B1G QB rankings entering Week 12: Is there any doubt who the Top 2 are right now?
It’s starting to get more difficult.
Through the first half of the season, ranking B1G quarterbacks was a tough task because so few were standing out. Outside of the first few spots, you could’ve just drawn names out of a hat. Now, with just 2 weeks left in the regular season, it’s getting difficult for another reason.
Graham Mertz is playing better. Cade McNamara is throwing more. Sean Clifford and Taulia Tagovailoa continue to be instrumental to their teams, even when the results aren’t there. You could shuffle quite a few of these names around in a variety of spots.
One thing that has become a constant, though: There’s no question who the Top 2 quarterbacks are right now. It’s CJ Stroud, Aidan O’Connell and everyone else.
In Saturday’s showdown between Purdue and Ohio State, Stroud and O’Connell combined to complete 71-of-90 pass attempts for 751 yards and 9 touchdowns in a 59-31 contest. There were no interceptions.
Sorry for spoiling the ending, but it was pretty obvious, right?
Now that you know the Top 2 (but not technically which order), let’s hop into the complete Top 10 this week:
Unranked this week
Donaven McCulley/Jack Tuttle/Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
Andrew Marty/Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Spencer Petras/Alex Padilla, Iowa
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
10. Brandon Peters, Illinois
Last week: OFF
A week off to prepare for an opportunistic Iowa defense. How will Peters handle the pressure? Not turning the ball over is going to be critical for Illinois to have a chance against the Hawkeyes
9. Noah Vedral, Rutgers
Last week vs. Indiana: 9-of-17, 97 yards (28 rushing yards, 1 TD)
Nothing special from Vedral’s performance in Bloomington. Then again, it didn’t have to be. Rutgers’ defense forced 6 turnovers, providing the offense with great field position throughout most of the game. The biggest key was Vedral didn’t make that critical mistake that allowed Indiana to stay in the game. He’ll have a much bigger challenge this weekend trying to move the ball against a stout Penn State defense.
8. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Last week vs. Northwestern: 18-of-23. 216 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Each week, Mertz continues to improve. During Wisconsin’s 6-game winning streak, the Wisconsin quarterback is averaging 17 passes per contest with 6 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. That’s the formula to get the Badgers back to Lucas Oil Stadium. In the last 2 games against Rutgers and Northwestern, Mertz has completed 29-of-39 passes for 456 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 picks. Everything seems to be coming together in Madison.
7. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Last week: OFF
Martinez got some much-needed rest to get somewhat healthier before a tough 2-game stretch against Wisconsin and Iowa to close out the season.
6. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Last week vs. #7 Michigan State: 29-of-48, 350 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
There are times when Tagovailoa looks like a Top 3 quarterback in the B1G and other moments when he might challenge for the No. 10 spot. That will land the Maryland gunslinger at No. 6 this week, especially with other guys around the league stepping up. Tagovailoa continues to rack up high yardage totals in Mike Locksley’s offense. He’s thrown for 3,105 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. The problem? It’s not resulting in wins recently. Life doesn’t get much easier, with Michigan on the schedule next.
5. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last week vs. #6 Michigan: 23-of-43, 205 yards, 1 TD
It was actually Jim Harbaugh who paid Clifford a high compliment after last week’s game, saying how impressed he was with the quarterback’s toughness. It was far from his best performance, but Clifford continued to gut it out against Michigan despite taking so many hits from a productive Michigan defense.
4. Cade McNamara, Michigan
Last week vs. Penn State: 19-of-29, 217 yards, 3 TDs
Over the 5 games, McNamara has graduated from game manager to legitimate offensive weapon. Harbaugh has opened up the playbook a little more because of his faith in the young quarterback and McNamara is delivering. Through the last 5 games, McNamara is averaging 230.4 yards per game with a 63% completion rate and 7 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. It’s allowed Michigan to have a more balanced offensive attack and not lean so heavily on the rushing attack. It’s exactly what the Wolverines need to be doing to compete with Ohio State in a few weeks.
3. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Last week vs. Maryland: 22-of-30, 287 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Another big performance for the Michigan State quarterback, lighting up Maryland’s defense to the tune of 4 touchdown passes. The biggest concern about Thorne over the last 5 contests is that he’s been careless with the ball at times. He’s thrown at least 1 interception in each of those outings, a consequence of taking risks throughout the game in Michigan State’s offensive scheme. These next 2 weeks will be a true test of Thorne’s ability, going up against Ohio State and Penn State to close out the year.
2. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Last week vs. #4 Ohio State: 40-of-52, 390 yards, 4 TDs
Purdue didn’t get a win — not even close — but O’Connell’s performance against Ohio State’s defense secured his spot as the No. 2 quarterback in the B1G. He’s completed at least 74% of his passes in each of his last 5 outings with a trio of 300-yard performances. In the last 3 games, O’Connell has thrown 9 touchdown passes without an interception. If he continues to play at this level, the Boilermakers have a great opportunity to notch their first 8-win regular season since 2006.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Last week vs. #19 Purdue: 31-of-38, 361 yards, 5 TDs
After his third 5-touchdown performance against a B1G opponent this season, Stroud has emerged as the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Remember when some were concerned he might not be the guy? Fun times. With 2 games left, Stroud leads the B1G in passing yards per game (337.3), passing touchdowns (30) and yards per attempt (9.8). With Michigan State and Michigan still ahead, Stroud will have a chance at his Heisman moments, too. It should be fun to see how he performs against two of the best opponents he’ll face in the B1G in back-to-back contests.