Big Ten quarterback power rankings ahead of Week 4: CJ Stroud is about to lap the field
In Week 3, Taulia Tagovailoa and JJ McCarthy warmed up for Maryland’s visit to No. 4 Michigan with solid performances. Those stars will collide in a meeting of unbeaten Big Ten East programs on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud will face his toughest challenge since Notre Dame when his Buckeyes host Wisconsin and its stout defense.
On the other end of the spectrum, Saturday left us wondering which is worse: the only sub-100 QB rating among B1G starters, or the only sub-100 yards per game average?
Heading into Week 4, this is our assessment:
20. Spencer Petras, Iowa
Week 3 stats: 14-26, 175, TD. … Season: 48.1%, 125.3 ypg, TD, 2 INTs, 88.17 rating
Getting a couple key receivers back and playing against Nevada, Petras took some baby steps toward mediocrity in a lightning-delayed marathon that spanned Saturday night into Sunday morning. He’s playing in the least imaginative offense in the Big Ten, which is saying something. The Ferentzes are royalty in Iowa City, but dynasties end. This one is due for an overthrow.
19. Evan Simon, Rutgers
Week 3 stats: 9-15, 52. … Season: 67.5%, 88.7 ypg, 2 TDs, 139.86 rating
Simon doesn’t make mistakes — so far, anyway — and that’s all that was needed to eke past terrible Temple 16-14. Until Noah Vedral returns, the Scarlet Knights will live and die with their 6-3, 205-pound sophomore managing the offense.
18-13. Best of the backups
We’ll take the best 6 backups in the league — led by 5-star Drew Allar (10-14, 114 yards, 2 TDs over 3 games) at Penn State and whoever replaces injured Cade McNamara as the No. 2 at Michigan — over anyone the Hawkeyes or Scarlet Knights have to offer right now.
12. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Week 3 stats: 30-42, 323, 3 TDs, INT. … Season: 63.8%, 256.0 ypg, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 148.53 rating
Thorne racked up stats trying to rally the Spartans from a 39-14 deficit in the fourth quarter, but he also committed the game’s only turnover against Washington with his B1G-worst 4th intercepted pass of the year.
11. Casey Thompson, Nebraska
Week 3 stats: 14-20, 129, TD. … Season stats: 65%, 248.8 ypg, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, 145.36 rating
The transfer from Texas, like interim coach Mickey Joseph, had no answers against Oklahoma. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander followed Scott Frost out of town, getting fired Sunday in the wake of a 49-14 loss to the Sooners. Life won’t get any easier for Thompson and the other guys who are staying.
10. Tommy DeVito, Illinois
Week 3 stats: Bye. … Season: 67%, 207.3 ypg, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 137.16 rating
The Syracuse transfer has stabilized the QB position for Bret Bielema, posting solid stats to complement Chase Brown, the leading rusher in the nation. The Illini will look to improve to 3-1 on Thursday when they host Chattanooga under the lights.
9. Connor Bazelak, Indiana
Week 3 stats: 33-55, 364, 2 TDs. … Season: 56.6%, 297.0 ypg, 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 120.84 rating
The Missouri transfer rallied the Hoosiers past an underdog opponent for a 2nd straight week and got them to 3-0. The slow starts are concerning, but so far he’s getting the job done.
8. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Week 3 stats: 12-15, 251, 3 TDs, INT. … Season: 71.0%, 232.3 ypg, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 190.88 rating
The former highly-regarded 4-star recruit had a solid outing in a 59-point victory over New Mexico State. Not sure how much that counts for, but it is progress. He trails only CJ Stroud in QB rating among qualifying B1G quarterbacks.
7. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Week 3 stats: 11-16, 157, 3 TDs, INT. … Season: 71.7%, 206.0 ypg, 4 TDs, INT, 190.78 rating
The efficient 6th-year senior hands off a lot in PJ Fleck’s offense, but he’s been rock solid on his limited attempts through 3 blowout victories. A tougher test awaits on Saturday, when the Golden Gophers hit the road for the first time, opening B1G play at Michigan State.
6. Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Week 3 stats: 27-43, 213, TD, 2 INTs. … Season: 63.8%, 320.7 ypg, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, 128.58 rating
After putting up monster stats through 2 games, the former transfer from South Carolina crashed to Earth with 2 picks in a loss to Southern Illinois. The resumption of Big Ten play, which is still a week away for the Wildcats, might not be kind to Hilinski.
5. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Week 3 stats: 14-19, 178. … Season: 63.9%, 244.3 ypg, 5 TDs, INT, 149.44 rating
The 6th-year senior and team captain passes well in spurts and leads with toughness and grit. No one can question his will to win — or just to get a first down — after he bounced up from an early-game de-cleater to lead the Nittany Lions to a road rout of Auburn.
Sean Clifford just took one of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen a college quarterback take. Good lord: pic.twitter.com/9oJBTcQJ0j
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 17, 2022
4. JJ McCarthy, Michigan
Week 3 stats: 15-18, 214. … Season: 88.2%, 157.7 ypg, 3 TDs, 234.22 rating
Now that the 5-star sophomore has the keys to the offense, the sky’s the limit. He doesn’t yet have enough pass attempts to qualify as the national leader in completion percentage, thanks to early exits in blowout wins. His Heisman momentum will build slowly, starting when Maryland visits The Big House on Saturday.
3. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Week 3 stats: 17-23, 214, 2 TDs. … Season: 77.3%, 298.3 ypg, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 180.65 rating
Maryland suddenly has a running game, which is subduing Tagovailoa’s numbers a little. He’ll get a chance to make a national statement Saturday at Michigan in a battle of unbeaten B1G East teams. The Terps are rolling after edging SMU, so we’re keeping the earworm. Ah, Lia, here we go again. (Click it. You know you can’t resist.)
2. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Week 3 stats: 39-55, 424, 3 TDs, INT. … Season 64.7%, 333.3 ypg, 8 TDs, INT, 146.17 rating
O’Connell keeps chucking in Jeff Brohm’s pass-happy offense, and he’s not the cause of the team’s 1-2 record. A couple undisciplined teammates and coaches choked away Saturday’s game at Syracuse.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Week 3 stats: 22-27, 367, 5 TDs. … Season: 72.9%, 313.7 ypg, 11 TDs, 208.65 rating
The Heisman favorite has Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka fully involved now, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba back. An 11:0 TD-to-interception ratio? That’ll play. Saturday night, we’ll get to see if Wisconsin’s defense can slow him down. Don’t bet on it.