It’s the most important position in all of sports and there are a lot of questions surrounding it in the B1G. Quarterback play is going to be one of the most interesting things to watch in the conference this year.

Four B1G teams lost their Week 1 starter from a year ago. A handful of squads are hoping to see significant improvement from the 2020 season. A few are in a really good situation with a talented and experienced player under center.

The situation varies by program.

We’re already one game into the season with Nebraska and Illinois kicking off on Saturday. The rest of the B1G gets underway this week. Before we get to the first full weekend of the college football season, let’s take a look at the B1G quarterback rankings:

14. Hunter Johnson, Northwestern

It was a bit of a surprise that Pat Fitzgerald named Johnson the starter so early in fall camp, but if he’s clearly the best option then what’s the point in waiting? Northwestern needs a lot more consistency from Johnson this year than it got in 2019. He had 1 touchdown pass with 4 interceptions and completed only 46.3% of his passes. Maybe he makes a big leap, but it’s hard to put Johnson any higher on this list based on what we’ve seen.

13. Payton Thorne/Anthony Russo, Michigan State

The low ranking has a lot to do with the unknown. Thorne did appear in 4 games for Michigan State last year, but ended with has many interceptions (3) and touchdowns (3). Russo also had trouble keeping the ball away from the defense during his time at Temple. Mel Tucker has yet to name a starter, so it’s really difficult to gauge the QB situation in East Lansing right now.

12. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska

Four years into his career at Nebraska, and the same demons continue to haunt Martinez. He completed just 16-of-32 pass attempts and had one critical fumble that resulted in a scoop-and-score for Illinois right before halftime of the Week 0 matchup. There’s no question Martinez is incredibly athletic, but his accuracy and ability to take care of the football are still lacking.

11. Noah Vedral, Rutgers

Last season was far from perfect for Vedral, but it was a solid showing from a first-time starter in a new scheme with a new program. Vedral completed better than 60% of his passes, showed off some mobility with his legs and helped Rutgers’ passing attack improve from 139.3 yards per game to 195 yards per game. He did throw 8 picks to 9 touchdowns, a ration that must improve, but with a full offseason Vedral could become a more consistent passer.

10. Jack Plummer, Purdue

Jeff Brohm usually puts his quarterbacks in position to be successful. Plummer played really well in the 3 games that he appeared in last fall, throwing for 938 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions with a 71% completion rate. Plummer did battle an injury in 2019, and that’s been an issue at the position for Purdue under Brohm. If he can stay healthy, Plummer could be in store for a big year.

9. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland

It’s tough to really know how good of a quarterback Tagovailoa really is. The Maryland offense requires him to do so much and he doesn’t receive much help from his offensive line. When he has time to throw and receivers get open, he can be a pretty dynamic player at the position. Last year, Tagovailoa ranked No. 3 in the B1G in yards per game (252.8) but also had 7 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. We’ll see if there’s any improvement in his second year of Mike Locksley’s system.

8. Spencer Petras, Iowa

For as much grief as Petras gets for his performance last year, he really didn’t perform too poorly. Eliminate the 3-interception performance against Northwestern, and he tossed 8 touchdown passes with just 2 interceptions with a 58.5% completion rate. That’s not too shabby for a first-time starter. Petras does need to get a little bit more consistent throughout the course of a season, but he had a pretty solid first year under center, all things considered.

7. Brandon Peters/Art Sitkowski, Illinois

Maybe this is recency bias but the two quarterbacks wearing the orange and blue on Saturday looked pretty good. It wasn’t so much the overall talent Peters and Sitkowski brought to the field, but how Bret Bielema will utilize the position and how accurate they were against Nebraska. Obviously, we saw more of Sitkowski than expected because of Peters’ injury, but I expect the game plan to be very similar for both quarterbacks. We’re only 1 game in, but both looked capable of executing that system just fine.

6. Cade McNamara, Michigan

McNamara’s greatest flash of potential came in that comeback victory over Rutgers in 2020, completing 27-of-36 passes for 260 yards, throwing 4 touchdown passes and rushing for 1 more without a turnover. Outside of that, his numbers were pretty pedestrian. McNamara has the opportunity to be a really good quarterback but how will he handle the pressure in Ann Arbor?

5. Sean Clifford, Penn State

Turnovers were a huge issue for Clifford at Penn State last season. During the 0-5 start, Clifford threw 8 interceptions. In that 4-game winning streak to close the season, he had just 1 pick. Crazy how important turnovers can be. Clifford wasn’t great in 2019, but he hovered around the 60% completion rate and had a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With Mike Yurcich’s brilliance in State College, Clifford could have that breakout year Penn State needs.

4. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin

What version of Mertz are we going to see? Will it be the kid who completed 20-of-21 passes with 5 touchdowns against Illinois last season? Or will it be the quarterback who tossed more picks than touchdowns in the final 6 games of the year? Probably neither. With 7 games under his belt and a full offseason to improve, Mertz is probably going to fall somewhere in the middle of his highest highs and lowest lows. That’s a pretty good spot.

3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

All we really know about Stroud is what we’ve seen from Ohio State’s spring game. Oh, and that 48-yard run he had against Michigan State. The bottom line, though, is that Stroud is a talented player and is working under Ryan Day, who has coached two Heisman Trophy finalists in three seasons. Even if Stroud doesn’t quite live up to the hype, he’ll probably still be better than most quarterbacks in the B1G.

2. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Putting Morgan at No. 2 after such a down season in 2020 might be a little too ambitious for some, but there were a lot of factors at play. Minnesota had a new offensive coordinator, lost its top receiver in Tyler Johnson and played the season with a short-handed offensive line. All of that makes a difference. Will Morgan look like his 2019 self this fall? Maybe not quite that good, but he should be a lot more accurate and consistent this year than he was last season.

1. Michael Penix Jr., Indiana

Indiana is a much better football team when Penix is on the field. He’s 12-2 as the starter for the Hoosiers and threw for a league-best 274.2 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and 4 picks. Penix can stretch the field better than any quarterback in the B1G and has a cannon for an arm. The biggest concern for the IU quarterback is health. He hasn’t made it through a full season in any of his three years in Bloomington, leaving many to question whether he can do it in 2021. From a pure talent point, though, nobody is better than Penix entering the season.