B1G QB rankings entering Week 5: Numbers are down for league's quarterbacks so far in 2023
Last year after 4 weeks, Big Ten quarterbacks had produced 13 300-yard passing games, 7 over 350 yards and 2 over 400.
In this, the year of the great turnover of B1G QBs, there have been 6 300-yard games so far, only 1 of 350+ and none of the 400-yard variety.
With changes to timing rules, teams are averaging 5-6 fewer offensive plays per game, but that’s not the major contributing factor in the decline in passing numbers.
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Inexperienced QBs, milquetoast coordinators, stout defenses and officials who won’t call pass interference are the culprits. It makes the B1G a bit boring for those who don’t appreciate ball control and defense. But this is where we’re at. It’s a high bar just to be a solid game-manager, a distinction made clear as Drew Allar and Penn State embarrassed Cade McNamara and visiting Iowa on Saturday night.
Last year entering Week 5, 2 B1G quarterbacks — Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell and OSU’s CJ Stroud — were throwing for more than 300 yards per game. Two others, Northwestern’s Ryan Hilinski and Indiana’s Connor Bazelak, were above 290 ypg. This year, Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa leads at 278.0 yards per game, some 55 yards per game less than O’Connell was chucking for at this juncture last season.
Point being, game management and efficiency — with running threat as a tiebreaker — are the parameters by which to judge B1G QBs this year. And it’s still crazy difficult to parse those distinctions. What we do know — surprise, surprise — is that the 4-0 teams have the top quarterbacks by that standard.
Last week, we got a little bit silly and — to make a point — listed 5 QBs between Nos. 13-14 and another 5 between Nos. 2-3 while leaving an empty gap in the middle and the top spot open. Now, with most of the non-conference cupcake games out of the way, we’ll try to get serious.
But we’re still splitting hairs in some cases.
14. Cade McNamara, Iowa
Week 4: at Penn State (L, 31-0), 5-14, 42 yards
Season: 114.8 ypg, 50.6%, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 104.42 rating
Since the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ opener, the Michigan transfer has thrown more picks (3) than TDs (2) while completing less than 50% of his passes. And though he had an 18-yard run against the Lions, he’s at minus-45 rushing yards on the season. This is Spencer Petras 2.0, and that says as much about OC Brian Ferentz as it does McNamara. With injuries to several key weapons, Iowa didn’t stand a chance against Penn State, and the Hawks will struggle against just about anyone and everyone going forward. McNamara doesn’t have the skill set to be a savior. Luckily for Iowa, the schedule isn’t nearly as daunting in the coming months.
Up next: vs. Michigan State (2-2)
13. Tayven Jackson, Indiana
Week 4: vs. Akron (W, 29-27), 11-26, 190 yards, TD, INT
Season: 187.3 ypg, 62.8%, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 138.98 rating
Jackson, a transfer from Tennessee, managed to get the Hoosiers to a 4-OT win over a middle of the pack MAC team, but he didn’t look great doing it.
Up next: at Maryland (4-0)
12. Athan Kaliakmanis, Minnesota
Week 4: at Northwestern (L, 37-34), 14-19, 153 yards, 2 TDs
Season: 159.3 ypg, 55.1%, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 108.79 rating
The problem with this line is that Kaliakmanis started 8-for-8 and then petered out and took a backseat to the running game as PJ Fleck blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. Kaliakmanis added 34 yards on 4 carries, yet couldn’t keep the offense on the field down the stretch despite the Gophers allowing no sacks and committing no turnovers. Something isn’t adding up in Minneapolis.
Up next: vs. Louisiana (3-1)
11. Heinrich Haarberg, Nebraska
Week 4: vs. Louisiana Tech (W, 28-14), 8-17, 107 yards, TD; 157 rushing yards, TD
Season: 69.5 ypg, 51.1%, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 128.84 rating
Haarberg started in place of injured Jeff Sims for a 2nd straight week, and provided more with his legs than his arm against the Bulldogs a week after a strong all-around 1st career start in a win over Northern Illinois. Whether Haarberg, a home state 2021 3-star recruit, keeps the job over Georgia Tech transfer Sims remains to be seen. Sims reportedly was available Saturday but not fully recovered from his ankle injury. It was rough early, as Haarberg was 4-of-12 in a first half that ended tied 7-7. A 9-play, all-run TD drive to open the 2nd half put the Huskers ahead, and Haarberg ran 72 yards for a clinching fourth-quarter score. Take out Tech’s 3 sacks, and Haarberg had 181 yards on 16 carries. He fumbled twice, though neither resulted in a turnover. The bottom line is that Haarberg is 2-0 as a starter and Sims is 0-2 at Nebraska.
Up next: vs. No. 2 Michigan (4-0)
10. Luke Altmyer, Illinois
Week 4: vs. Florida Atlantic (W, 23-17), 25-36, 303 yards, TD
Season: 218.5 ypg, 65.3%, 4 TDs, 7 INTs, 126.80 rating
The transfer from Ole Miss bounced back nicely from his 4-INT game vs. Penn State. After the Illini spotted the Owls a 10-point first-quarter lead, Altmyer got the offense rolling despite some fits and starts — most of them not of his doing, although he was responsible for 1 of the team’s 2 lost fumbles. Taking 4 sacks for 22 yards reduced his running stats to nearly nil, but he did cash in his 3rd rushing TD of the season. More importantly, he produced his first 300-yard passing game this year. Ball State transfer John Paddock (10-16, 129 yards, TD last week vs. Nittany Lions in mop up time) returns to the back burner.
Up next: at Purdue (1-3)
9. Gavin Wimsatt, Rutgers
Week 4: at Michigan (L, 31-7), 11-21, 180 yards, TD, INT; 28 rushing yards
Season: 146.8 ypg, 51.7%, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 121.26 rating
Wimsatt gave Rutgers an early lead with a 69-yard touchdown pass and avoided taking even 1 sack against Michigan’s stout defense. Despite throwing his 1st INT of the season, he performed about as well as could be expected leading an overmatched team in hostile B1G territory against the No. 2 team in the nation.
Up next: vs. Wagner (2-2)
8. Noah Kim, Michigan State
Week 4: vs. Maryland (L, 31-9), 18-33, 190 yards, TD, 2 INTs
Season: 224.3 ypg, 56.9%, 6 TDs, 3 INTs, 133.76 rating
Kim has fallen off since the axing of Mel Tucker as head coach, and former 4-star recruits Katin Houser (6-10, 75 yards, INT) and Sam Leavitt (2-2, 9) both saw action in the second half. The Spartans have way bigger issues than quarterback play, with breakdowns and weak links in all 3 phases.
Up next: at Iowa (3-1)
7. Ben Bryant, Northwestern
Week 4: vs. Minnesota (W, 37-34), 33-49, 396 yards, 4 TDs
Season: 201.0 ypg, 59.6%, 6 TDs, 3 INTs, 119.37 rating
The transfer from Cincinnati went on a late heater to rally the Wildcats to an improbable victory. That means he gets to hang on to the starting gig for next week’s visit from Penn State. The ups and downs will continue, most likely with more of the latter.
Up next: vs. No. 6 Penn State (4-0)
6. Hudson Card, Purdue
Week 4: vs. Wisconsin (L, 38-17), 21-38, 202 yards, 2 INTs; 54 rushing yards, TD
Season: 256.8 ypg, 62.8%, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 123.77 rating
The transfer from Texas leads the B1G in attempts, and that’s likely to continue — both because Purdue likes to play that way and because the Boilers are going to be trailing a lot in this transition season under Ryan Walters and staff. Another tough defense awaits with Illinois visiting Ross-Ade Stadium next weekend.
Up next: vs. Illinois (2-2)
5. Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin
Week 4: at Purdue (W, 38-17), 17-27, 174 yards, INT; 44 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Season: 219.3 ypg, 66.4%, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 124.44 rating
The transfer from SMU and the coaching staff are figuring out the new offense together, creating a dual-threat aspect that Mordecai is embracing. Producing 2 rushing TDs for the 2nd week in a row, Mordecai found a way to get a B1G West road win, and looked good doing it.
Up next: Bye
4. Kyle McCord, Ohio State
Week 4: at Notre Dame (W, 17-14), 21-37, 240 yards
Season: 263.8 ypg, 65.5%, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 159.66 rating
McCord made a couple of big-time throws on the Buckeyes’ late game-winning drive, converting a fourth down with one and getting the team to the 1-yard line with another. But he’s been up and down in forming a rapport with star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who had 2 catches for 13 yards before a key 19-yarder on the final drive. That’s baffling. McCord remains a question mark after his 5th career start.
Up next: Bye
3. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Week 4: at Michigan State (W, 31-9), 21-36, 233 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Season: 278.0 ypg, 64.4%, 8 TDs, 3 INTs, 148.75 rating
The 5th-year senior started hot for a change, leading the Terps to TDs on their first 3 drives. He cooled off for a while after that as Maryland coasted to victory against the reeling Spartans. Adding 37 yards and a TD on the ground, Tagovailoa has the Terps at 4-0 and once again on the verge on entering the AP Top 25.
Up next: vs. Indiana (2-2)
2. Drew Allar, Penn State
Week 4: vs. Iowa (W, 31-0), 25-37, 166 yards, 4 TDs
Season: 225.8 ypg, 67.2%, 8 TDs, 0 INTs, 149.00 rating
The 2022 5-star recruit played another turnover-free game, taking what the defense gave him and throwing a couple darts to tight ends among his scoring passes. In front of 110,000+ in his first start in a White Out, the sophomore delivered a master class in game management on a windy and rainy Saturday night.
Up next: at Northwestern (2-2)
1. JJ McCarthy, Michigan
Week 4: vs. Rutgers (W, 31-7), 15-21, 214 yards, TD; 51 yards rushing
Season: 228.8 ypg, 79.8%, 8 TDs, 3 INTs, 189.06 rating
McCarthy bounced back from his 3-interception game to post another efficient outing against an overmatched opponent. He holds the best completion percentage and 8th-best QB rating in the country.
Up next: at Nebraska (2-2)