs, INT
Season: 276.2 ypg, 65.1%, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, 143.93 rating

After a strong first half, the 5th-year senior was held to 7 completions for 75 yards after the break. Overwhelmed by Penn State’s pass rush (6 sacks), Tagovailoa lost 47 yards on the ground. He’s been sacked 12 times over the past 2 weeks, an indication of the limitations he works under.

Up next: at Nebraska

3. Drew Allar, Penn State

Week 10: at Maryland (W, 51-15), 25-34, 240 yards, 4 TDs
Season: 210.6 ypg, 62.8%, 20 TDs, 1 INT, 140.35 rating

The 2022 5-star recruit regained his groove after a couple of lesser performances in a loss to Ohio State and a narrow win over Indiana. Importantly with No. 3 Michigan up next, he got in rhythm with transfer receiver Dante Cephas (6-53-2), continued to find No. 1 WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (8-95), and even ran for 39 yards on 4 carries.

Up next: vs. Michigan

2. Kyle McCord, Ohio State

Week 10: at Rutgers (W, 35-16), 19-26, 189 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Season: 261.3 ypg, 65.0%, 17 TDs, 4 INTs, 160.58 rating

McCord had another slow start, but he connected with Marvin Harrison Jr. for 2 short-yardage TDs in the fourth quarter to put the game away. McCord isn’t making anyone forget CJ Stroud, but he has the CFP No. 1 Buckeyes at 9-0 with the Michigan game less than 3 weeks away.

Up next: vs. Michigan State

1. JJ McCarthy, Michigan

Week 10: vs. Purdue (W, 41-13), 24-37, 335 yards
Season: 237.1 ypg, 75.7%, 18 TDs, 3 INTs, 188.68 rating

The 6-3, 200-pound junior broke through for his first 300-yard passing game of the season. It’s a tribute to his sensational play this year that the other numbers — no TDs, 64.9% completions, -31 yards on the ground — raise eyebrows. But the former 5-star looks sharp, and particularly in sync with WR Roman Wilson (9-143), heading into this weekend’s B1G East showdown at Penn State.

Up next: at Penn State