If there was a common link in a largely ugly Week 6 in the Big Ten, it’s that quarterback play in this conference leaves a lot to be desired.

A lot.

Six of the 11 B1G quarterbacks who started this weekend finished with completion percentages of 51% or less. (That’s 54.5% of starting QBs, if you’re wondering.)


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The only thing crazier than that number? That 2 of those QBs — Iowa’s Deacon Hill and Nebraska’s Heinrich Haarberg — won those games.

Hopefully that ratio improves when Penn State returns from a bye next week. Then again, the Nittany Lions are joined by Michigan State and Indiana in returning to the field, so the numbers might get even worse.

Here’s 1 thing I learned about every team that played in this underwhelming week of action.

Illinois: The B1G’s weakest team

Both mentally and physically, no team in the Big Ten is weaker than the Wilting Illini.

A week after getting clobbered by Purdue and a day after the death of program legend Dick Butkus — 1 of 2 Illini players to have his number retired — you would have figured Illinois would come out playing pretty inspired football against Nebraska. If nothing else, have some pride.

The Illini did on the opening drive before getting stoned at the goal line by Nebraska’s defense. And then they didn’t wake up again until the Cornhuskers had a 17-0 lead. The defense played well the rest of the way, but the offense had nothing to offer in the 20-7 loss.

Illinois was absolutely whipped up front, finishing with 21 yards on 19 carries and allowing 6 TFL with 3 sacks.

This is a sloppy, sleepwalking football team.

Iowa: Still has no QB

The drop-off between Cade McNamara and Deacon Hill is vast — and that’s not a good thing when McNamara was performing average at best.

Hill finished his first career start by completing 29% of his passes (6-of-21) for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception. None of the completions went to a wide receiver, which marks the first time in Kirk Ferentz’s 24-year tenure that has happened.

The good news? This is Iowa. So the Hawkeyes still beat Purdue 20-14.

Maryland: Taulia Tagovailoa will never be great

Taulia Tagovailoa is a very good quarterback. But Saturday’s performance made it clear he’s not going to ascend into the highest echelon of the position. The decision-making part of his game just isn’t there.

Not every interception is a bad decision, but both of his against Ohio State fit that bill — and both were costly.

On his first INT, Tagovailoa had Tai Felton coming open for a first down. He never even looked on that side of the field before throwing a pick-6.

On his second INT, the only play was to throw the ball away and bring on the punt team. Instead, he gave the Buckeyes much better field position.

Neither decision was his worst of the game. That was at the end of the first half.

The Terps had time for 1 play — a throw to the end zone, or a throw to the sidelines that would stop the clock for a field goal try. Instead, Tagovailoa found a man in the middle of the field short of the sticks. The clock ran out, and Maryland squandered a drive deep into Ohio State territory.

At this stage of his career, this is just who Tagovailoa is.

Michigan: No weaknesses detected

The Wolverines are a complete football team. Not that we didn’t already know that. But a 52-10 thrashing of Minnesota that featured 2 defensive touchdowns and 2 JJ McCarthy rushing touchdowns proved that this team can beat you any way it pleases.

The Wolverines also aren’t going to beat themselves. Michigan didn’t turn the ball over and committed 1 penalty for 10 yards.

Minnesota: Athan Kaliakmanis is incredibly limited

You have to start wondering whether the switch is ever going to flip on for this kid. Or if it can flip on for any PJ Fleck quarterback.

Kaliakmanis was 5-of-16 for 52 yards and threw more touchdowns to Michigan defensive backs (2) than Minnesota receivers (1). Yes, it’s Michigan. That’s a bit of an unfair test for a young quarterback.

But this is nothing new.

In 11 career starts, Kaliakmanis has more games with fewer than 100 passing yards (5) than games with more than 150 passing yards (4).

For a guy the Gophers hyped up all offseason, this isn’t close to enough production.

Nebraska: Can still go bowling

In what felt like a bowl-elimination game against Illinois, the Huskers improved to 3-3 to keep the hopes of their first postseason appearance since 2016 alive.

It was ugly as sin — Nebraska committed 3 turnovers and 10 penalties for 70 yards. But you can, in fact, put lipstick on that pig. It’s a beauty when you get your first Big Ten win of the season.

Northwestern: Is somehow 3-3

The Wildcats, already the B1G’s least-talented team, fired the most successful coach in program history 2 months before the season started. They trailed Minnesota by 21 points in the 4th quarter and won. Then on homecoming, they were outgained by a sub-.500 FCS team.

But Northwestern still emerged with a 23-20 win over Howard, which puts the Cats just 3 wins from bowl eligibility halfway through this unlikely season.


I don’t know.

Ohio State: Has blocking issues

The Buckeyes have some things to shore up before facing Penn State in 2 weeks.

Ohio State struggled up front against Maryland, gaining just 83 yards on 30 carries on top of 3 sacks taken by Kyle McCord.

Purdue: Has even worse blocking issues

Iowa came into Saturday’s game averaging 1 sack and 4.8 TFL per game — pretty underwhelming totals for a still-dominant defense.

The Hawkeyes wrecked the Boilermakers for 6 sacks and 12 TFL. And that’s how Purdue lost a game where the opposing quarterback completed 29% of his passes.

Rutgers: Gavin Wimsatt remains a liability

The Rutgers quarterback completed less than 50% of his attempts while also throwing a pick-6 with the Scarlet Knights driving toward a score late in the first half. Wimsatt has pick-6s in both of Rutgers’ losses this season.

Wisconsin: The best in the West

The Badgers are the top team in the woebegone Big Ten West, and it isn’t even close.

That doesn’t mean this is a great team. Far from it. Wisconsin is too mistake-prone. The Badgers have 8 giveaways in 5 games, including 2 more lost fumbles against Rutgers.

But good is good enough to win this division.