B1G QB rankings entering Week 2: Still a lot of unanswered question after just 1 game
In the good old days, ranking quarterbacks after the first week of the college football season used to be difficult for a much different reason. Most of the time, teams would open with a lowly FCS or Group of 5 opponent and every QB in the league would put up solid numbers, making it hard to decipher the good from the bad.
There’s a different problem now, though.
With some teams playing conference opponents, other playing Power 5 foes and others playing a G5 squad, judging performance can be incredibly challenging. After all, we’re only one week into the season.
So, before you overreact to the rankings in Week 1, just remember one thing: There’s a lot of time for these to change for the course of the next three months. Does that make you feel better?
No? OK. We’ll move on anyway.
This week, I’ve ranked the Top 10 quarterbacks following Week 1 action, with four being left out of the mix. Here’s what we’re looking at one week into the college football season:
Unranked this week
Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
Spencer Petras, Iowa
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Art Sitkowski/Brandon Peters, Illinois
10. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Last week vs. Fordham: 17-of-23, 254 yards, 1 TD (33 rushing yards, 2 TDs)
Yes, it came against an FCS opponent, but Martinez had a nice bounce-back game against Fordham. Plus, he’s continued to flash his athleticism on the ground over his time in Lincoln. That should be worth something. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of pressure on the Nebraska quarterback to step up in bigger games and start making some plays, but he played well last Saturday. He cracks the Top 10 this week.
9. Noah Vedral, Rutgers
Last week vs. Temple: 15-of-27, 138 yards, 1 TD (58 rushing yards)
Not an overly impressive stat line throwing the football, but it didn’t have to be. Rutgers’ defense took care of business, forcing 5 turnovers in a blowout win over Temple. Still, Vedral had a solid outing and rushed for 58 yards on 8 carries, showing a bit of that dual-threat ability. It wasn’t an eye-popping performance, but he played well enough to receive a mention.
8. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Last week vs. Northwestern: 15-of-25, 185 yards, 1 TD (28 rushing yards)
There were some questions about Michigan State’s quarterback situation entering the season, but Thorne looked more than capable of leading the Spartans offense. He did get quite a bit of help from running back Kenneth Walker III, but that’s not really the point. Thorne didn’t put up big numbers but he played mistake-free football. That was an issue for the Spartans a year ago. He played pretty consistent football on the road against a B1G team that is typically known for its defense. That’s a pretty good start to the season.
7. Hunter Johnson, Northwestern
Last week vs. Michigan State: 30-of-42, 275 yards, 3 TDs
A year out of the starting job seemed to really benefit Johnson. Northwestern didn’t win the game (or even come close, really), but Johnson was a bright spot for the Wildcats on Friday night. Johnson threw 2 more touchdown passes in this year’s season opener than he had at any point during the 2019 campaign and didn’t toss a single interception. It was also the first time he completed better than 60% of his passes in a Northwestern uniform. Johnson needs some help offensively, but he looked so much better than 2 seasons ago.
6. Cade McNamara, Michigan
Last week vs. Western Michigan: 9-of-11, 136 yards, 2 TDs
Yet another quarterback who wasn’t asked to do too much in the season opener. Are you sensing a theme so far? McNamara completed all but 2 of his passes against Western Michigan and ran the ball just 1 time for 2 yards in a blowout victory. This week should provide a much tougher test for the Wolverines, and we’ll find out quite a bit more about the Michigan starter in a primetime contest against Washington.
5. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Last week vs. Ohio State: 14-of-25, 205 yards, 1 TD
Morgan’s performance from last week is a tough one to gauge. He didn’t play the best we’ve seen, but he was also going up against a tough Ohio State defense. Minnesota was also without top receiver Chris Autman-Bell, which undoubtedly played a role in the 11 incompletions. Morgan was good enough to keep the Gophers in the game for most of the contest, but if this team wants to be in the B1G West conversation, he’s going to have to be more consistent.
4. Jack Plummer, Purdue
Last week vs. Oregon State: 29-of-41, 313 yards, 2 TDs
One thing we’ve learned about Jeff Brohm is that his quarterbacks are going to carry a heavy load. That was the case for Plummer on Saturday, throwing 41 passes in a Purdue win over Oregon State. Even though he was under duress most of the night, Plummer was able to find David Bell and Payne Durham frequently and make plays through the air. He was one of just 2 quarterbacks in the B1G to throw for over 300 yards last week.
3. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last week vs. Wisconsin: 18-of-33, 247 yards, 1 TD
Has Clifford taken the next step as Penn State’s quarterback? The jury is still out on that. But he hit some big plays and avoided turnovers against a really good Wisconsin defense on the road in his first game in a new offensive system. Maybe he wasn’t as crisp from start to finish as you’d like to see, but he was pretty impressive considering the circumstances. Most importantly, he was able to escape Madison with a victory.
2. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Last week vs. West Virginia: 26-of-36, 332 yards, 3 TDs
West Virginia was supposed to have a really good defense, but Tagovailoa didn’t seem to have too much trouble carving up the Mountaineers. He was the top passer in the B1G last weekend and completed better than 72% of his passes in a 30-24 victory. Tagovailoa has some pretty reliable targets to throw to in Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett, which makes life a little bit easier. Nonetheless, Tagovailoa looked really good in Maryland’s opener against a Power 5 opponent.
1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Last week vs. Minnesota: 13-of-22, 294 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
For one half of football, there was a chance that an Ohio State quarterback wouldn’t be at the top of the list. Then Stroud posted video game numbers in the second half, completing 5 passes for 236 yards, 4 of which went for touchdowns. It was pretty unreal. Stroud still has a lot of growing to do but he seemed to settle down quite a bit in the second half for Ohio State. Having great receivers certainly helps, but Stroud looks poised enough to lead the Buckeyes’ offense.