Big Ten quarterback ratings entering Week 7: Cream rises to the top
Things that apparently help Big Ten quarterbacks: Reasonably nice weather. Coaching changes. Michigan State’s defense.
A week after only 1 league quarterback topped 300 yards and no one threw for more than 2 touchdowns, the skies and the passer outlooks cleared up considerably around the league. Cream rises. The dregs get left behind, or at least relegated to last.
We’ve got that spectrum covered in our constantly roiling QB rankings. There’ll be more bitter and sweet with 5 league games on tap Saturday.
Till then, this is our assessment of the B1G quarterback hierarchy:
14. Evan Simon, Rutgers
Week 6 stats: 6-15, 100 yards, 3 INTs
Season: 57.7%, 122.3 ypg, 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 109.22 rating
Simon didn’t start, as Noah Vedral returned from his season-long injury hiatus. At less than 100 percent, Vedral didn’t hold up. Simon finished Rutgers’ 14-13 loss to Nebraska. As we said last week, reality is starting to smack the Scarlet Knights and their sophomore fill-in quarterback in the face. Rutgers has a much needed bye this weekend.
13. Spencer Petras, Iowa
Week 6 stats: 18-36, 170 yards, INT
Season: 54.0%, 156.7 ypg, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 103.46 rating
Another game without a touchdown, for Petras and for Iowa. He connected 9 times for 100 yards to tight end Sam LaPorta in a 9-6 loss to Illinois. Two receivers combined for Iowa’s other 9 receptions. Wear a Ferentz mask (Kirk or Brian) if you want to be scary for Halloween, Hawkeyes fans. Their offense is gruesome. Don’t know what else to tell ya.
12. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Week 6 stats: 11-18, 113 yards, TD, INT
Season: 63.9%, 205.7 ypg, 9 TDs, 7 INTs, 130.20 rating
Michigan State is faltering badly, and Thorne stands at the forefront of the struggles. He added to his B1G-leading interception total in a blowout loss to Ohio State. Noah Kim mopped up. Next is a visit from Wisconsin, rejuvenated under interim coach Jim Leonhard.
11. Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Week 6 stats: 10-22, 147 yards, 2 INTs
Season: 57.8%, 262.7 ypg, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 115.24 rating
Five straight losses and dwindling numbers have taken the shine off of Hilinski’s hot start to the season. The former transfer from South Carolina is leading a bad team, perhaps the B1G’s worst. It won’t get any easier after this week’s bye.
10. Connor Bazelak, Indiana
Week 6 stats: 25-49, 203 yards, TD, INT
Season: 52.5%, 266.2 ypg, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, 104.02 rating
The Missouri transfer took 7 sacks and had only 40 passing yards in the second half of a 31-10 loss to Michigan. The game was tied at halftime, but the Wolverines didn’t let Bazelak breathe after the break. Like Iowa’s Petras, he seems to be a victim of circumstances.
9. Casey Thompson, Nebraska
Week 6 stats: 24-36, 232 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Season stats: 65.6%, 249.5 ypg, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, 145.25 rating
The transfer from Texas, like interim coach Mickey Joseph, is fighting to salvage the Huskers’ season. A 1-point comeback win, even against Rutgers, counts as progress. A night game at Purdue on Saturday — an unlikely B1G West 1st-place showdown — is the next test.
8. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Week 6 stats: 20-29, 299 yards, 5 TDs
Season: 64.3%, 216.0 ypg, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 163.48 rating
So, all the former highly-regarded 4-star recruit needed was a new head coach, a game against Northwestern and us dropping him to No. 12 in our rankings. You’re welcome, Badgers fans. We’ll celebrate with you if Mertz shreds Michigan State’s horrible pass defense this Saturday, which he should. Right?
7. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Week 6 stats: Bye
Season: 70.5%, 228.6 ypg, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 169.75 rating
With stud RB Mohamed Ibrahim out with an injury, Morgan had his worst game of the season in a 20-10 loss to Purdue. He’ll try to bounce back from that 3-INT game on the road against Illinois’ tough defense.
6. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Week 6 stats: Bye
Season: 62%, 206.0 ypg, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 143.95 rating
The 6th-year senior’s number as down this year in the Lions’ revamped offense, but No. 10 Penn State might need a dynamic effort from him Saturday at No. 5 Michigan. Either the 24-year-old gets a legacy win, or fans’ cries for 5-star Drew Allar grow louder.
5. Tommy DeVito, Illinois
Week 6 stats: 6-11, 42 yards
Season: 68.9%, 193.8 ypg, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 144.13 rating
The Syracuse transfer left the Illini’s 9-6 slugfest win over Iowa with an ankle injury, leaving Art Sitkowski to game-manage Illinois to its 5th win in 6 games. DeVito complements power back Chase Brown with steady leadership. His status for a B1G West showdown Saturday vs. Minnesota is up in the air. It’s a major blow if he can’t play.
4. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Week 6 stats: 26-38, 315 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Season: 74.1%, 288.5 ypg, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 161.27 rating
Tagovailoa again posted strong numbers, but came up just short of a signature win in a 31-29 loss to Purdue. Indiana and Northwestern are next on the schedule, so the junior 3rd-year starter and his Terps (4-2) will have a chance to bounce back.
3. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Week 6 stats: 30-41, 360 yards, 2 TDs, INT
Season: 66.5%, 311.8 ypg, 10 TDs, 4 INTs, 139.05 rating
The 6th-year senior and former walk-on is returning to form after missing a game with an injury a couple weeks ago. O’Connell outdueled Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa last weekend and has Purdue in the thick of the B1G West race. He’ll try to keep it going against visiting Nebraska on Saturday.
2. JJ McCarthy, Michigan
Week 6 stats: 28-36, 304 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Season: 78.3%, 192.0 ypg, 9 TDs, INT, 182.05 rating
The much-hyped sophomore posted his best career totals for passing yards and touchdowns, and Wolverines fans were … ecstatic? encouraged? miffed by his relatively quiet first half at Indiana?
It was some of each, but McCarthy can win over all of them with a strong 6th start in Saturday’s top 10 matchup vs. Penn State.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Week 6 stats: 21-26, 361 yards, 6 TDs, INT
Season: 70.6%, 289.5 ypg, 24 TDs, 3 INTs, 207.57 rating
Again the No. 1 Heisman candidate after this outing against hapless Michigan State, Stroud leads the nation in QB rating and touchdown throws. It would take a bye to cool him off, which is what the Buckeyes have before Iowa visits The Horseshoe on Oct. 22.