Final B1G QB rankings of 2021 regular season
The 2021 regular season is in the books.
Quarterback play in the B1G wasn’t often the highlight of college football weekends this season, but that doesn’t mean the league was bereft of great performances and outstanding gunslingers. Certainly, the product at the end of the year looked a lot better than the beginning of the year.
Now that the season has come to an end, we can evaluate the quarterbacks across the league with a full 12-game sample size. Before we look into the Top 10, teams that don’t have a representative in the final rankings are: Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern and Rutgers.
Here’s how the QB rankings shake out with the 2021 season in the books:
10. Brandon Peters, Illinois
Last week vs. Northwestern: 14-of-23, 242 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (26 rushing yards)
Peters’ season was a bit of a roller coaster, but ended on a pretty high note. He threw the game-winning pass to lift Illinois over Penn State, played well enough to lead the Fighting Illini to an upset win over Minnesota and totaled over 200 yards through the air in each of his final 2 games. Was it the prettiest year we’ve seen from a quarterback? No. But Peters never quit on the Illini and had some big moments when he was called upon to deliver.
9. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Last week vs. Minnesota: 21-of-38, 171 yards, 1 INT
A lot of progress had been made during Wisconsin’s 7-game winning streak. But when Mertz had to throw nearly 40 passes to try and lead the Badgers to a win over Minnesota, he couldn’t get it done. It’s not entirely his fault, that’s not just his game. At least for now. Mertz should be credited for the vast improvement he made since Wisconsin’s 1-3 start. There’s no question he became a better decision-maker over the course of the year. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, though, and that was on full display against the Gophers.
8. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Last week vs. #14 Wisconsin: 11-of-16, 199 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
This wasn’t exactly the kind of season many expected to see from Morgan. The senior quarterback ended the year with 10 touchdowns and 8 picks, throwing for 1,935 yards and a completion rate under 60%. Because of Minnesota’s run-heavy approach, Morgan wasn’t asked to do too much, but he still had trouble carrying much weight when the Gophers needed something through the air. On a positive note, Morgan played some of his best football in the final 2 games, leading the team to wins over Indiana and Wisconsin. He’s already announced he’ll be returning in 2022, and it should be interesting to see what he can accomplish under a new offensive coordinator.
7. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Last week vs. Rutgers: 21-of-30, 312 yards, 3 TDs (1 rushing TD)
In one of the most important games of the season, Tagovailoa shined. Yes, it was against a weaker Rutgers team, but the Maryland quarterback proved that a win-or-go-home moment wasn’t too big. He was nearly flawless in the Terrapins blowout win, securing a bowl berth for the program for the first time since 2016. Tagovailoa broke multiple school records this season and sets the stage for an even bigger year in 2022. All year, Tagovailoa has been the heart and soul of the offense, and he delivered in a big way on Saturday.
6. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Last week vs. #16 Iowa: Did not play
Martinez didn’t play in the final game of the season for the Huskers, but he deserves to be high on this list. Not only did he have an outstanding season, he’s been phenomenal over the last 4 seasons in Lincoln. Martinez ended the year with 2,863 passing yards, 525 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns.
5. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last week vs. #12 Michigan State: 23-of-34, 313 yards, 3 TDs
Penn State was a different team offensively when Clifford was healthy. That was evident in losses to Iowa and Illinois, in particular. He played really well considering the conditions in East Lansing last weekend, but it still wasn’t enough to knock off Michigan State. Clifford ended the season with nearly 3,000 yards through the air, 20 touchdown passes and just 6 interceptions. He took care of the football much better than a season ago and was able to connect on some explosive plays with Jahan Dotson, KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Parker Washington throughout the year. Even though the Nittany Lions struggled offensively, Clifford showed major improvement from a year ago.
4. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Last week vs. Penn State: 19-of-30, 268 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (39 rushing yards, 1 TD)
Not many quarterbacks in the B1G were as consistent from Thorne from start to finish this season. When the competition tightened up, Thorne did have more trouble with turnovers, but that’s also a reflection of running an aggressive offense. Thorne was the quarterback who orchestrated a 10-win season for Michigan State, throwing for 2,879 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was also underrated as a runner, accounting for 4 touchdowns on the ground.
3. Cade McNamara, Michigan
Last week vs. #2 Ohio State: 13-of-19, 159 yards, 1 INT
The stat line from “The Game” wasn’t eye-popping by any stretch. McNamara didn’t work himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation. He did enough to lead Michigan to its first win over Ohio State in decade, though, a reflection of what he’s done all season. There’s something to be said for consistency, and McNamara’s ability to graduate from game manager to offensive weapon is a credit to his in-season development. Most importantly, the Michigan quarterback ended the season with 14 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. That’s a huge reason why the Wolverines are heading to Indianapolis.
2. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Last week vs. Indiana: 26-of-31, 278 yards, 4 TDs
Nobody had a better 5-game run than O’Connell, especially considering he didn’t start the season as Purdue’s leader under center. In the last 5 games of the season, O’Connell completed 74% of his passes in each game, totaled 16 touchdown passes and didn’t throw a single pick. Unsurprisingly, the Boilermakers were 4-1 in that stretch with the only loss coming to Ohio State. O’Connell also ends the regular season with the B1G’s best completion rate at a blistering 73.5%.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Last week vs. #5 Michigan: 34-of-49, 394 yards, 2 TDs
Stroud didn’t get the result he wanted in Ann Arbor on Saturday, but he still played really well against one of the best defensive teams the Buckeyes faced all season. The Ohio State quarterback ended his season throwing just 2 interceptions in the final 8 games and throwing for over 300 yards 7 times. Stroud led the B1G in passing yards, passing touchdowns, yards per attempt and ranked second in completion percentage. After sitting out against Akron, Stroud was an entirely different quarterback.